Texas coach Mack Brown begins his 16th season with the Longhorns and he knows the pressure is on.
In the past three seasons Texas is 22-16. The Longhorns lost just 16 games combined in the previous nine seasons and won at least 10 games each year from 2001 to 2009, including a national championship in 2005.
But Brown exuded unbridled optimism last week during the Big 12 media days, declaring that quarterback David Ash is a different leader after helping orchestrate a comeback win over Oregon State in last season’s Alamo Bowl.
The Longhorns return 19 of 22 starters and Brown expects that experience to translate into a rebound season for his program.
“They understand that nine’s not what we want to win at Texas, and they’re very excited to get started,” he said. “We’ll have more experience. We’ll have more depth. The leadership is much better than it’s been over the past couple of years because the guys are older.”
Here are excerpts from Brown’s two-hour wide-ranging session at last week’s media days:
On making $13,500 a year in his first job as a receivers coach at Southern Miss in 1975: “So all the people that think guys my age who are making a lot of money right now just waved a magic wand and decided to make money; it’s not the case. I was second to the bottom in the ACC with coaches’ salary and that was $274,000 when I left there [in 1997]. So these salaries have jumped way up over time and I think the salaries are jumping up because the coaches are producing money for the universities and as long as the athletic directors and the presidents see that the money is coming in and they like the money coming in, then they’ll pay the coaches.”
Were you taken aback a little bit when David Ash got on campus how much social catching up he had to do? When you start looking at the fact that he really didn’t have cable TV and he didn’t watch it; there’s no doubt he was raised in a very strict environment. We laugh some. He really doesn’t watch pro football much. He really isn’t a TV watcher. He’s not on Twitter. I don’t think he’s ever turned on a computer unless it’s studying; never looks at a computer. If I text him he’s not one of those who’s going to get right back. When he walked in yesterday he left his phone in the car, so he’s not into all these things that we think a teenager would be into. It’s just not who he is. He’s a young man who’s not like some other college students: he doesn’t drink, he’s never said a cuss word, he’s never smoked a cigarette. If college students are doing those things it’s foreign to him because it’s just not who he is. He has no vices. If I get a call saying he’s in trouble I’m going to investigate because somebody set him up. He’s just a good kid. He’s not judgmental at all, but I do think it has taken him a while to get comfortable in that leadership role.”
On the Big 12 uptempo offenses, which Texas plans on using this season: “I think it’s the wave of the future. It’s very difficult to stop. Our league has been very criticized defensively. I think they ought to be bragging on our offenses instead of beating up our defenses because they’re all going to start seeing it themselves. It’s not an easy thing to stop.”
On the Longhorn Network’s second year: “It’s here, it’s real and it’s not going away. It’s a huge part of our future. It’s different. I said that last year. I thought the criticism was way overplayed from what I said because it does take more time, but it’s great for our young coaches and it’s great exposure for our players and I think it’s the wave of the future. I think we’re going to see everybody having a network of their own at some point and they’re not going to be as critical about it. And I would say if there’s people who can’t see it they ought to be raising Cain with some of those providers to buy in.”
On Texas’ three-game losing streak to Oklahoma: “It’s an emotional game, it’s a passionate game for our coaches, our fan base and our players and we haven’t lived up to our part of the deal. We didn’t even make the game interesting the last two years and that’s not fair to Texas. If I’m a Texas fan I’m mad at us over that game as well. I’m mad at us myself because I’ve been at Texas 16 years now and it is an important game for us and we do need to play better.”
On the nature of his relationship with Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops: “We get along well … our relationship is not bad. Coaches don’t hang out like they used to. It’s just different. We don’t see each other recruiting like we used to. Coach [Frank] Broyles and Coach [Darrell] Royal used to go to Augusta [Georgia] and play golf all the time. I don’t have any coaching buddies I’m playing golf at Augusta with. That’s really changed. I think he’s done a tremendous job.”
On the rise of programs such as TCU and Baylor and the parity in the Big 12: “That’s what’s so unique about the thing right now, everybody is pretty good. I truly believe, right now, when you turn the TV on, anybody in this league can beat anybody else. And that wasn’t the case. When we got here it was all Colorado, Kansas State and Nebraska. The talk was nobody in the South will ever be good enough again. It’s a league that’s just dictated by the North. Then all of a sudden Oklahoma and Texas got really good and took over. And then everybody said, aw, the South’s got all the money, the South’s got all the prospects, the North will never ever be good again. So it’s interesting how it flips back and forth. As much as sports stays the same, it changes. It’s very much like society and you’ve got to ride the waves and we’ve had our wave of down years and people have done that across the country in these great programs, but they always get back.”
What’s your preference on playoff size? “I would probably have gone to eight teams instead of four and get the best eight. To me, the concern is more how we pick them and making sure we get the right ones and making sure we have strength of schedule as a component than it is how many there are. I think it’s only fair for fans, media, coaches and players to have the best players that have earned the right through the year to play it off at the end and we don’t consistently do that. If we’re going to make this big of a change, let’s make it right this time. Let’s get it where we choose the best teams that had to play the best teams in the end. Let’s not take some bad team that played some weak schedule and say, let’s stick them in because they’re nice. That’s not right. That’s not fair.”
Who would you put on the committee? Ex coaches, ex athletic directors, ex commissioners. Maybe media. And I would not let them vote for their school if they had an affiliation with that school at all. I would pay a lot of money to have video set up in every one of their homes or their basements and have them watching video all week. And I would make sure, in some way, they were passionate about it. It think it’s the most important thing we’ve got. We’re talking about the playoffs, we’re talking about the money, we’re talking about where we’re going to play it, we’re talking about buying sites. Who’s going to pick ’em? Because unless we get the picks right it’s not going to matter. We’ve got to get it right. I think that’s why they’re taking their time because it’s a hard decision to make.”