As we head into Saturday’s 15th consecutive renewal of the Red River Rivalry featuring a battle between coaching icons Mack Brown and Bob Stoops, the irony is unavoidable:
For the only active Big 12 coaches with national championship rings to observe a Sweet Sixteenth matchup next season, Brown’s fate rests in Stoops’ hands.
At least that is rampant public perception on both sides of the Red River as Brown, who has produced a 25-19 record in his last 44 games at Texas, prepares the Longhorns (3-2, 2-0 in Big 12) for Saturday’s 11 a.m. matchup against No. 12 Oklahoma (5-0, 2-0) at the Cotton Bowl.
If Texas cannot prevail as a two-touchdown underdog, Brown will have overseen his second four-game losing streak in this series and secured a 5-10 career mark in matchups against Stoops. And he will have done so shortly after his longtime boss, Texas men’s athletic director DeLoss Dodds, announced retirement plans.
On the south side of the Red River, Texas fans continue to add signatures to a petition calling for Brown’s removal in favor of Alabama coach Nick Saban on the website Saban2014.com. As of Friday, there were 241 online signatures. North of the Red River, an Oklahoma radio station included a line about giving Brown “his walking papers” in this week’s parody song about the rivalry.
Texas players have seen and heard every rumor about their coach, said quarterback Case McCoy, a senior who seeks to end the team’s three-game slide against the Sooners in his final appearance in Dallas.
“We’re on social media. We hear everything. We read everything,” McCoy said. “At the same time, we feel no pressure right now as players. We understand that we’re 0-3 against these guys and the only thing we can do is go up from there. … Coach Brown is a great man and there’s no doubt that he wants to win just as bad as any of us. But when it comes down to it, we’ve got to beat OU. Y’all know that. We know that. Now, it’s time that we go do it.”
Brown said speculation about his future “doesn’t affect me at all” heading into Saturday’s game.
“There’s no giving up, no quitting,” Brown said. “I’ve been very open that we haven’t held up our end of it the last three years and, hopefully, that’ll change Saturday. None of the outside stuff matters. Winning matters.”
If Saturday’s game does, indeed, mark the final Brown-Stoops matchup, the duo’s 15 seasons as coaching adversaries in one of the sport’s most heated rivalries will be remembered as a rarity in today’s college game. Their 15 years on opposite sidelines in Dallas will far exceed the number of Darrell Royal-Barry Switzer matchups (four), Darrell Royal-Bud Wilkinson matchups (seven) or Fred Akers-Barry Switzer matchups (10) in Red River Rivalry history.
The Stoops-Brown connection will outlast the Woody Hayes-Bo Schembechler rivalry that once defined Ohio State-Michigan games but will fall just short of the 16 seasons that Switzer matched wits with longtime Nebraska adversary Tom Osborne (1973-88).
Asked this week about his level of respect for Brown, Stoops said: “Mack and I have a mutual respect for one another. I know I do … How could you not? And I feel he does.”
Without question, Brown said the respect is mutual.
“Bob and I have never been at odds. We’ve always been fine,” said Brown, whose 153 career victories at Texas ranks behind only Royal (167) on the school’s career list.
“People have tried to pit us against each other. In fact, Bob has been instrumental … in suggesting possible rules changes as we’ve all worked to cleaning up some things we think will help college football.”
But the time demands of both jobs, as well as Brown’s duties as president of the American Football Coaches Association, do not allow for much interaction between the two men outside of the second Saturday in October.
“At places like Texas and Oklahoma, Bob and I do something every day. We actually see each other twice a year, max,” Brown said. “At the Big 12 meetings and on the field before the game Saturday.”
The pre-game greeting could be the last in a series marked by long winning streaks and lopsided victories during the Brown-Stoops era. Stoops’ teams have won five in a row (2000-2004) and three in a row (2010-2012), with Brown’s team taking four of five during a stretch from 2005-2009.
Brown oversaw Texas’ most lopsided victory in series history, a 45-12 rout in 2005, but has been on the wrong end of drubbings by 38 or more points on four occasions, including each of the last two years. Stoops’ troops handed Brown’s squad the most lopsided loss in series history, a 65-13 shellacking in 2003. OU also has cleaned Texas’ clock by margins of 63-14 (2000), 55-17 (2011) and 63-21 (2012) under Brown’s watch.
Those last two losses stick with Texas’ veteran players, who vow they are part of a united locker room despite stunning September losses to Brigham Young, 40-21, and Ole Miss, 44-23.
“Everybody on the team is still on board. We’re ready to go,” defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat said. “At the beginning of the season, our goal was to win the Big 12 and that’s still in play. People haven’t seen how good we can be and how good we can play for four quarters. That’s something we need to show to the public. We need to make sure that we do that this game.”
Receiver Mike Davis, a senior from Dallas, said there is “100 percent” belief among Texas players that the Longhorns can pull an upset and lower the level of heat on their coach, at least temporarily.
“We feel like we’re going to win this game,” Davis said. “But we’ve got to do what we’ve been doing: compete, fight and everyone believe in each other. Just go out there and dominate our man. I’m pumped up. There’s nothing like this game and I’m looking forward to the ‘W.’”
For Brown to face Stoops in Round 16 of their longtime coaching rivalry in 2014, Texas probably needs to post the “W” that Davis envisions Saturday in Dallas.
Texas vs. Oklahoma
11 a.m. Saturday, Cotton Bowl
End of an era?
Texas’ Mack Brown and Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops will meet for the 15th time as coaching rivals in Saturday’s renewal of the Red River Rivalry:
Head to head
|Points per game||32.4||27.4|
|3rd down conv.||40.3%||41.6%|
|3rd down conv.||45.9%||27.1%|