Tablet Sports

Gil LeBreton: While Mack stalls, Nick Saban waits

Mack Brown has a Twitter account. I’m sure the last thing he wanted to read on it this week was a tweet from Bevo’s personal muse, Chip Brown, saying that the Texas coach was about to step down.

It’s become uncomfortable to watch, though, hasn’t it, these final few wiggling and resisting days for Mack Brown?

The UT powers have concluded that Brown’s 16-year reign over Longhorns football must end, yet Mack keeps moving the finish line. On Tuesday, the day that reporter Chip Brown’s message appeared, Mack showed up recruiting in Florida. On Thursday, he dodged questions at a Valero Alamo Bowl press conference. Friday is the team banquet.

Saturday is … wait … Mack will probably think of something.

In the meantime, he is doing no one any favors. It’s unbecoming.

Texas isn’t just a football team. It’s a brand. It’s a TV network. It’s a veritable college athletics force of nature.

As Mack dillydallies, therefore, the university’s power brokers had better be careful that he isn’t mucking up the end game. Nick Saban likes to control his entrances and exits.

Texas had better hope Saban is out recruiting and hasn’t been paying attention or that some ’Bama booster doesn’t cash in his Bubba Gump shrimp stock.

Why would Saban leave Alabama? If you have to ask that question, please back away from the mirror, the one where you’ve been admiring your Bear Bryant tattoo.

Roll back the clock a few months. It was Saban’s agent, Jimmy Sexton, that initiated the first contact with Texas, not vice versa.

A money ploy, you say? He’s Nick Saban. Over the past 10 years, he’s won four BCS national championships. He doesn’t have to ask for a pay raise through anybody’s back door. He can ring the doorbell and just about any school in America will load up the SUV for him.

Why, you ask again, would anyone leave Tuscaloosa? Is this a trick question?

I’ve been to Austin often during my 33 years in Texas. I also once lived in Alabama and have been to Tuscaloosa many times.

Austin is a vibrant, progressive, cosmopolitan city with seven Fortune 500 companies headquartered within 100 miles. Whatever lifestyle the Saban family has enjoyed in Tuscaloosa, it can expect to multiply it four-fold in Austin.

It’s not about the money, though. The chance to become college football’s first eight, nine or 10 million-dollar coach will only make it easier for Saban to frame his departure.

In truth, he has always left. He left Michigan State. He left LSU the year after he won his first national title. He left the NFL Dolphins.

What Saban seems to understand is that even the mightiest of kings eventually wears out his red carpet. Saban’s own wife Terry hinted as much in a recent feature in The Wall Street Journal .

“You come to a crossroads,” she said, “and the expectations get so great, people get spoiled by success, and there gets to be a lack of appreciation. We’re kind of there now.”

’Bama fans would argue that, in Tuscaloosa, Saban has it all. Great facilities. Unequaled tradition. Unwavering fan devotion. And a recruiting machine that hums like the nearby Mercedes-Benz plant.

But Austin has its own versions of that, too, and more. Instead of trying to entice recruits to Tuscaloosa, Saban would be planting his Italian loafers in the center of the most fertile football recruiting ground in the country.

Contrary to Alabama belief, the Texas job is not a rebuilding job. With a good new quarterback, a couple of receivers and their usual crop of All-State defensive players, the Longhorns can be back in the Big 12 hunt.

It isn’t Bear Bryant’s ghost that has made Alabama special these past few seasons. It’s Saban. And if he goes to Austin, he takes that with him.

But Saban already knows that. I think he’s just waiting for Mack Brown to finally clear the driveway.

Never happen, you say?

That’s what they said at the other three jobs that Nick Saban left.