August 3, 2010

Mack says there's no timetable for leaving coaching

Mack Brown probably went into the most detail last week at Big 12 Media Days about WHY he has no timetable for when he'll stop coaching.

"No one believes me when I say this, but there is no timetable," Mack said.

Then, Mack went into a very thoughtful and articulate reason why.

"If I set a timetable, it becomes a distraction to the coaching staff and ultimately to the team," Mack said. "And that would be totally unfair to everyone, namely the University of Texas."

Mack even went so far as to say that if he found out assistant coaches were down in Will Muschamp's office trying to find out if they'd be retained once Mack left and Muschamp took over, "I'd fire them."

Why?

"Because it would mean they weren't focused on the job at hand," Mack said.

For all the lovey, dovey family atmosphere Mack gets credit for, there are some behind-the-scenes stories about how Mack manages his staff that will grab your attention. Let's just say Mack keeps his staff on edge.

But I walked away from listening to Mack last week totally believing him that he has no timetable for when he'll step down. I have my own thoughts about how long Mack will keep coaching. I don't think he'll serve the length of his contract - through 2016. But I do think it's a fluid situation.

And I think he's absolutely right about a timeline becoming a distraction. It would be a topic of thought or discussion among the staff and the players, taking away from game preparation. It would be a huge topic in the media, which would continue to distract the team.

All you have to do is look at the Florida State situation involving Bobby Bowden and Jimbo Fisher to see how NOT to handle a coach-in-waiting transition.

Florida State, Mack's alma mater, put a $5 million payment in Fisher's coach-in-waiting deal. If Fisher, Muschamp's best friend from their days together at LSU, wasn't the head coach in 2010, he'd get the $5 million to go away.

Well, in today's college athletics economics, that $5 million payment proved to be the reason Bowden, FSU's legendary head coach, was basically forced out after 34 history-making years on the job at age 80.

Bowden's wife, Ann, said the school betrayed her husband as the pressure built for Bowden to step aside so the school wouldn't be stuck paying Fisher $5 million to go coach for someone else.

An all-girls school from 1905-47, Florida State was nothing in football until Bowden got there in 1976 and led the program to two national titles (1993 and 1999). Whether the time was right for Bowden to step aside or not (and it probably was), that was NOT the way to do it.

Texas put NO timetable into Muschamp's coach-in-waiting contract. And there's no buyout/penalty if Muschamp wants to leave.

Mack said after his knee replacement in 2006 he wasn't sure how much longer he'd coach because he was in so much pain for about 18 months. But he now says his knee is fine.

With Mack Brown, most every decision is going to be made with selflessness and class. So this coach-in-waiting business at Texas is totally about trust. It's about trusting Mack to know when it's right to transition the program to Muschamp.

Mack repeated last week that Muschamp has told him, "You've earned the right to coach at Texas as long as you want." Mack added, "Will has been great about it."

For Muschamp, he has to trust that Texas is worth waiting for - whether it's two to three years or the full seven seasons left on Mack's deal. And the fans have to trust Mack and the administration that they'll handle it perfectly.

I think it's year to year. And I think Mack would love to win ONE more national title and ride off into the sunset. Strange as it may seem, I don't know if Mack would want to stick around for an attempt at a third national title because he wouldn't want to upstage Darrell Royal.

I know most of you are saying, "What?"

But Mack Brown is one of these people who is CONSTANTLY thinking of others and history - maybe to a fault.

I think Mack has SO MUCH respect for DKR he would be happy to have two national titles at Texas, and let Royal continue to be at the top of the mountain with three (even though some members of the 1970 team don't even claim that UPI national title because it was awarded before the bowl game, which UT lost to Notre Dame 24-11.)

So count me among those who think there was a very good chance Mack would have gone out on top and left coaching if Texas had beaten Alabama for last year's national title.

If the Longhorns had won that game (and I think they would have if Colt McCoy stays healthy because Bama QB Greg McElroy was absolutely nothing special in that game), I think you'd see Mack doing television right now and serving in the same ambassador type role for Texas that Royal was given (as a special assistant to the president).

I have no insider information on this. Just my own hunch after covering Mack since he arrived at Texas and listening to him talk last week.

So my personal belief is Mack will coach through the Garrett Gilbert Era and see if he can win another national title before walking away from coaching and starting the second phase of his career (in television).

There was a day in the not-so-distant past that Texas would have loved for Mack to take over as athletic director. But with DeLoss Dodds getting a new contract (in large part to help steer Texas through realignment and help get the Longhorn Network off the ground as early as 2011), I don't see Mack as AD.

I see Mack coaching for two or three more years ... or until he wins another national title - whichever comes first.

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