Why Texas should keep Mack Brown

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Alabama coach Nick Saban isn't trading his houndstooth hat for cowboy boots.

And despite myriad Internet rumors, Saban's wife wasn't shopping for a new house in Austin, unless she was searching for a Texas vacation home.

On Friday night, Saban agreed to a new contract with the Crimson Tide, which he says will keep him coaching at Alabama until the end of his career. Saban already was the highest-paid coach in college football, earning $5.7 million per year, and his new deal is expected to pay him between $7 million and $7.5 million, according to the Tuscaloosa (Ala.) News. That's close to $1 million per SEC victory, according to my math, as long as Saban doesn't send his kicker on the field to try a 57-yard field goal at the end of the Iron Bowl again.

Saban, who has guided Alabama to three of the past four BCS national championships, isn't taking over Texas. So what are the Longhorns supposed to do?

How about keeping the coach who is already there?

Mack Brown met with university president Bill Powers and athletics director Steve Patterson on Friday, and no decision about the coach's future was specifically addressed after their meeting, although signs now point toward Brown returning for a 17th season at Texas in 2014.

"Hopefully, we'll be able to get together and work for many years to come," said Patterson, who replaced longtime UT athletics director DeLoss Dodds in November.

Brown has been heavily criticized after the Longhorns lost at least four games for the fourth consecutive season. Since losing to Alabama 37-21 in the 2010 BCS National Championship, UT has gone 30-20 overall, 19-17 in the Big 12. Brown knows more than anyone that his teams' recent results aren't good enough at a program like Texas.

But it might have been Saban or bust for the Longhorns. Unless UT could have lured Saban to Austin, it doesn't make any sense to run off a coach who guided it to its first national championship in 35 years in 2005. In 16 seasons with the Longhorns, Brown has a record of 158-47. He needs only nine victories to match the revered Darrell Royal for the most wins in UT history. In fact, Brown's winning percentage (.771) is on par with Royal's (.774), whose name is etched on the Longhorns' stadium.

And that's after Brown won eight games this season without a serviceable quarterback, the result of a series of recruiting missteps that falls at the head coach's feet. Texas, which seemingly has more resources and a more fertile recruiting ground than any other program in the country, has the same problems as Florida and USC, which have similar embarrassments of riches. They don't have a quarterback. And without a triggerman, the Longhorns don't have a chance in the pass-happy Big 12, but that can be addressed this offseason. 

But if Saban isn't available, who is Texas going to hire who is more qualified than Brown? Auburn's Gus Malzahn, Florida State's Jimbo Fisher, UCLA's Jim Mora and Baylor's Art Briles, the most attractive coaches in college football this season, recently agreed to contract extensions with their respective schools. Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy, Vanderbilt's James Franklin and Arizona State's Todd Graham also have been mentioned as possible replacements at Texas. Count the national championship rings on their fingers and compare them to the gaudy jewelry on Brown's ring finger.

It's the same argument from Georgia fans who want to fire Bulldogs coach Mark Richt. Richt is 126-44 in 13 seasons as UGA's coach. He has guided the Bulldogs to two SEC championships and six SEC East titles. Last season, Richt came within about five yards of leading Georgia to the BCS national championship game, but fell short at the end of a 32-28 to No. 1 Alabama in the SEC championship game.

OK, you want to fire Richt? Who are you going to hire? Saban isn't coming. Saban is the litmus test for every other coach at a major college football program -- fairly or not. It's like comparing Jim Carrey to Cary Grant. No matter how hard you try, your coach isn't going to be as good as Saban. Accept it and live with it because your school isn't luring Saban away from Alabama.

Ask Tennessee how it has fared since the administration ran off coach Phillip Fulmer, who had a 152-52-1 record in 16-plus seasons from 1992 to 2008. Fulmer guided the Volunteers to a national championship in 1998, but then was fired after the Vols slipped to 5-7 in 2008. Five years later, the Vols are on their third full-time coach and are coming off a 5-7 season under first-year coach Butch Jones.

Miami fired Larry Coker in 2006, after he guided the Hurricanes to a national championship in 2001 and another national championship game appearance in 2002. Coker was fired after a 7-6 finish in 2006. His replacements, Randy Shannon and Al Golden, have gone a combined 50-36 since 2007.

There have been similar woebegone results at Maryland after the Terrapins fired Ralph Friedgen and at Michigan after fans clamored for Wolverines coach Lloyd Carr to retire. For every Fisher (who replaced legendary FSU coach Bobby Bowden) and Jim Tressel (who replaced embattled Ohio State coach John Cooper), there's a Rich Rodriguez and Randy Edsall.

With Saban out of the mix, Texas isn't going to find a better football coach than Brown.

And at some point, a coach's character, integrity and how he represents a university still has to matter in college football. Texas won't do better than Brown in that regard, either.

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