It seems a foregone conclusion that Mack Brown will not be the head coach at the University of Texas in 2014.
Brown’s fate was sealed after the Longhorns were soundly beaten 40-21 by BYU in Provo, Utah. He spent the entire offseason telling anyone who would listen that his Longhorns were capable of winning all of their games and competing for a national championship. The team entered the season ranked No. 15 in the country and now sit at 1-2 and out of the rankings. Instead of playing for a national championship, the Longhorns are going to have to fight just to become bowl eligible.
Brown has a 150-43 record at Texas and led the Longhorns to 10 wins or more for nine consecutive years, from 2001 through 2009. However, in recent years, the Longhorns have fallen into a pattern of mediocrity under his watch. A combination of poor talent evaluation, poor player development, a suspect strength and conditioning program and questionable play-calling have led to a 23-18 record since 2010. Brown has worn out his welcome in Austin, and the 2013 season will likely be his last at the helm of the Texas program.
When trying to decide who should be the next leader of the Texas program, you have to consider all of the challenges that are currently facing the program. The Longhorns have some inherent advantages that most programs could only dream of, but there are some negatives associated with the program as well.
Texas competes in the Big 12 Conference which is currently considered one of the weaker conferences athletically after the SEC, ACC and PAC-12. If you are the head coach of Texas there is the added distraction of the Longhorn Network documenting your every move. Brown complained about the network being too big of an intrusion into the program. The Longhorn team has developed a reputation for being soft under Brown. When confronted with adversity. the Texas players are known to quit rather than stand up and fight.
The other side of the coin is that Texas is located in the most fertile recruiting grounds in the country. They bring in more revenue than any other program in the country and are historically one of the top college football programs. Because of these advantages the head coach position at Texas will attract a lot of attention. There has been some speculation that Nick Saban would leave Alabama to take over in Austin but that is not realistic. Saban is running the top program in the nation in Tuscaloosa and is in the top conference in the nation. Alabama can match any salary that Texas could throw out there. He is not going to leave a dynasty that he built to go play in a conference that is defined by an offense he despises.
Stanford head coach David Shaw is an excellent candidate. He has proven that you can win big in football while maintaining academic integrity off the field. He will appeal a lot to the Texas administration who has always viewed themselves as a PAC-12 school stuck in Austin. The problem with Shaw is that he already has his dream job. Shaw is a Stanford alum and is not likely to leave Palo Alto unless the right NFL team comes calling.
Urban Meyer is a midwest guy and is not going to leave Ohio State. The recent issues with Aaron Hernandez and Meyer’s record of discipline at Florida is baggage that the Texas administration will not want to take on.
There are a couple of coaches in the Big 12 who Texas should consider. Both Art Briles at Baylor and Gary Patterson at TCU have done outstanding jobs rebuilding those programs. Both would consider the Texas job but they both have reasons to stay where they are at. Briles is at a program where seven wins is considered a successful season and is opening a new stadium in 2014. Patterson has molded the TCU program in his own image and finally has it in a power conference. Texas would offer a bigger paycheck than TCU, but also with much higher expectations.
Louisville head coach Charlie Strong is the ideal candidate for the Longhorns. He is a defensive coach by training who has taken a no-nonsense approach to rebuilding the Cardinal program. Louisville was 4-8 the year before Strong took over, and he has led them to three consecutive bowl games. Louisville upset No. 3 Florida in the 2013 Sugar Bowl 33-23. Strong would immediately fix Texas’ reputation for being soft. He would build the Longhorns up in the SEC model, bringing a tough defense coupled with a strong running game back to Austin. Strong has the Cardinals ranked in the top 10 and they are a legitimate BCS contender this season. With Teddy Bridgewater likely to declare for the NFL draft after the season, Strong may want to cash-out while he can.
He is the best candidate for the Texas job. Strong would change the culture of the program and get the Longhorns back to winning big ballgames.
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