What do you suppose Baylor football head coach Art Briles (above, left) said to make University of Texas football head coach Mack Brown (above, right) laugh before this past Saturday night’s game?
No, no, no, it wasn’t, “I could have this job next.”
But judging from Brown’s Monday press conference, it was probably, “I sure do enjoy watching your team practice on the Longhorn Network.”
As the Associated Press reported, Brown treated the local media to some real talk about the always-controversial and still little-seen ESPN/University of Texas television partnership, lamenting that it takes up too much of his time and gives opposing coaches too much information on his team:
“I didn’t ask for it,” Brown said Monday, noting he’s worried that the six hours a week he spends taping three television shows and the network’s access to the first 30 minutes of daily practice may tip opposing coaches to player injuries, tendencies and schemes.
Brown said he and Baylor coach Art Briles discussed it before Texas (5-2) beat Baylor 56-50 on Saturday.
“It’s in Waco. Baylor sees every practice,” Brown said. “We’re a little overexposed.”
Brown talked about the Longhorn Network for several minutes before a media relations assistant stepped in to limit questions: Brown had to get to a network show taping.
Yup, you can’t make that part up.
“[It] was either an example of simple honesty or a brilliantly executed shifting of the media narrative,” suggested Mike Finger of the Houston Chronicle.
Except there was no shift. If anything, the narrative switched from “we bounced back from that Oklahoma loss and beat Baylor for the first time since 2010” to “people on the Internet want to fire Mack Brown, so now Mack Brown blames the Longhorn Network.”
“Let that sink in — Mack Brown said that Texas football is overexposed,” wrote Mac Engel of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “Do not think for a moment that several members of the media, and other coaches, are not enjoying this complaint a great deal.”
Like Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman, for example, who wrote:
What’s deliciously ironic is that the Longhorns coach is right. But when Brown complains that he has to commit too much time to his duties with the Longhorn Network, it smacks of blatant hypocrisy. Texas is overexposed because, well, Texas sought the extra exposure. Go figure….
Texas should have been more careful about what it wished for. It had a role in four schools leaving the Big 12, and now Mack has some issues with the 1-year-old network, which brings Texas $300 million over 20 years.
Of course, Mack won’t get a lick of sympathy with his $5.3 million annual salary and all. He estimates he devotes six hours of his workweek to the three hourlong shows he tapes. Now, he didn’t suggest Texas’ defense is ranked 107th nationally because he’s spending too much time breaking down game tape and doing interviews on LHN, but Texas sure looks as if it needs more practice.
“The whole thing comes off as whining in the worst way, like lottery winners complaining about how much they were taxed,” wrote Frank Schwab of Yahoo! Sports’ Dr. Saturday.
Chip Brown of Orangebloods asked Brown the question that ended up becoming the day’s top UT football story. He also noted that Texas has added two full-time sports information staffers just to coordinate with LHN. Brown (Chip, that is) continued:
“We know they (opponents) have it for a fact,” [Mack] Brown said. “Lots of them do. And people are taping it across the country and sending it to the coach if they don’t have it in their area. We know that for a fact. We’ve been told that too many times.”
Brown even said if a player needs to have an ankle taped, the UT training staff will tape both ankles so anyone watching LHN won’t know if a player is injured.
Brown said he’s spending six hours a week minimum preparing, participating or traveling to the studio for shows that air on LHN….
“And I do have three shows over there that take you 20 minutes to get there and 20 minutes to get back and an hour to do them. So there’s no question it takes away some of your time….”
Honestly, if it takes twenty minutes for Mack Brown to get from Belmont Hall to 32nd and I-35, fifteen of that is probably walking from his desk chair to the car. (This is a subject we here at the TM Daily Post are uniquely qualified to comment on, as the Texas Monthly offices were in the same building as the Longhorn Network until just over a year ago.)
Brown also said he was “the soldier,” and that he’d do what was best for the football program and also what the university tells him to do.
“I don’t work for Longhorn Network,” he said. “I work for the University of Texas, and that’s [athletic director] DeLoss [Dodds] and [president] Bill Powers and the regents.”
Dodds, widely considered the architect behind UT’s deal with ESPN, told the Statesman‘s Bohls, “If it’s an issue for Mack, we’ll talk about it. It’s a frustration right now for Mack, but those things can be talked about. There are bumps in the road, but the network’s a terrific thing for the department and the university.”
Responding to the AP story, Sports Illustrated college football writer Andy Staples all but called Brown a pushover (while throwing another log on the “Mack is on his way out” fire):
By the way, Mack Brown is the only coach in America who would put up with that much access for that long. Next guy won’t do it.
— Andy Staples (@Andy_Staples) October 23, 2012
Staples was no doubt thinking about big-time coaches with abrasive personalities like Alabama’s Nick Saban and (sob) former UT assistant and Florida head coach Will Muschamp. If Brown’s eventual heir is someone of that caliber, he may well be correct.
But Texas is arguably the only elite program in the country where the athletic director is more powerful than the football coach. If Dodds eventually hires another up-and-comer from a smaller program, as he did with Brown from the University of North Carolina, what sort of leverage would that coach have to not toe the Longhorn Network line?
And as fashionable as it might be for Texas fans to gripe that UT now cares more about revenue and branding and ESPN love than winning national championships, does anyone really want to imagine a UT program without revenue and branding and ESPN love?
Oh, and by the way, when Bohls asked Dodds whether Brown would be back coaching the team next year, the AD responded, “What are you talking about? Have you been drinking at lunch?”