When reflecting on the accomplishments of Texas coach Mack Brown since arriving in Austin in 1997, it’s not hard to comprehend why many are calling it the best tenure in Texas history, surpassing even the years of legendary coach Darrell Royal.
Royal, now immortal in Texas football history, has his name imprinted on the side of Texas Memorial Stadium.
Few, if any, programs have been more dominant than Brown’s Longhorns in his time on the 40 acres; Texas has the trophy case to prove it.
Among others, accolades include a National Championship in 2005, the most wins of any program since 1998 (125), 10 consecutive seasons of at least nine wins, seven straight 10-win seasons (actively leading the nation), nine straight bowl berths, a 3-0 BCS bowl record, three back-to-back 11-win campaigns ('01-02, '04-05, '08-09), five split or earned Big 12 south championships, and one Big 12 championship.
In a word: impressive.
Wait, one Big 12 championship?
It’s true. In Mack Brown’s 12 years at Texas, he has only one outright Big 12 championship to his name.
In contrast, Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops has six.
Exactly why has the Big 12 championship been so elusive for Brown’s 'Horns teams? Some of the blame can be credited to being in the same division as Oklahoma. After all, from 2000-2004 Texas was OU’s personal whipping boy for five straight years.
Prior to 2005, the best chance for Brown to win the conference title was in 2001. That year, though losing to Oklahoma 14-3, Texas ran the table the rest of the way and benefited from two Oklahoma losses that sent them to the Big 12 title game.
Colorado, the North champion that year, capitalized on four first half turnovers by QB Chris Simms and was able to withstand a vigorous second half comeback engineered by backup QB and current UT RBs coach Major Applewhite to win the game 39-37.
To add insult to injury, a series of upsets that year would have placed Texas in the National Championship Game vs. Miami. Instead, Texas was sent to the Holiday Bowl in humiliation.
To be fair, there have been iniquities that have played a factor in the lack of conference titles in the Mack Brown era.
In 2006, Texas was undefeated in Big 12 play leading into a road game vs. Kansas State, including an impressive 28-10 victory over OU. Colt McCoy, a redshirt freshman at the time, was knocked out early in the ball game; Texas was forced to rely on another freshman, Jevan Snead, who will play his final game for Ole Miss in the Cotton Bowl vs. Oklahoma State.
Despite the loss, Texas needed but a victory over Texas A&M in the season finale to reach the title game; McCoy, still feeling lingering effects from the injury, played poorly. The Texas offense sputtered all game and was upended by the Aggies 12-7, one of the most disappointing losses in the Mack Brown era.
Supplementing the heartache suffered in '06 was the misfortune of 2008. Last year, Texas beat Oklahoma on a neutral field but suffered a road loss to Texas Tech later in the season. The computers favored Oklahoma, and the Sooners, justifiably or not, were placed in the Big 12 championship ahead of Texas.
Brown is cognizant of the importance of the Big 12 championship, but for reasons that differ from his ego:
"What I would like is for Colt (McCoy) and these seniors to have a championship," Brown said. "They've given us so much. That's the one thing that's missing from their résumé. They've deserved it. That's what they want. That's what Saturday night is about for me. I want Colt to finish with the acclaim he should because of what he's done for this program and for college football."
Fair enough, but a win vs. Nebraska on Saturday would go a long way in silencing the doubters, still incredulous that Brown can win one without Vince Young.
Though Brown is the winningest coach in the country since 1990, guys like Pete Carroll, Urban Meyer, Bob Stoops, and Nick Saban always seem to be slated ahead of him when the discussion of best coaches in the nation is brought about.
A second Big 12 and National Championship would be the perfect remedy for that.