Following up on Orangebloods.com's report earlier in the week, Texas Longhorns head football coach Mack Brown officially stepped down after 16 years at the helm in Austin, according to the Longhorn Network.
The announcement comes after a full week of speculation and rumors and a day after the annual Texas football banquet. Brown will coach his final game with the Longhorns on Dec. 30 in the Alamo Bowl against Oregon.
All things considered, it was the right decision. Brown had been unable to get back to a BCS bowl or national championship game since the 2009 season. The Longhorns couldn't even get back to 10 wins, for that matter. The Longhorns have dropped 20 games over the last four seasons. Those results aren't good enough at Texas.
It's a far cry from the nine-year stretch of at least 10 wins from 2001 to 2009, which included seven bowl wins and seven national Top 10 finishes.
On the other hand, Brown deserves better. Big-time athletics aren't a charity, but Brown has brought a national title to Austin and competed for another. The past few years, especially the past few months, couldn't have been enjoyable for him. Even after wins, he has been asked about his job.
It was time to move on.
Brown released a statement on TexasSports.com, saying in part, "It's been a wonderful ride. Now, the program is again being pulled in different directions, and I think the time is right for a change. I love The University of Texas, all of its supporters, the great fans and everyone that played and coached here. ... It is the best coaching job and the premier football program in America. I sincerely want it to get back to the top and that's why I am stepping down after the bowl game. I hope with some new energy, we can get this thing rolling again."
With all that said, it's an interesting time in the coaching marketplace. There are a lot of big names out there—Nick Saban, Art Briles, David Shaw, etc.—and Texas is one of the top few jobs in college football.
But what are Texas' chances of getting any of those coaches? Saban has everything he needs and then some at Alabama after getting another contract extension, and Briles and Shaw seem to enjoy where they are. Besides, Briles just landed a 10-year contract extension and raise.
Should Texas still pick up the phone and call? Absolutely. There's just no guarantee it would get any of them. As well, one hot coach, Arizona State's Todd Graham, cannot be hired because of an agreement made by Texas athletic director Steve Patterson when he left Arizona State in November.
In any case, here is a list of the most likely candidates Texas may look at during the coaching search.
Before moving on to potential replacements for Brown, it's important to look back at what he's done.
Brown has taken plenty of heat over the past few years—some of it deserved—for average records. Still, it would be wrong not to highlight some of the things Brown has accomplished over his 16 years in Austin.
- Brown is 158-47 in his 16 seasons at Texas. He is nine wins short of tying legendary Longhorns coach Darrell Royal for the most in school history.
- Brown won at least 10 games every season from 2001 to 2009.
- He was 69-9 from 2004 to 2009.
- Brown won a BCS national championship with the Longhorns during the 2005-06 season, beating USC in the Rose Bowl.
- Brown played for another BCS title in 2009-10, losing 37-21 to Alabama—the team's only loss of the season.
- Brown's final record against Oklahoma, the Longhorns' Red River rival, was 7-9. He beat the Sooners 36-20 in his final Red River game in October.
- Fifty-eight players have been drafted into the NFL under Brown. Among those to be drafted are quarterback Vince Young, running back Jamaal Charles, tight end Jermichael Finley and safety Earl Thomas. Thomas has made the Pro Bowl the last two seasons, starting the 2012 edition.
- Among the award winners to come through Texas under Brown are quarterback Colt McCoy (Maxwell Award and Walter Camp Award), Vince Young (Maxwell Award), Cedric Benson (Doak Walker Award) and Ricky Williams (Heisman Trophy).
In theory, the list should start and end here.
James Franklin is young (41 years old), charismatic and energetic, and he's a bowl victory away from his second straight nine-win season at Vanderbilt, a school that had never been to consecutive bowl games before his arrival. Franklin is a relentless recruiter and has the personality to do the Longhorn Network routine.
Outside of Art Briles, he feels like the best possible fit.
That said, there is one thing that could prevent him from being hired: the ongoing rape case allegedly involving former Commodore players.
Texas dealt with an alleged sexual assault incident of its own last year during the days leading up to the Alamo Bowl. Linebacker Jordan Hicks and quarterback Case McCoy were sent home for what was labeled a violation of team rules, though neither was charged in connection to the allegation.
Would Texas be willing to speak to Franklin with this cloud hanging over the Vanderbilt program? The Longhorns may pass.
Going 27-34 over five years at a job normally wouldn't be a ringing endorsement of a coach—except that was Al Golden's record at Temple when he took the Miami job.
Golden led the Owls to back-to-back winning seasons in 2009 and 2010. In short, he can win just about anywhere.
The Hurricanes have also been increasingly better in three seasons under Golden and narrowly missed out on the ACC championship game this season. Miami's offense, with quarterback Stephen Morris and running back Duke Johnson, has been electrifying at times.
What's more is that Golden has the personality to fit what Texas is looking for, and he's considered one of the good guys in the profession. Dealing with the demands of the Longhorn Network is one of the angles that makes the Texas job so unique—and why it might eliminate some otherwise worthy candidates.
Resources have previously been an issue at Miami. That wouldn't be the case for Golden at Texas.
Surprisingly, Mark Dantonio is the hottest coach in the country.
As B/R's Michael Felder writes, Dantonio is also one of the most underappreciated coaches in college football.
Fresh off a Big Ten title victory over Urban Meyer and Ohio State, Dantonio has the Spartans playing in the Rose Bowl against Stanford.
In seven seasons, Dantonio has never won fewer than six games, finished only one season under .500 and he has the most wins by a Spartan head coach in his first six seasons. He's also 5-2 against Michigan, so he's shown he's capable of a program's biggest rival.
The biggest question is whether Dantonio would be interested in taking part in the obligations of the Longhorn Network. Overall, though, he's an exceptional coach.
Gary Andersen has ties to the Urban Meyer coaching tree, and Meyer has said Andersen is one of the best hires he's ever made.
Andersen did a tremendous job turning around Utah State, so he's shown he can win at tough places. He picked up where Bret Bielema left off at Wisconsin, going 9-3 in his first year. For what it's worth, the Badgers were 16 points and one odd end-of-game SNAFU against Arizona State from being undefeated.
By the same token, can Andersen have sustained success at the highest level? There's only one way for Texas to find out, and that's to hire him and hope he pans out. It would be a little bit of a risk, but Andersen looks like he has what it takes.
Maybe it wouldn't be the flashiest hire—if anything, it might raise some eyebrows since he just got to Wisconsin—but it could be a sound one.
Gundy would be an interesting candidate. On one hand, he knows the Big 12 and is one of the more underrated coaches in the conference. Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer made a case for him too.
If Texas offered and Gundy accepted, there's the potential for the Longhorns to have a lot of success. Gundy has led the Cowboys to at least 10 wins in three of the last four seasons, including a 12-1 showing in 2011 that featured a Fiesta Bowl win over Stanford.
However, there are a couple of things that could hold Gundy back. The first is his 1-8 record against Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops. By going to Austin, Gundy wouldn't be avoiding Stoops.
The second is Sports Illustrated's five-part installment on alleged misconduct that was released a few months back. The SI series reported, among other things, that assistant coaches paid players and academic cheating took place.
No NCAA investigation ever took place, and the series was generally reviewed negatively. Still, Gundy's name is attached to it, which probably cools his coaching stock a little. What allegedly took place at Oklahoma State probably happens everywhere, but would Texas want to essentially show that it encourages it by offering Gundy?