The Associated Press is reporting that a University of Texas regent and a former regent talked with Nick Saban's agent about the possibility of the Crimson Tide coach replacing Longhorns coach Mack Brown days after Alabama won the 2013 national championship.
The Longhorns' 1-2 start in 2013 and underwhelming performances in the last three seasons have led to speculation that Brown could be fired if he does not retire. Brown won the 2005 national title at Texas but lost to Saban and Alabama in the 2010 championship game. The Longhorns are 23-18 since that loss, including seasons of 5-7 in 2010, 8-5 in 2011 and 9-4 in 2012, despite being the NCAA's top revenue-generating program.
According to the Associated Press:
Regent Wallace Hall of Dallas told the AP he spoke by telephone with agent Jimmy Sexton a few days after the Jan. 7 game. Tom Hicks, a former regent who is the brother of current Regent Steve Hicks, also was on the call. Tom Hicks, the former owner of the Texas Rangers, the Dallas Stars and the English professional soccer team Liverpool, was a regent in 1997 when Brown came to Texas and was instrumental in hiring him away from North Carolina.
Two days after the call with Sexton, Tom Hicks met with Brown over lunch and told him about the call, according to several people who spoke with the AP. He asked Brown if he was ready to retire.
Brown, who had just finished his 15th season at Texas, said he wanted to keep coaching and the matter was dropped.
Brown is under contract with Texas until 2020. He will be paid $5.4 million this year.
Saban, who has won four national championships -- one with LSU in 2003 and three with Alabama in 2009, 2011 and 2012 -- has been often mentioned as a potential target for Texas boosters bent on replacing Brown. Saban earns $5.6 million per year but could stand to make even more if he became the subject of a bidding war.
Whether Sexton initiated the contact with Texas is unclear. He did not return a telephone message from the AP on Thursday. Alabama spokesman Jeff Purinton also declined comment.
Hall said a person he would not identify called him, unsolicited, and proposed an introduction to Sexton.
"I notified then-chairman Gene Powell, who then informed vice chairman and athletic liaison Steve Hicks, which resulted in a conference call with Mr. Sexton," Hall said in a prepared statement to the AP. "Introductions were made and then I withdrew from the process."
Tom Hicks declined comment on the call and the meeting with Brown. Steve Hicks told the AP he was in Australia during the second week in January and that he never talked to Sexton, Brown or Saban about the matter.
"Wallace Hall brought this to the chairman and myself. Nothing was authorized by the board and the chairman and myself thought the board should not be involved," Steve Hicks said. "Tom and Mack are friends and talk often. They simply visited and just talked the idea through. It was dropped and nothing happened ... It was a short conversation."
Powell did not respond to messages seeking comment.
Hall is the subject of an impeachment investigation by the Texas House of Representatives, brought after lawmakers complained he has tried to force out university president Bill Powers. Powers is considered a strong backer of Brown. Steve Hicks is among university regents backing Powers.
Joe Jamail, a billionaire trial lawyer whose name adorns Texas facilities as one of the Longhorns' top donors, is also Brown's attorney. He reportedly threatened legal action if Brown was forced to resign.
When asked about the conference call with Sexton and the lunch meeting, Jamail suggested Hall was acting on his own and threatened to sue anyone outside the university if they try to pressure Brown to resign. "If there are any more, get ready for a lawsuit," Jamail said. "Mack has publicly stated he wants to coach."