To call this a tough year for the Longhorns, a team riddled with injuries, off-field distractions and constant media scrutiny, would be an understatement. Like a great boxer, they’ve taken jabs to the jaw and punches to the gut, and been knocked down for eight seconds only to pop up and continue fighting. Despite going toe-to-toe with the great heavyweights of their time, this year will be remembered as Mack Brown’s “de facto,” and “unsuitable” swan song. Somehow, I couldn’t think of a better way to send off the legendary coach.
The great irony is this team’s perseverance to a near-miss Big 12 championship, and ultimately garnering a Bowl date with a BCS-caliber team, has been Brown’s greatest year as a head coach. Sure, you can point to the years of Colt McCoy and Vince Young as his most memorable, but never has Brown faced, and dodged, more obstacles than in 2013.
Of course, many have painted Brown as hanging his head in embarrassment, kicking the dirt with his feet, raising his head only to see if that field goal made it through the uprights while stubbornly holding on to his job. These paintings have come from artists who allow their imaginations to run wild. The truth is, Brown has never been so feisty, energetic and full of vigor. And the players, oh the players, well, they feel just as unjustly portrayed.
“These guys work nonstop from the day you get here as a freshman to the day you leave as a senior,” Case McCoy said. “You work your tail off and you have to overcome a lot more than other people do at other universities.”
Despite what you might have heard, it doesn’t take a Sherlock Holmesian investigator to gather the players do not feel responsible for Brown’s departure. And nor should they. They’ve felt the adversities this team has faced first-hand, on the field, and come out as one of the great stories in Longhorn football history.
When asked if the players feel responsible for their head coach’s departure, McCoy answered with his usual candor.
“You all (the media) have about made it that way,” McCoy said. “It’s hard on a lot of us, but we’re handling it. We’re grown men, we’re 22 years old and probably a lot more grown than a lot of other college athletes. This place (Texas) will grow you up quickly, and we’ve learned to mature with it.”
But it’s not Brown’s great coaching job, getting this team of hard-nosed second-stringers to the Alamo Bowl, that I’ll remember most. Rather, I will remember his class amidst an onslaught of negativity and gloomy prognostications. He’s kept his voice strong, his sense of humor sharp, and his smile wide.
“That’s the guy (Brown) who recruited me and my class,” McCoy said. “You have to respect that because he gave us all a chance to achieve a dream that we all had.”
Well done, Mr. Brown. Now, let’s get that Gatorade poured on your white polo one last time.