It’s been 15 years since Mack Brown took the reins in Austin, making him the second-longest tenured coach in Longhorn football history. To give you some perspective as to how long 15 years has been, Bill Clinton was still the president, “Titanic” won best picture at the Oscars, and Brown’s first year as head coach was the first year of the Bowl Championship Series.
Since college football coaches age in dog years, 15 years is a lifetime. The average coach’s tenure in college football is a mere four years, which makes Brown’s lengthy time at Texas more of the exception than the rule. So, because 15 years can be seen as a milestone, it seems only appropriate to take a look at Brown’s legacy and accomplishments.
My initial perception of Brown was that he was more of a crowd-pleaser than a ruthless, all-time winning coach, a la Bear Bryant and Woody Hayes. He was great with the press, warm to the fans, and friendly with his players – not exactly what one would call a triple-threat in the football world. He was a nice guy, but not a cold-blooded winner. However, a closer look at the stats suggests otherwise.
When looking at a list of Longhorn football coaches, two immediately separate themselves from the pack, Brown and Darrell K. Royal.
Though Royal’s legacy is cemented in Longhorn football lore while Brown puts up with fans pleading for his retirement, the comparisons between the two are shockingly similar.
Brown and Royal came to Texas under similar circumstances. The program was in disarray, coming off losing seasons, and both quickly turned it around. In Royal’s first year as coach, he took a team with a 1-9 record the previous season to a record of 6-4-1, a five-win increase. Likewise, Brown took a team with a 4-7 record the previous season to a record of 9-3, a five-win increase. It also took both coaches eight seasons to claim their first national championship. The symmetry is uncanny.
Here’s a chart of Brown’s and Royal’s career statistics at Texas:
|Seasons||Games||Wins||Win%||B Games||B Wins||B Win%||NC|
|Darrell K. Royal||20||219||167||.774||16||8||.500||3|
Comparing win percentages, bowl appearances, and bowl victories are where things get really interesting. As you can see in the chart above, Brown has a slight edge over Royal in season win percentage. This, of course, could change over the next five seasons, but me being the optimist that I am, I don’t foresee it.
Furthermore, if you exclude those who coached for two seasons or less, Brown has the highest win percentage of any coach in Longhorn football history.
Post-season victories are where Brown leaves Royal in the dust. In his 15 seasons, Brown has been to 14 bowl games and won ten. In 20 seasons, Royal went to 16 bowl games and won eight. This is both a better percentage of making it to the post season, and a better win percentage in the post season.
Something else to keep in mind is the competition both coaches faced during their tenure. When Royal coached, Texas was part of the SWC, which had seven Texas teams plus Arkansas. Though these teams were no slouches during this time, the narrow geographical competition doesn’t compare to the broader, national competition college football enjoys today. This could also account for Royal’s less-than-spectacular bowl record as Texas was likely facing inferior competition during conference play.
The only statistical area that Royal has the upper hand is in National Championships, which he gathered three. This, of course, trumps all else.
I’m not suggesting we rename memorial stadium, nor am I suggesting Brown is the greatest coach in UT history. Texas would be Rice without Royal, and he rightly deserves the praise that is bestowed upon him. But to suggest that no other coach is in the same zip code as Royal is patently false. Brown is not only in the same zip code, he's right next door.
In an era where coaches have added pressures, constant media scrutiny and countless people to answer to, Brown has delivered. He’s above the fray in the ever-changing culture of college football. He’s neither ruthless nor cold-blooded, nor has he been marred by scandals (a la Pete Carroll and Joe Paterno (knock on wood)). Brown, like Royal before him, wins football games while keeping the class and character of Longhorn nation intact.
Bravo, Mr. Brown.