published Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

Greeson: Texas should hope other UT's pattern not followed

 University of Texas athletic director Steve Patterson, right, and school president Bill Powers discuss a search for a new head football coach in Austin, Texas, on Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013. Current coach Mack Brown announced he was stepping down from the position following the Valero Alamo Bowl on Dec. 30.
University of Texas athletic director Steve Patterson, right, and school president Bill Powers discuss a search for a new head football coach in Austin, Texas, on Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013. Current coach Mack Brown announced he was stepping down from the position following the Valero Alamo Bowl on Dec. 30.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

And it's done. Mack Brown left the University of Texas amid a weeklong storm of speculation and rumor, resigning last weekend under the looming specter of being fired.

It is the latest example that being good is not good enough in a college football world that demands excellence and rewards it with contract extensions that include multiple commas in salary range.

Brown left the program in a better place than he found it, winning 158 games and a national title in 16 seasons. The numbers are very similar to a very similar old-school, gentleman coach from the state of Tennessee who worked tirelessly at a program called UT.

Yep, Phillip Fulmer's 152-52 record with a national title in 16 seasons deserves mention today if for no other reason that the eerie math symmetry makes you scratch your watch and wind your head.

It also magnifies the importance of this hire for Texas and new athletic director Steve Patterson. There is no wiggle room -- there rarely is anymore in big-time college athletics in general, and big-Big-BIG-boy college football in particular, where the bills of the entire sports landscape at the monolith programs are covered by the efforts of the boys in helmets chasing the ball that bounces funny.

But the five-year debacle in Knoxville serves as a working history lesson that a bad hire -- and bad luck -- can set back a program by years.

Brown's exit was classy and befitting a man who was universally respected even if most of his fan base wanted out. Be careful wishing that hard for a change at the top when the view has become familiar. Not that the view has become bad, mind you, it's just become uncomfortably above average and occasionally good but seldom great.

As Brown noted in his farewell, at Texas you have to win more than eight games -- which the Horns did this year. That's understood. But timing is a key part of the equation because, as Brown noted, in his first year there were parades and back-slapping about the Longhorns winning nine games.

It's the modern-sports math that compares success on a daily basis and raises the expectations almost as quickly. It's also one of the reasons that the careers of college football coaches should be gauged closer to dog years than regular ones. The days of coaches staying decades are dead. In this instant-success, what-have-you-done-lately, are-we-contending-for-a-title-now-and-forever fan mania, wiggle room is for wormy programs with no history.

Sure, fans will bemoan the "lack of loyalty" of their rivals, but let your team land back-to-back Holiday Bowls or, heaven forbid, a Christmas break or three spent at home, and it's "We need to hire Saban ... or someone like him."

And the folks who benefit the most are Saban and the elite coaches in the sport. Saban got a reworked deal that is rumored to be in the $7 million neighborhood, which we all can admit is a very nice neighborhood.

So where does Texas turn?

There is no shortage of big names who would require big dollars. And when the Texas brand is attached, no name is too big.

Seriously.

San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh is in play. Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly said his name being linked to Texas was "speculation." Notice he did not say, "False" or "Crazy" or plain "Wrong."

Of course it's speculation at this point. And in some ways that speculation is the ripple effects that started with the splash that was the Saban extension.

So if we're going to speculate, let's start with these names for these reasons, and knowing that this is every bit as big as any other college football job in the country, each of these cats will listen (and likely get raises one way or the other):

• James Franklin, Vanderbilt: If you win eight-plus games at Vandy, well, yeah, that deserves parades.

• Todd Graham, Arizona State: He has a connection with Patterson, and we all know he is always looking for bigger and better, and Texas is bigger and better than just about everywhere else.

• Gus Malzahn, Auburn: If the Longhorns are willing to wait until after the Jan. 6 BCS title game, the national coach of the year could become the favorite.

• Art Briles, Baylor: His history in the state is well-documented. His talent is hard to question. His age -- he's in his late 50s -- may be a tough hurdle for a fan base wanting new and fresh.

• David Shaw, Stanford: The man can flat coach and is continuing to raise the expectations at Stanford. That's good stuff.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com.

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

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