AUSTIN, Texas – Mack Brown’s options are not limited.
He could be a successful politician, charming enough to even get Aggies to vote for him. He could be a stellar TV analyst, communicating the intricacies of football effectively to the masses.
But here is what the 62-year-old coach of the Texas Longhorns says he really wants: to be the coach of the Texas Longhorns. For a long time to come.
“I want to finish at Texas,” Brown told Yahoo! Sports in his office Tuesday. “If I’m healthy and we win, I’m going to try to make 2020 [when his current contract expires]. I think it would be fun to do that, get back on another roll.
“We’re coaching because we like it. We’re coaching because we’re having fun. We don’t need the money.
“People have said, ‘What about your legacy?’ Who cares about your legacy? You’re dead when you have one.”
Brown is far from dead. He’s alive and kicking heading into his 16th season as the Texas coach, with no fear of being told he is no longer the Texas coach. He’s that confident school president Bill Powers and athletic director DeLoss Dodds have his back, even if some fans are agitating for change.
“I’m not going to [be fired],” he said flatly.
He’s also that confident in this 2013 team.
Brown told me last spring, “Come see us. We’re getting ready to be good again.” And by good, he meant Texas good.
Texas good is not 9-4, which was last year’s record. It is not 8-5, which was the record in 2011. It certainly is not 5-7, the shocking bottom-out in 2010 after playing for the national title the previous season.
Texas good bears no resemblance to an 11-15 record in Big 12 play the last three seasons, or consecutive losses to Oklahoma by a combined 80 points, or surrendering 161 points in three successive games last year.
Texas good is double-digit victories, which the 'Horns racked up every season from 2001-09. It is winning division and league championships, which the 'Horns have done five times under Brown. It is competing for national championships, which the 'Horns did in 2005 (won it in a classic against USC), 2008 (should have played for it but were wronged by the BCS) and ’09 (lost to Alabama in title game).
Brown knows that’s the drill here, even as he mildly chafes at the difference in expectation level at historically lesser Big 12 programs.
“I think Kirk Herbstreit said it best the other day,” Brown said. “He said, ‘Texas is a 9-4 team being treated like a 6-6 team.’ I think our standard is so high here that 9-4 is 6-6 in everybody’s mind.
“It’s funny that the 7-6 and the 8-5 teams are talking about how they’re not sure who we are, and they’re proud of their season. But that’s this place and what we’ve become, and that’s OK.”
Brown wasn’t naming any names, but the Big 12 was full of 8-5 (Oklahoma State, Baylor, Texas Tech) and 7-6 (TCU, West Virginia). Oklahoma State in particular might be the burr in Brown’s saddle, since the Cowboys lost at home to Texas in 2012, must replace more starters from that team, but were still picked to win the Big 12 over the 'Horns and their 19 returning starters.
“We are a lightning rod,” Brown said. “Somebody’s going to talk good or bad about us every day. In the league, we’re the team people talk about every day.”
Oh, there are a couple other irritants out there. Namely chief rivals Oklahoma and Texas A&M.
There is nothing Texas fans can say about the Sooners, who have wiped the Cotton Bowl grass with the Longhorns the past two years and beaten three straight. As one of the shirts in the Texas spirit wear store says, 'Put up or shut up'. It’s high time for the 'Horns to put up a fight in the Red River Rivalry game.
The Aggies are another matter. Feelings remain raw in Austin over their abandoning of the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference, ending more than a century of games between the two. When A&M’s debut season in that league became a wild success – an 11-2 record, the upset of Alabama, the Heisman Trophy for Johnny Manziel, the dismantling of Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl – it was beyond the best-case scenario in College Station.
“You’ve got to give them credit,” Brown said. “They had a good year.”
As the historic little brother in this in-state rivalry, A&M has always measured itself against Texas. In the minds of Aggies everywhere, leaving Texas behind and going to a more powerful conference was the bold break needed to finally tilt the balance of power in their direction.
The night before A&M played its first SEC game last September, board of regents member Richard Box told me, “When we do play [Texas] again, we’ll be the controlling brand.”
Expectations are even higher in Aggieland this year than last. But controversy clouds the season with Manziel under NCAA investigation for allegedly profiting off autographs on A&M memorabilia.
At least the Longhorns don’t have a Texas-sized distraction hovering over their fall camp. They simply have their own mile-high yardstick to measure up to.
“We could win nine again and be disappointed,” Brown said. “Or we could win all of them.”
In either of those scenarios, Mack Brown would have to answer questions about his future all over again at season’s end.
As of today, the answer is firm.
He intends to coach at Texas. For many years to come.
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