For the past several weeks, rumors have been swirling about the status of University of Texas head football Mack Brown. On Saturday, that status was finally resolved.
Brown announced that he would be stepping down as Longhorns coach after 16 seasons, immediately following Texas’s Alamo Bowl game against Oregon.
Brown, who took over the storied program in 1998, gave his reasons in a statement released by the school.
"It's been a wonderful ride. Now, the program is again being pulled in different directions, and I think the time is right for a change," Brown said in the statement. "I love the University of Texas, all of its supporters, the great fans and everyone that played and coached here ... It is the best coaching job and the premier football program in America."
During the first 12 years of his rein at top in Texas, Brown restored a program that had seen hard times. In 2005, he led the Longhorns to their first undisputed national championship in 36 years. In 2009, he had Texas playing for a national title once again, losing to the University of Alabama, 37-21.
In the four years since, Texas struggled to retain its dominance, losing at least four games in each season and struggling in the Big 12 Conference with a record of just 18-17.
Brown acknowledged those struggles in his statement.
"I sincerely want to get back to the top and that's why I'm stepping down after the bowl game," Brown said. "I hope with some new energy, we can get this thing rolling again."
Over the past week, sources revealed to ESPN’s Brett McMurphy that Brown was fighting to keep his job.
Brown has for many years enjoyed the support of Powers and others within the Texas program. But new athletic director Steve Patterson will now have the opportunity to put his own mark on the team after taking over just three months ago. And he can do so with a coach that isn’t embroiled in controversy.
Brown’s successes at Texas won’t soon be forgotten—he turned around a program that was in complete tatters. In fact, the Longhorns posted a 101-16 record from 2001-2009, winning one national title and competing for another during that time. Considering the lackluster performance of the team throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Brown’s efforts should be remembered with fondness.
Brown will end his time with Texas just nine career wins short of legendary coach Darrell Royal, who won 167 games in his 20 seasons. In fact, Brown was the first coach to unite the program since Royal retired in 1976, and he gave a starving fan base reason to have hope once again.
Brown looked back fondly at his time in Texas and acknowledged the challenge he faced when he first took over the program.
"Sally and I were brought to Texas 16 years ago to pull together a football program that was divided. With a lot of passion, hard work and determination from the kids, coaches and staff, we did that," Brown said. "We built a strong football family, reached great heights and accomplished a lot, and for that, I thank everyone."
Now, Brown leaves a program that doesn’t need to rebuilt from the bottom up—it simply needs a coach to come in and maximize the talent on the roster and continue to recruit at a high level.
Brown’s eventual demise was cemented when the Longhorns underperformed this season despite returning 19 starters and opening the season with hopes of contending for another national championship. A 1-2 quickly quashed those hopes, however.
Brown’s legacy is cemented in stone—he restored faith in the Texas football program while preserving the values that Longhorns football has long been known for. But in the end, he simply couldn’t live up to the legacy he had forged, and the decision to step down was indeed the right choice to make.