Did Mack Brown Kill NU Football?
And Will His Retirement Begin a New Golden Era for NU?
The Alamo Bowl was one last opportunity to root against Texas head coach Mack Brown, who some of us at BRN came to regard as "El Diablo". Yet there wasn't much joy in watching him lose. If anything, a victory in his final outing would make it that much harder on his successor. Besides, he'd already lost his job. Still, there are few coaches in history who have caused Nebraska so much pain. Now that he's gone, does that spell a brighter future for dear ol' Nebraska U?
The Grantland did a great longform piece on Brown. But one line stands out for Husker fans in particular:
If you were a student at Texas between 1971 and 1997, none of those were givens. Texas was pretty lousy at football.
The 1971-1997 time period began with a New Year's day national championship for Nebraska (the first under Bob Devaney) and ended two days before a fifth one. Is it more than a coincidence that the period of NU's great dominance and Texas' misery overlap so perfectly?
Brown's win in Lincoln in 1998 ended a seven-year streak of home victories for Nebraska. The loss was also one of four that handed the Huskers their worst win-loss record in 30 years. A year later, it was Brown's Longhorn team that kept Nebraska from playing for a national championship with a win in Austin. In 2002, Texas made a bad season worse when they escaped with a victory in Memorial stadium which left Nebraska a .500 team by season's end. A big win in Austin a year later was certainly one of the final nails in Frank Solich's coffin at Nebraska. It's hard to imagine him being fired at 10-2, which his record would have been with a victory over the Longhorns.
The near miss by Bill Callahan in 2006 against Texas was probably the difference between a top 25 ranking and NU's unranked 9-5 finish. A win in Austin in 2007 might not have been enough to save Callahan's job but then who's to say whether the Huskers would have been so flat against Kansas and Colorado without the loss. In that sense, perhaps NU fans ought to be grateful for Brown. The 2010 outing would have been a feel-good victory that might have put Bo Pelini on better footing with fans. Instead it was a disappointing outing that foreshadowed future disappointments.
Now the schools are unlikely to play outside of a bowl. The teams didn't play at all between the 1974 and 1995 seasons, which was still a great run for NU and a relatively poor one for Texas. Nebraska has always plucked a number of quality players out of the Lone Star state. Perhaps a down Texas program simply makes it easier. A player like defensive back recruit Jason Hall might reconsider NU without Brown as coach. In the best of times, the names were people like Outland winner Aaron Taylor and All-American Aaron Graham.
Whatever the reason, the transition from Brown probably doesn't spell brighter days for Texas. Usually programs that walk away from a coach winning 8 or 9 games (even premiere programs) end up trading down. That might not directly help Nebraska, but it probably won't hurt either.