Texas head coach Mack Brown looks on during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Iowa State, Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013, in Ames, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Updated: October 11, 2013 12:50AM
If Mack Brown is like a lot of us, he’s wondering where the time has gone. In between sincere but likely futile attempts to fight for his job, that is. It’s an uncomfortable time for the 62-year-old coach in his 16th season at Texas. It’s an awkward time. Knowing Brown, though, these days are filled with nostalgia and sentimentality as well.
Brown will resign soon or maybe he’ll be fired. What’s the use in pretending that this isn’t all but a given? Most Longhorns fans seem to want Brown gone. The national media have written him off. Longtime Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds has announced he’ll walk away after the current academic year, and what new AD is going to hitch his wagon to an old football coach whose program has been stuck in the mud for going on four years now?
Surer than the blazing summer sun in central Texas, this is it for Brown. And that makes Saturday’s Red River Rivalry game against Oklahoma his swan song.
Brown must think back to 1998, to his first of these games at the Cotton Bowl, and smile. The Longhorns won that day, as they did again a year later in Brown’s first square-off with new Sooners coach Bob Stoops.
The first half of the next decade was brutal on Brown, where OU-Texas was concerned; Stoops and the Sooners won five straight, by an average of 27 points. Still, those were some good years for the Longhorns, too. Three times from 2000-04, both OU and Texas had top-five rankings heading into the second Saturday of October.
Neither team was ranked lower than 11th in any of those five games.
The rest of the decade belonged to Texas. The Longhorns won four of five over OU. Brown matched Stoops with a national championship and became one of the highest-paid coaches in the history of college football.
He must still feel like he could reach out and touch that glory, but it’s all gone now. Brown has lost three straight in this series, the last two by an unimaginable combined score of 118-38. And for the first time in eight years, one of these teams heads to the Cotton Bowl unranked.
Hint: It’s not the Sooners.
Could Brown get a leg up again on OU if given the chance? Maybe. Stoops’ program hasn’t been its old self in a while now, averaging three losses a season over the course of the Southeastern Conference’s seven-year BCS title streak. It’s no given Stoops will be in Norman much longer, either. His job is secure, but there’s a suspicion out there that some new challenge or another will lure him away.
“People get tired of you,” Stoops said this week, “even when you win a lot.”
It was a reference to both Brown and himself, who are about to face each other for the 15th time. Here’s some perspective for you: That’s five more times than Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler squared off. And for nearly a decade, OU-Texas had an authentic national-game-of-the-year feel.
But Woody and Bo battled on essentially dead-even terms throughout the so-called Ten-Year War. Brown, barring a shocking upset on Saturday, is about to fall to 5-10 against Stoops.
This game can’t be any worse than the previous two.
“[They] were over before they started,” Brown admitted this week.
Only this time, the same can be said for his time on the Texas sideline.