From the moment that Mack Brown’s December 14 departure from UT became inevitable, it was clear that the end of the tenure of his sixteen-year run as head coach of the Longhorns football program would have a major impact. For all the talk of Nick Saban or Jim Harbaugh or Jon Gruden coming to Austin—and boy, howdy, was there a lot of that talk—the fact that the job ultimately went to the less-heralded former Louisville coach Charlie Strong was not, ultimately, an anticlimax. As ESPN, in an exhaustively-reported feature, discovered, the departure of Mack Brown from UT had a ripple effect that shook a shockingly large percentage of the jobs in college football. Over 103 coaches at nearly four dozen schools across the country changed positions as a result of Brown’s resignation. Four NFL teams lost members of their coaching staffs, and two high schools saw coaches change to fill the vacuum that started when Brown stepped down.
Of the 1,280-plus head and assistant coaches in FBS football, the jobs of at least 5 percent were impacted by Mack Brown’s decision to step down.
The aftereffects touched powerhouses Alabama, Florida State, USC and Georgia. Each lost multiple assistants this offseason due in some part, large or small, to Texas’ coaching change. Petrino’s hiring of Greg Brown even prompted renowned Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart to take over the coaching of the Tide’s defensive backs.
The staffs of the Chicago Bears, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers were also affected, as were East Central Community College and Holmes Community College in Mississippi.
One out of every twenty jobs in the college football coaching profession, in other words, changed hands because of one man’s departure from his job. And that’s ultimately not even the final impact, which is impossible to quantify: Coaching staffers are easy to track, but strength trainers, secretaries, and others are part of an extended ripple that we’ll never know. When Strong left Louisville for Texas, many of Brown’s staffers lost their jobs as Strong, reasonably, brought on his own team. And in Louisville, the people who worked under Strong in non-coaching positions may well have moved on to make room for Bobby Petrino’s people, and Petrino’s replacement at Western Kentucky, Jeff Brohm, could have done the same thing.
“When Mack Brown decided to step down from here, guess what? A lot of families here were affected,” [new UT Defensive Coordinator Vance] Bedford said. “It wasn’t just Mack Brown or one or two assistant coaches. There were kids, wives, families.”
And there are countless people, down at the bottom of the football food chain, whose lives were forever impacted this offseason.
The ripples spread endlessly, whether you can see them or not.
The methodology for ESPN’s story stopped every coaching-tree branch at the point that it hit some sort of dead-end: a previously unemployed coach, graduate assistants, etc. But even with that restriction in place, it’s remarkable to see how far Brown’s impact traveled: Capistrano Valley Christian High School in San Juan Capistrano, California lost its head coach when he filled a Brown-related vacancy at Arkansas State, resulting in Eric Preszler, the school’s offensive coordinator, who had come into the then-floundering program with little coaching experience a few years earlier, suddenly overseeing a high school program that had previously made the playoffs in consecutive years.
Ultimately, this is all the butterfly effect, to some extent. A head coach in Texas flaps his wings, and a part-time high school coordinator is suddenly on track to compete in the field he’s dreamed of his whole life, while a kid who sells team t-shirts in New Hampshire finds himself suddenly out of a job. But it’s impressive to learn just how big Brown’s wings truly were. If the Longhorns are lucky, it’ll be a very long time before they find out the size of Charlie Strong’s.
(AP Photo/Eric Gay)