Austin, Texas — This is not to reflect on the caliber of the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award, but Mack Brown would gladly swap it for a fair shake in national championship politics. There are two human polls and several computer polls that get fed a diet of stuff he doesn’t understand, and the computer geeks won’t explain what it bases its vote on.
So that’s where we stood (or sat) in his office on the first day of spring football practice at Texas. Mack is one of the voting coaches. “It used to be a secret ballot, but not any more. I’d prefer it that way. I come in late at night after a game, I rush to get the scores, just who won or lost, no details, and I have to cast my vote in the dark,” he said. “I don’t like that.”
He is thinking of resigning from the electorate, but the timing is bad. He doesn’t want to look like a sore loser. But he is sore. Texas beat Oklahoma on neutral ground. In Dallas, about midway between Austin and Norman. Each lost one game, but the Sooners’ loss was to Texas, after which Oklahoma ran up a deluge of 58 points or higher against their last six opponents. It was a sickening look-at-us splurge to attract votes, and it worked.
In the long haul, the Longhorns were hurt by their own Big 12 Conference. Another bitter pill to swallow was the Heisman Trophy, awarded to Sam Bradford of Oklahoma. Not only that, but off the field McCoy is a young man of sparkling credentials. Spent the spring break doing missionary work in Peru and performs a litany of good deeds here and around his hometown, Tuscola (pop. 714).
He went to a lower-level consolidated school, thus was not the object of a recruiting crush. Nothing fancy. No rock-star heroes. In fact, he didn’t own a dress suit, until he had to buy one to go to the Heisman ceremony.
McCoy pretty much represents Mack Brown’s football philosophy: “Win championships with nice kids who are graduating. We are in the entertainment business on the weekend, in the education business during the week.”
Football is king in Texas, has been since the days of the “aerial circus” that was the Southwest Conference. Old-timers still mourn its passing — and its passing game that produced such as Bobby Layne, Davey O’Brien, Sammy Baugh, Don Meredith and a passel of others. Nowhere does the game serve a more bountiful purpose than on this sprawling campus in Austin. By the second game of the football season, Texas has paid for its entire athletics budget. Brown came here from North Carolina, where he was making $275,000 and was refused a raise. Texas offered $750,000, he now makes $3 million and shares generously with various charitable ventures. He might apologize for it, but he says the boom in football salaries relates to the infusion of Title IX legislation, and we move on.
He made a shocking move when he appointed Will Muschamp, the defensive coordinator (and a Georgia alum), as his eventual successor. “You build on defense, and he was getting all sorts of attention from other schools,” Mack said. “I knew we’d soon be losing him, and I didn’t want to see him leave and we’d have to start all over again. It gives us stability. All our staff knows who the next head coach will be.”
Practice time at Texas is spent under humane conditions, in a huge enclosure, big as a dirigible hangar, where the temperature is always 71 degrees. Traditionally, Darrell Royal, whose name is on the football stadium, drops in as a sure sign of spring, and so he did, healthy and in his 80’s. Golf, though, once one of his addictions — he was known to play 54 holes on some days — is no more. Few of the Longhorns, sorry to say, are unaware of the days of Royal-ty in Texas football.
The game goes on in this lusty state, where the men are strong and fast and the women are strong and beautiful. And where the Longhorns and Mack Brown, the Tennessean, have welded a hugging relationship.