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Even great football coaches lose their appeal — and their jobs

Mack Brown of Texas seems to be headed for the last roundup even though he's coached the Longhorns to a 153-45 record and a national title. He's not the first coach in such a situation, either.

October 11, 2013|Chris Dufresne
  • Texas Coach Mack Brown, right, celebrates with kicker Anthony Fera during the Longhorns' win over Iowa State.
Texas Coach Mack Brown, right, celebrates with kicker Anthony Fera during… (David Purdy / Getty Images )

He was a future hall of fame coach who won a Bowl Championship Series title years ago at a school that starts with the letter "T."

After a while, though, the football got stale and the fan base revolted. The arc of the coach's work was impressive but the feeling was that it was time for everyone to move on. Change would lead to brighter days and more titles.

Sometimes you have to give the people what they want even if they don't know what it is.

Last August, Phillip Fulmer was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.

What happened to Fulmer at the "T" in Tennessee is happening to Mack Brown at the "T" in Texas. It happens to a lot of coaches who become too comfortable and familiar.

Fulmer gave Tennessee his best years and a national title, but after a few rough seasons it was decided there had to be somebody better out there.

The tricky part is finding that guy.

"People get bored with you even when you win a lot," safe-and-secure Oklahoma Coach Bob Stoops said this week in the Oklahoman.

Was he talking about Brown or himself?

Stoops and Brown face off Saturday for the 15th time in the Red River Rivalry game at the Cotton Bowl.

Everyone is calling it "Mack's Last Stand," and it probably is.

It doesn't matter that Brown just passed Woody Hayes on the all-time victories list, or that he led Texas to the 2005 BCS title and the 2009 title game.

People get bored with you.

Brown is 153-45 at Texas but is going through a blue period.

This season promised to be Mack's bounce-back campaign, but the Longhorns are only 3-2 and 2-0 in the Big 12 Conference.

Brown and Texas will play again Saturday without star quarterback David Ash, who is sidelined with a concussion, but excuses will no longer suffice.

Brown's only hope of saving his job is to defeat Oklahoma. DeLoss Dodds, Brown's biggest advocate, recently announced he will be retiring as athletic director.

Mack is losing his support beams.

He is 6-9 against Oklahoma, having picked up one win before Stoops arrived in 1999.

The losses, though, have been crippling. Oklahoma has won the last three games by the total of 146-58.

It seems odd wanting to jettison a guy with more wins than Woody Hayes, but that's the nature of college football. The boosters ran Fulmer out of Tennessee in 2008 with a record of 152-52.

The school is now working on its third coach in four years. Lane Kiffin left after one contentious 7-6 season and was replaced by Derek Dooley, who put in seasons of 6-7, 5-7 and 5-7 before he was replaced by Butch Jones, who is off to a 3-3 start.

Nebraska fired Frank Solich after a 9-3 season in 2003 and then signed on to four years of Bill Callahan, who went 27-22.

USC fired John Robinson and replaced him with Paul Hackett, and UCLA fired Bob Toledo and replaced him with Karl Dorrell.

Here's a tip for all the eyes of Texas: You won't find any coach better than Mack Brown. You can find a younger version with more energy and a different vision.

The whole Texas-style enchilada, though, will be tough to top. The team of Dodds & Brown made Texas Football a Fortune 500 company with revenues estimated at $167 million this year.

But you just can't let Oklahoma keep pushing you around the Cotton Bowl.

No one understands the endgame better than Stoops, who said the people who told him beating Texas was the most important thing were lying. "You've got to win them all," he said.

Stoops will look across the field at Brown on Saturday and see an older version of himself — a Hall of Fame coach who will one day wear out his welcome.

Brown still clings to the last strands of hope.

"It's not dark yet," Bob Dylan wrote, "but it's getting there."

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