SEC Chris Doering of Now thinks the Orange Bowl is a chance for No.. 5 Texas A&M to prove it should play in the CFP. (1:23)
Not long after Mack Brown was hired at the University of Texas, he was saved from the first controversy of his young Longhorns career by the most unlikely allies.
In 1998 Brown and longtime Texas A&M trainer R. . C.. . Slocum attended a public event in San Antonio along with former Texas A&M and Alabama’s trainer Gene Stallings.
Both Slocum and Stallings were well versed in the meaning of hand signals in college football in Texas. Brown, a native of Tennessee who had just come from North Carolina, was given a quick lesson.
« I didn’t know much about the history of either place, and a fan went over and stood between the three of us and said, ‘Let’s take a picture,' » Brown recently recalled on ESPN. « He held up his thumb and R. . C.. . and Coach Stallings too. So I held mine up. R.. . C.. . grabbed it, tossed it down and said, « Boy, you’ll get fired before you ever practice a game if you toss this up. You have to learn very quickly that you hook them up, you don’t gig ’em. ‘ »
For Brown, it was the beginning of a very warm relationship with a normally hostile neighbor. When North Carolina takes on Texas A&M for its first appearance at the Capital One Orange Bowl on Saturday (20 S.. ). m. , ESPN / ESPN App), Brown won’t see red if he looks across the field and sees maroon. In a sport where fans often wish their nemes the worst, Brown always killed her with kindness.
« I’ve never been the kind of guy who hated our rivals, » Brown said. « I’ve always liked our rivals. These are two great programs in a state that cares about football, perhaps more so than any other state in the country. It’s because it’s like a religion there and both programs are so good. I would never say anything bad about Texas A&M. «
Brown announced his arrival in the rivalry with a 26-24 surprise of the No.. at. 6 Aggies in 1998. In the last 14 years of the series, before Texas A&M joined the SEC, Brown beat the Aggies ten times, going 4-1 against Slocum, 3-2 against Dennis Franchione and 3-1 against Mike Sherman, including the final with 27-25 Win 2011.
« Mack took pride in rivalries, » said Ricky Williams, who won the Heisman Trophy in Brown’s first season in Austin after running 259 yards in that angry win over A&M. « The idea of beating the Aggies was to show that we are the best team in Texas. He saw these big games as a big opportunity for us. «
Brown never shot, fired insults, or devised gimmicks to relate to A&M. His magnetic charm, reshaping the recruiting landscape in Texas, also often made it sound like he was focusing on the Aggies – except in a game, of course.
« We don’t need a bad team for A&M, » said Austin American-Statesman’s Brown Kirk Bohls before his first matchup against the Aggies in 1998. « If we both get into this game 6-4, it wouldn’t help either of us. «
Brown insists none of this is a donning, another savvy coach recruiting spot. He and Slocum were good friends when he was the assistant to a good friend of Slocum’s, Donnie Duncan, in the state of Iowa, from 1979 to 1981. Brown’s longtime offensive coordinator Greg Davis, who worked for Brown in Tulane and Texas, got his first college job at Texas A&M at the urging of Slocum.
« I dated [Brown] for 18 years and it was never about him vs. . R.. . C.. . or he vs. . whoever, « said Davis. « Obviously it was an important ball game. But it was never a personal deal with him. «
Brown even allowed Slocum to arrange a tour of the Texas facilities for A&M officials when Slocum felt the Aggies would fall behind in the arms race. There was always a mutual respect for each other and for the programs.
« It was a lot different from the Oklahoma rivalry, » Brown said last week. « The rivalry in Oklahoma was state against state. The A&M rivalry was family against. family. They were all Texans, and even at the game there were scattered fans of different colors and families. I sat and watched Texas and Texas A&M as a kid. It showed everyone in the country high school soccer and the high school soccer coaches in the state of Texas. «
Dave South called Texas A&M football, basketball and baseball games for 33 years and was honored with the National Football Foundation’s Chris Schenkel Award for Outstanding Achievement in Broadcasting in 2018. During his induction in New York, he met Brown, who was inducted into the NFF Hall of Fame that same year, and was surprised by Brown’s revelation when he introduced himself.
« I know who you are, » Brown said to South. « When I was traveling, often when we didn’t have a game or we played in the afternoon and you played at night, I would listen to you. «
« When the game was over, it was game over, » said South. « He was very polite to A&M and the rivalry. «
But nothing showed Brown’s true respect for the Aggies as much as his last press conference after his resignation in Texas in December 2013, when Brown took time to remember the 1999 Aggie bonfire collapse at which 12 students were killed.
After Brown’s first testimony, a reporter asked if he had changed anything about his 16 years in Austin. He first said he would give anything to have Cole Pittman back, referring to the UT defensive device that was killed in a car accident in 2001. Then came a remarkable moment for a Texas coach who was having one of the worst working days of his career.
« And I want the campfire not to have happened at A&M, » he said. « These are two terrible things in my life that I will never forget. When I played A&M on Thanksgiving, I thought about families. . . . When you lose your children, there is nothing worse in the world. I think of every Thanksgiving Day because there are 12 families who don’t have a good Thanksgiving Day. That will never go away. «
« I thought we probably shouldn’t be playing the game, » he said. « I said R. . C.. . Whatever you all want, we’ll do it. Not only did we play the game, but I think we were 16-0 up at halftime, [and] they came back and ended up beating us 21:16. I’m not sure if winning this game wasn’t for her best. «
« He was rocked around the campfire, » said Davis. « In fact, we had a blood donation at the football office in Austin and most of the coaches gave blood. «
« I thought R. . C.. . coped with this situation better than anyone, « he told ESPN last week. « We had the memorial with a lot of Texas students and fans from A&M, a night that I will remember for the rest of my life. Even the game, our band is playing ‘Amazing Grace’ and everyone in this stadium is mourning these families. . . . Then you know it’s way bigger than a soccer game. «
There is no doubt Brown would like to beat A&M to put the finishing touches on a remarkable turnaround season in North Carolina that now stands at 8-3 after playing 2-9 two years before Brown’s arrival.
Williams said Brown will sell this as another big move for North Carolina « because of the success A&M had in coming from the powerful SEC, » he said. « If it’s a prime-time ball game, he knows it’s a great opportunity for his program to take itself to the next level. « . «
« I’m sure he’s excited because he knows what kind of program [A&M] has historically been and the work Jimbo [Fisher] is doing, » Davis added. « But it’s a fuss. It is in no way a revenge agreement or anything like that. I don’t think he’s going to do it any differently than if he played anyone on the old aggies or whatever. «
And no matter how many nice words Brown says about the Aggies, there’s no doubt they want to beat him too. But the absence of rivalry may have made Brown’s glowing words shine even more. Good luck he says otherwise.
« Texas A&M is one of the best programs in the country, and I always love playing it at College Station, » he said. « These fans are amazing. The place is as loud as anywhere I’ve ever trained against. The loyalty of these fans is just incredible to me. «
Orange Bowl, North Carolina Tar Heels Soccer, College Football, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Texas A&M University, Jimbo Fisher
World News – USA – ‘Hook’ em, you Don’t Play: Mack Brown recalls one of college football’s heartiest rivalries
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