When Texas hired football coach Mack Brown a decade ago, it was the result of a high-stakes national coaching search to find just the right man to lead one of college football’s most prestigious programs.
Texas decided it didn’t want to go through that again when Brown retires, whenever that day comes. The Longhorns believe they already have the best guy for the job on the payroll.
Brown and Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds announced Tuesday that first-year defensive coordinator Will Muschamp will be signed to a new long-term deal that not only keeps him in his current role, but designates him as Brown’s successor.
Muschamp, 37, had been linked to openings at Clemson, Tennessee and Washington among others, but decided instead to wait his turn at Texas, a place where he’s been on the job less than a full calendar year. Muschamp’s coaching resume includes jobs at LSU and the Miami Dolphins under Nick Saban and a season as Auburn’s defensive coordinator before Brown hired him at Texas.
“This is a special place. I think it is ‘the’ elite job in the country,” Muschamp said of Texas.
The 57-year-old Brown insisted several times during a news conference he does not expect to retire anytime soon. Brown is in his 11th season at Texas and has eight years left on his current contract.
“I don’t want someone to think this is the twilight for me,” Brown said. “It’s not.”
Texas has won at least 10 games the last eight seasons. The Longhorns were ranked No. 1 for most of the month of October and still have a shot at playing for their second national championship since 2005. The Longhorns (10-1) host rival Texas A&M on Thanksgiving night.
“I’m having more fun than I’ve ever had,” Brown said. “I’d sure like to win another one before I get out of the way.”
Brown has several assistant coaches who have been with team for several years and have decades of coaching experience. He said the staff supported Muschamp being designated as the head coach of the future, even though he was Texas’ fifth defensive coordinator in six years and had little time to establish roots in the Texas soil.
Naming a successor coach has become a hot trend in college football. Florida State has already named offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher to be Bobby Bowden’s replacement. Kentucky assistant Joker Phillips will eventually take over for Rich Brooks and Purdue assistant Danny Hope will replace the retiring Joe Tiller next season.
Brown said the Texas deal with Muschamp only works because Muschamp is willing to be patient. He also sees in Muschamp a young version of himself.
“He’s passionate, he works really hard, he wants to do what’s right, he’s tough enough to make hard decisions,” Brown said. “We’ve got time. We will watch him through the years. If he wanted to do it today, we wouldn’t have done it because I’m not ready to quit.”
Muschamp said he wants to continue to learn how to be a head coach—not just game planning, but the entire package of being the public face of a program as big as Texas and the politician a major college coach sometimes has to be.
Muschamp is known for his fiery sideline enthusiasm that has led some fans to post highlights of his antics on YouTube and earned him the nickname of “Coach Blood” because of a self-inflicted scratch on his face.
“I think from the Xs and Os and managing the team, I’m very comfortable. Coach Brown always seems to say the right thing at the right time in the right way. I need to learn how to do that,” Muschamp said.
Brown said he initiated the idea of Muschamp being signed to a long-term deal and designated as his successor, and sought approval from school president William Powers Jr., Dodds and the university regents. All approved, Dodds said.
Muschamp said he immediately accepted the offer.
“There was no thought process. I don’t think coach Brown got it out of his mouth before I said yes,” Muschamp said.
He insisted his role will not expand beyond defensive coordinator until the day comes that he takes over. He will get a raise, more than doubling his salary from $425,000 to $900,000 in January. He has a verbal agreement for a five-year deal once he becomes head coach.
Dodds said Texas made the move not only to keep Muschamp, but to avoid a potentially disruptive coaching search that can impact recruiting and divide fan loyalties.
“The program is in great shape. It’s a family,” Dodds said. “(Muschamp) is a quality guy and a quality coach. We want to keep him. The last few years I’ve watched coaches hire from the outside and there’s a bunch of trauma … there are all kinds of problems with lawsuits, buyouts, and it’s not a pretty picture.
“Why go through the trauma of bringing an outsider in?” Dodds said. “We’ve decided to build our future from the inside.”
Brown was an outsider when Texas hired him away from North Carolina in 1997. Brown was the third head coach at Texas in a decade and the Longhorns got a perfect fit with the folksy Brown, who rekindled the passion at an underachieving program. His 113 wins at Texas rank second to Darrell Royal and the Longhorns have been ranked in The Associated Press Top 25 for 137 consecutive weeks, tops in the nation.
Brown brushed off at least a dozen questions probing for hints of when he might retire from coaching. He insisted he plans to stay a while, while acknowledging that someday he will step aside.
“I’m not going to be Bobby Bowden and coach (Joe) Paterno (at Penn State),” Brown said. “I have absolutely no thought of quitting at all.”