texasmonthly.com: Of course every Texas-Ex and Aggie out there will buy this issue as soon as they see Mack Brown on the cover, but how did you make the article appeal to those who don’t have a vested interest in UT football?
Michael Hall: There are plenty of paradoxes about Mack Brown, the kinds of intriguing things that appeal to anyone who likes a good magazine profile. He’s one of the winningest coaches in modern times…yet he can’t beat OU. He’s a genuinely nice guy…who doesn’t seem to have that violent spark that many great coaches have. The UT brass loves him because he is so successful on an institutional level…yet some fans hate him because he just can’t beat those damn Okies.
texasmonthly.com: Why does this coming season demand a story?
MH: He and the Longhorns are coming off the biggest win in, respectively, his career and the modern era. It’s hard to overemphasize how big the Rose Bowl win was and how excited it makes Horns fans about the future.
texasmonthly.com: What did you do to make your article stand apart from every other profile of Brown out there?
MH: I tried to not buy into the hype that UT puts out and that so many journalists have written, and I tried to make the story a profile of a real live human being with a real live fatal (at least to some people) flaw. Brown is super-successful at so many things—recruiting, boosting, charming alums, raising money; he’s a great father and a great role model to his kids. He’s a good man. But he just can’t beat OU. It’s like a Greek tragedy or something. Except it’s football.
texasmonthly.com: How important is it that Brown is turning a major profit for UT athletics?
MH: I think it’s at the top of the list. The UT brass like the fact that he runs a clean program and recruits “nice kids who graduate,” but I think number one on the list is the bottom line. And it’s not just a profit; it’s a really big profit. UT is a huge entity, and UT football is one of the more successful operations at the university.
texasmonthly.com: How important is football to a school’s reputation?
MH: Some claim that UT’s comeback on the gridiron has helped the university raise $1.6 billion through the We’re Texas program. I talked with others who aren’t so sure. I don’t know. When I was growing up, I knew all about Notre Dame, and that’s because of the Fighting Irish football team. I’m sure plenty of kids wearing those orange Longhorns t-shirts in Manhattan and L.A. had never heard that we have a huge, powerful university down here in Texas.
texasmonthly.com: What happens to Brown if UT loses to Ohio State and OU?
MH: The same thing that has happened the past few years—angry fans will call for his head, boosters will say he’s doing fine and that (in OU’s case) the game runs in cycles, and it’s just a matter of time before we start winning again.
texasmonthly.com: What do you think Brown will do if Vince Young gets hurt?
MH: Start teaching P.E. Young’s backup Matt Nordgren seems to be an adequate quarterback, but Young has shown he is essential to the team’s success. This isn’t the pros, where you can get by with an adequate QB.
texasmonthly.com: What was Brown’s attitude toward answering your questions?
MH: He was very friendly and open. He did what he does with everyone—made you feel like you’re his best friend.
texasmonthly.com: Is Brown’s nice-guy role a coaching and public relations tactic, or is that his real personality?
MH: I think he’s a genuinely nice guy. He’s also a PR master. Some of his abilities in public relations come because people who hear him maintain the (seemingly accurate) perception that he is sincere about what he says.
texasmonthly.com: Why is it important for Brown to reach out to old-timers like Darrell Royal and alumni lettermen?
MH: I think he really believes in creating a sense of family around the team, and a good way to do that is to honor one’s elders, the ones who came before. These guys have also provided him cover when things haven’t gone his way.
texasmonthly.com: What does he need to do to keep the team from stagnating under his direction?
MH: I think that ultimately he’s going to have to bring in a new offensive coordinator, a younger, fierier version of Gene Chizik, the new co-defensive coordinator. Current OC Greg Davis is older and kind of mellow. I think Brown needs someone more physically and emotionally enthusiastic, who can get his offense playing serious, disciplined, violent football.
texasmonthly.com: How long do you see Brown staying at UT?
MH: Unless something terrible happens, like losing seven games in a season (which isn’t going to happen as long as the University of North Texas, the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, and Rice University keep fielding teams), he could be there for another ten years. But he’s also a Tennessee boy who spent many years coaching in the southeast, and if he really wanted to return and coach there, I’ll bet he could find a place to do it.
texasmonthly.com: What kind of legacy do you think he will leave with the team?
MH: He’s the winningest UT coach since, what, 1922? And he’ll probably win at least nine games a season for the rest of his career at UT. So it’ll stay pretty stellar. Of course, if he could only beat those damn Okies, they’d start building statues of him on campus.
texasmonthly.com: Do you ever foresee a name-change to the Royal/Brown—Texas Memorial Stadium?
MH: No, he’s the second coming of Royal, so they’ll probably have to give him his own stadium.