by John Furgele,
Did Mack Brown deserve better? Perhaps, but in the business of college football, getting to go out on your own terms is not easy, nor should it be. For 16 mostly wonderful seasons, Brown did things the right way. He won and won often. In fact, he enhanced the brand that is Texas football so much that they now have their own television network. He won a BCS championship in 2005, in what most say was the best BCS title game of them all, when Vince Young ran for 200 yards and passed for 267 as Texas upended Southern California. He also brought Texas to the BCS title game 2009, only to lose both Colt McCoy and the game to Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide. Throw in a Fiesta Bowl win over Terrell Pryor and the Ohio State Buckeyes and that’s not too bad of a platter.
When the boosters want you out, you’re going to be out, and the Texas boosters started squawking about Brown’s tenure as early as 2011. When longtime loyal Brown supporter, former athletic director DeLoss Dodds retired, the writing on the wall began to dry. After a 1-2 start, Texas won seven of eight to get to 8-3 and played the final game against Baylor for the Big 12 title. But, that’s not good enough at Texas. Sure, a Big 12 title and banner is never a bad thing, but Longhorn nation wants BCS championships. They want the Longhorns to start 9-0 or 9-1 and be in contention for what was once the BCS title game and now will be the four team College Football Playoff. Sitting at 8-3 with a game to play just won’t satisfy UT supporters no matter who the coach is.
As for Brown, he was paid handsomely and he certainly delivered. With the pay comes the expectations, and when you’re not producing enough, the method of departure is irrelevant. Many think Brown should have been able to go out on his terms or even coach until he had enough, but that is a poor argument. Brown is a big boy and he did handle the (forced) resignation with class and dignity because he is a man with class and dignity. When Brown took the job, no matter the success, the end will come and very few get to the dictate the ending terms.
The more important question is who the next coach will be. It is a crucial hire because college football is entering a new era, the playoff era. And, even though Texas is a tremendous job with tremendous resources, it’s not automatic that Texas remains a top five program. Ohio State is a player as is Auburn, LSU and half the SEC. Florida State is going through a resurgence and there’s the Oklahomas, Michigans USCs and Stanford. Texas has some advantages, but Texas A&M, once the second class program in the state is in the SEC, the premier conference in the nation.
The usual names have already been trotted out. Nick Saban was courted and used that courtship to get more years and more money from Alabama. Some say that Chip Kelly wants to return to college and install his crazy offense at UT. Personally, I can’t see him jumping back to college after just one season with the Philadelphia Eagles, but stranger things have happened. Some say Jim Harbaugh would be interested, but to me, he has unfinished business with the San Francisco 49ers. He was so close to winning I would think he wants a few more years before even considering a return to college.
One name that hasn’t surfaced as quickly as the others is the Mad Hatter, Les Miles, the current LSU coach. The Hatter has the charisma and the gift of gab that would make for great Longhorn Network programming but would he be able to take the criticism of every odd decision that he has been known to make? That stuff plays well in the Bayou, but in Texas?
Brown is gone and there is an assumption that the future coach will be better than Brown, a feeling that it’s automatic. It’s treated as a given because the big Texas program is seen as a can’t fail opportunity.
Not so sure that will be the case.
Opening at Army
Rich Ellerson handled his firing at the United States Military Academy with equal class and dignity that Brown showed. Ellerson knew after his Army team was drubbed 34-7 by Navy for the twelfth straight time and fifth under him, that he was doomed. The one thing a coach has to do at Army is beat Navy and the one thing the Navy coach has to do is beat Army.
It is not easy to win at Army. It is tough to get accepted there and even tougher to play Division I football there. Navy and Air Force have had more success than Army but not every school can go 8-4 each year and head to a minor bowl. There have to be 3-9 teams, but in recent years, there have been too many of those at West Point.
Army needs a coach who can sell the uniqueness that is West Point. He has to recruit with passion, sell and most importantly, motivate. And, in addition to that, be able to outfox the opposing coach. Army’s defensive line averaged 257 pounds, which is about 45 pounds lighter than most offensive lines in college football. They’re going to get pushed around, which makes precise running of the triple option offense very important. The best way to save your defense is to have a ball control offense.
There will be plenty of up and coming assistants that will apply for this job, but there is one man out there that could be the perfect candidate, and his name is Jim Tressel. Tressel has been a success everywhere he’s gone. He coached at 1-AA Youngstown State, a school in a depressed city. He overcame that handicap, recruited well and won four 1-AA titles. He then moved on to Ohio State and all he did there was win and win big. He dominated Michigan, played in three BCS Championship Games, winning in 2002. He has the look of an Army coach. Tough, strong, disciplined and at 61, he’s a year younger than the god Nick Saban.
If Army were to hire Tressel they would have to show cause to the NCAA due to the sanctions given to him in the tattoo scandal at Ohio State, but it’s time to forgive him for that. Currently, Tressel , is the Vice President of Student Engagement at the University of Akron where he earns about $200,000 per year. Tressel’s show cause penalty expires in December, 2016 and he would have to sit out the first five regular season games plus a bowl game should he return. One would hope that these sanctions could be reduced, because at his core, Tressel is a solid man who has shaped the lives of young men for over 30 years.
Tressel would likely have to embrace the triple option and because he is a run first coach, the thinking is he could do so. People are given second chances all the time in this country and Tressel didn’t murder, rob or embezzle. He lied about some of his players getting tattoos in exchange for some Ohio State merchandise, in the grand scheme, not a big deal. The only question is does Tressel want to coach again. Based on recent comments where he stated that he misses the competition, the guess is yes. Army is more like Youngstown State than Ohio State and that should suit Tressel just fine. He would be a great leader for a great institution that’s pride is wounded. Tressel restored the pride in the city of Youngstown and he did the same at The Ohio State University, and he could do it for The United States Military Academy.
I hope he gets a phone call.