The Mack Brown saga at Texas continues — even without Nick Saban in the picture any more.
In a short, energetic speech at his team’s annual banquet, Brown acknowledged the “distractions” his team faced over rumors and reports that he would resign or be fired after 16 seasons, but ended only with a plea for his team to “beat Oregon” in the Alamo Bowl.
Brown did not directly address the speculation swirling around his job, but news of Alabama’s new contract with Nick Saban, a coach some Texas officials hoped to lure to the Longhorns, rippled through the banquet minutes before Brown gave his speech.
Brown gave no indication he plans to step down. His lively speech seemed to lift the somber tone of the banquet and he told new athletic director Steve Patterson that he’s looking forward to working with him.
Brown lingered long after the banquet was over to chat with recruits and their families.
But what Brown and his bosses didn’t do was deliver any definitive closure to the question of whether he would be back.
Brown, Patterson and school President Bill Powers met Friday afternoon, but Patterson declined comment when approached at the banquet.
“When we have something to announce, we'll announce it,” Patterson told reporters
During his prepared remarks, Patterson said he’s “excited to be working with” Brown.
“Hopefully, we'll be able to get together and work for many years to come,” Patterson said.
Powers, one of Brown’s biggest allies, also praised Brown and his wife.
“Mack and Sally, I’m so proud of you, the way you brought this team over obstacles,” Powers said. “You two are the very best. I’m proud to be your friend.”
A team spokesman said Brown and Powers would not comment after the banquet.
In his remarks, Brown wanted to keep the focus on his players and their 8-4 season that will end in the Alamo Bowl on Dec. 30 against Oregon.
“What we’re here for is the football team,” Brown said.
What Texas knows is that it won’t get Saban.
Saban had been identified as a target to potentially replace Brown, and several university regents and a former regent were involved in a meeting with Saban’s agent last January to gauge his interest in coming to Texas.
That door closed Friday night when Alabama announced it had reached “a long-term agreement” for Saban to remain with the Crimson Tide. Alabama didn’t release terms of the new deal, which must be approved by the board of trustees.
Saban, who turned 62 on Oct. 31, has led the Tide to three national championships in the past four years. No. 3 Alabama will play Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.
The 62-year-old Brown earns about $5.4 million and is under contract until 2020.
Brown was one of the most successful coaches in the country from 2001-2009 when he 101-16, won two Big 12 titles and the 2005 national championship, the Longhorns’ first undisputed national title in 36 years. The Longhorns returned to the national championship game in the 2009 season, but lost to Saban’s Alabama.
Since that loss, Texas is 30-20 overall, with Brown’s only losing season in 2010. Texas expected to return to national prominence this year but started 1-2. Texas fought back for a chance to play for the Big 12 championship, but lost 30-10 last week at Baylor.