Mack Brown is a nice man. Everybody says that about him: What a nice man! He also led Texas to a national championship, almost led the Longhorns to another and has won 77 percent of his games at the school.
Also, Texas was absolutely right to get rid of him.
Brown clearly wanted to keep coaching Texas, but resigned when it became obvious he wasn't wanted any more. This feels uncomfortable. You'd want your mom to meet Mack Brown, and you'd want your kid to play for him. His teams have finished 9-4 and 8-4 in the last two years, which is not great, but certainly not terrible.
But when we ask the question, "Is Texas being fair to Mack Brown?" we need to study his whole career there. Let's go back through the years, and you tell me if Texas has been fair.
Texas hired Brown in 1997. He had previously been the coach at North Carolina, where he led the Tar Heels to 10 wins in his last two seasons, an achievement that amazes anybody who has watched North Carolina football.
Over time, Brown would get the reputation as a recruiter living off of Texas talent instead of a "real" coach like Oklahoma's Bob Stoops. Well, first of all, recruiting is a huge part of the job -- dismissing it is like saying a guy is a brilliant teacher of the game, but so what? And second, at North Carolina the in-state pipeline was a quarter-inch thick. Brown's record there shows that at his peak, the man could run a program anywhere, not just Texas.
North Carolina paid him $400,000 a year. Texas almost doubled his salary, to $750,000, and gave him a chance to compete for national titles. At the time, Texas was not considered the plum job that it is today. The school had churned through Fred Akers, David McWilliams and John Mackovic without much success. There was a sense that the Texas coach would always be punished for not being Darrell Royal, and political infighting would doom anybody who coached there. It was similar to how people viewed Alabama in the years after Bear Bryant retired.
In his first season in Austin, Brown went 9-3, and Ricky Williams won the Heisman Trophy, and Texas was awfully grateful. How grateful? The school rewarded him with a 10-year contract at $1 million per year. The Longhorns also set up an annuity for him if he stayed there at least five years. The annuity would pay him $1 million when he turned 55.
In 1999, Brown went 9-5, and then he went 9-3 again, including a 63-14 loss to Oklahoma. These records might not impress you, but they sure impressed Texas administrators, who bumped Brown's pay up to $1.45 million. Yup: He had basically doubled his salary in three seasons, and he still hadn't won a conference title.
In 2001, Brown led the Longhorns to 11 wins. Excellent work. Texas bumped his pay up to $1.7 million.
Brown went 11-2 again, and then 10-3. There was grumbling about Texas being good but not great, and some fans screamed that he couldn't tell an X from an O. Texas did not listen. On August 27, 2004, Brown turned 53. That day, he received a $1.6 million annuity.
He had finished in the top 10 two seasons in a row, but still had not won a conference title.
The next season Brown ... well, he still didn't win his league. But he did bring the Longhorns to the Rose Bowl, which they would win, and in December 2004, his pay was bumped to $2.159 million, with $100,000 increases every year.
The next year: Glory, roses, and a win over Pete Carroll and USC for the national title. Hard to argue with that. Texas said: "Here is another $400,000 per year, Mack, with $100,000 annual increases. Enjoy it. Go buy something nice for the wife. Hell, make it two somethings."
The next year brought an Alamo Bowl win. Texas is obviously not the kind of place that goes crazy over Alamo Bowl wins ... or is it? The school bumped up his salary again. It was supposed to be $2.659 million, but Texas said, "Hey, we love Mack, and besides, who wants to divide $2,659,000 by 52 to figure out his weekly direct deposit?" Nobody volunteered. Texas bumped his pay to an even $2.8 million in 2007 and $3 million in '08.
The Longhorns won the Fiesta Bowl two years later, and finished 12-1. That year, Brown got a retention bonus of $1 million, just for sticking around.
In 2009, the Longhorns went undefeated and earned a spot in the national title game. Texas was already paying him $3 million per season and owed him another $2 million bonus after the season -- again, just for sticking around.
But hey, the 'Horns had made the national title game. Life was good. Why should that $2 million bonus be a one-time thing? How insulting! Texas bumped his salary up to $5 million per year, with $100,000 annual increases.
Since then ... well, Brown has been paid more than $20 million and went 18-17 in the league.
So what do you think? Has Texas been "fair" to Mack Brown?
Hey, don't fault Texas. This was the marketplace. But it was the marketplace for a coach who contends for national championships, and Brown has not done that for a while.
Brown did a terrific job for a long time, and players loved him. He was loyal, in a sense -- he did stay all those years. But Texas gave Brown all those raises because of the implicit threat that he might leave.
After one of his raises, shortly before the national championship, Brown said: "I didn't ask for it, the university decided to pay it, and what they did is, obviously ... a business decision." Athletic director DeLoss Dodds used those same words: "business decision."
See? Brown knew it the whole time. Texas was not paying him to be a nice man.