The rumors started getting hot and heavy two months ago. A regent talked to an agent. A Hicks had lunch with Mack Brown. But that was it. It seemed headed the way of the “Rick Perry is gay” rumor, proven wrong when he bailed on a Kathy Griffin show to catch Kings of Leon on Conan.
Still, there was plenty of chatter that the University of Texas had thrown its considerable weight into courting Nick Saban as its next head coach. The Alabama sideline professor was well on his way to a third consecutive national championship with the Crimson Tide, and the thinking was that he’d be looking next for a new challenge and an even bigger paycheck, both of which Texas would provide.
There’s never been a better time for Nick Saban, the only coach to win college football national championships with two different programs, to go for a third.
The richest plantation in college sports would make Saban, who already makes $200,000 a year more than Coach Brown’s $5.4 million, college football’s first Six Million Dollar Man.
Nick Austin! You see, when you pay the players like SXSW volunteers, with an education instead of a badge, you can throw a lot more money at the coaches. And the University of Texas is the New York Yankees with professors.
But could this really be Mack Brown’s final season at Texas, where he won a national championship in 2005 and would’ve won another in 2009 if Colt McCoy’s trick shoulder didn’t pick one helluva time to act up? Coach Brown never really got over that heartbreaking loss — to Saban and Alabama — and the next year a joyless, shell-shocked, Garrett Gilbert-led Longhorns team went 5-7.
Mel Gibson’s acting career didn’t fall so fast. The 2011 season wasn’t Hangover 2, but it wasn’t exactly return to glory either, with a win over Cal in the Holiday Bowl making an 8-5 final record. The next season Texas finished 9-4, but like the previous year, that included a blowout loss to Oklahoma State. That will always get the entitled, parking lot sausage-turners in burnt orange calling for heads to roll.
When Texas stumbled early in 2013, it seemed pretty certain that Mack Brown was singing to the swans. But the ridiculed Horns rebounded, winning six conference games in a row, including a 36-20 upset of OU, who are set to play Saban’s Tide in the Sugar Bowl.
Strange thing happened en route to Bama’s three-peat. Saban called for a field goal, which turned into a kickoff, and the Auburn player ran back for a touchdown on the final play of the game. Auburn beat heavily favored Alabama on Bo Jackson’s birthday, and Charles Barkley is still partying.
There’s never been a better time for Nick Saban, the only coach to win college football national championships with two different programs (LSU in 2003, Bama in ’09, ’11 and ’12), to go for a third.
In the past week, photos of a house in Lakeway that Saban’s Realtor-wife Terry has allegedly bought have surfaced on the Internet. I mean, Bama Brown of KVET posted it, and his name is BAMA!
When DeLoss Dodds retired last month, Mack Brown lost his biggest supporter. Today Chip Brown quoted "high-level sources" as saying Brown will step down any day now. But Brown denies those reports.
The odds of Mack Brown coaching Texas next year are about the same as Ryan O’Neal taking the reins of the Ransom Center. Even if Texas beats heavily favored No. 10 Oregon in the Alamo Bowl December 30, they’ll end up 9-4. And 10-win seasons are the standard, which Mack Brown set, at Texas these days.
Other coaches rumored to be courted by Team Bevo are Mike Gundy of Oklahoma State, who I’m pretty certain is over 40 and not yet 50 (Saban is 62), and Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, who recently signed a big contract extension. But those don’t mean anything, because they always have an escape clause.
If Earl Campbell has his way (which, as the only monument with his own golf cart, he doesn’t), former Texas All-American safety Jerry Gray, now making about 800 large as Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator, will become the Horns’ first African-American head football coach.
But it’ll be Saban, I think. Basing this hunch on little more than the weekend I spent in Tuscaloosa a few years back. T-loose has all the bad things about a college town and gets nothing cool out of being a liberal outpost in a beet-red state. If Alabama Shakes are on tour, there goes the music scene.
The Sabans have been married since he was 20 and his wife was 19. It’ll be 42 years on December 18. They’ve never stayed any place too long, in the past 15 years going from Michigan State to LSU to the Miami Dolphins (where Saban had his only losing season as coach, in 2006) to Alabama.
It’s time for another change of scenery. And Saban has said that the only place he’d go after Alabama was Texas.
Which got this whole rumor stuff started in the first place. Usually these kind of coaching changes happen before the bowl game, for some reason. So we should have some resolution soon. We can only hope.