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The Mack Brown Way

With emotions spent, I applaud Mack's selfless decision to step down as head football coach of the University of Texas Longhorns.

Watching again former UT BOR chairman and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Don Evans' comments at the football banquet the other night, my mind raced to the positive impact Mack Brown has had on the Longhorns during his tenure.  You see, the morning after is usually reserved for reflection of the day before. No matter what the previous day held.

As a part-time contributor on this fan site, it has been no less than a joy to express my emotions regarding Texas Longhorns athletics. A burnt orange bleeder, my passion has often overtaken my sense of perspective (see the Aggie GTFO series, as an example).

But I don't think it was too extreme to respectfully ask Coach Mack Brown to resign. I think he ultimately knew the hard work he put in to the job was starting to misfire. He would, and did with his statement yesterday, say that was a breaking point. No way would he want to splinter Texas or defy the cumulative efforts.

Some, okay most, would say things like "what took you so long?", or "don't let the door hit you where the good Lord split you." I get that. I don't accept it. But I get it.  And to those he would respond, "That's fair."

Others will staunchly defend Coach Brown's integrity like they were defending their homestead. But much of that is pride and hubris and hurt watching a man whom these folks see as an inspirational example of how to live-act-say right get beaten down by a devouring anything-but-Mack inertia. I get that, too.  And to those he would respond, "It is what it is."

A few, not many, will on the one hand truly understand. They will understand that above all else leaders are fallible. They are imperfect. They rise, put on their shoes, get into their cars, go out in the world and do the best they can in their vocation.

Mack Brown is such a man. A man who lives in the limelight and performs to the best of his ability. A man who put others first to rebrand the Texas Longhorns. A man whom we have yelled for more often than yelled at. A man worthy of accolades, and yes, criticism. A man who won a helluva lot more than he lost. A man who fights for his family, his players, his bosses, the less fortunate, and the fans.

A good and honorable man.

A man who embodies the living soul of Texas! Fight!

Those are going to be some very large shoes to fill.

Thank you, coach, for the many lasting enjoyable memories of this Longhorn fan.

Hook ‘em

Longhorn Honors - 2013 Football Banquet

Keynote Address
Don Evans

Let me start with one of my favorite slogans, "What starts here changes the world." I've traveled the world. I've served in the cabinet of the most powerful government in the world. But nothing has impacted my life more, in a more positive way, than my time on this Forty Acres and my association with the University of Texas.

And I can think of no greater feeling I've had, no greater moment, than having the privilege of being on the field at the Darrell K Royal (Memorial) stadium right before kickoff, standing next to the tunnel, as a mighty Texas football team comes running out. Through the smoke, into the open green, under the blue sky, and welcomed by that unmistakable roar of a hundred-thousand fans dressed in their burntorange.

It's a feeling second to none unless you've been someone fortunate enough to make that run out of that tunnel. Wearing the burntorange uniform that links you to each of your teammates and represents more than a hundred years of proud Longhorn history, accomplishment, and success. To the many of you that have made the run of the champions, it is a trail that spans the ages and propels each one of you into a history of your own making.

You're the reason we are here celebrating tonight. And there is something so powerful in being a part of the spirit and tradition of Longhorn football. And team, 2013, you have added another amazing chapter to that special story.

Your story as a team is one that is shared by every Longhorn squad in the long and proud lineage. It's about the victories you relished, the losses you endured, and the character you demonstrated in the middle of each.

Our story of a franchise over time is one that always builds, game over game, season over season, always looking forward. And we are dedicated to building champions both on and off the field. Importantly we always carry the state of Texas and hundreds of thousands of loyal Texas fans for one incredible ride.

There is no doubt that the Longhorn football program is a special one. It's envied by most and it's admired by all and based on a set of core values that defines our success:

Positive Attitude
Hard Work

The steward of these values since 1998 has been Coach Brown.

I first got to know Mack in 1997 when I was chairman of the Board of Regents and set up a search committee to find a new football coach. We considered a lot of candidates. But in Mack Brown we hired a coach, a great coach. We hired a very good man and a true leader who returned this program to its days of glory.

When he flew to Austin after accepting the job the press wanted to meet with him immediately. But Mack wouldn't have anything to do with it. He wanted to meet with the team first. So he landed and the team had been waiting at Moncrief-Neuhaus for quite a while and it was getting late into the evening. The team didn't know what to expect when Mack walked in. Within sixty seconds of him walking into that room I knew we hired the right man. He came in with his beautiful and wonderful wife Sally. They greeted the players and then Mack made his way to the front of the room. Now it took a second for Mack to get the players to pay attention to him rather than Sally (half jokingly). Obviously Mack had out kicked his coverage when it came to marriage and they recognized that. But after a few words all the players were focused on him.

He had never met them before but he knew their name and he knew their position. And he let each one of them know that he cared about them. And they felt it immediately. He told them "they're gonna have fun, they're gonna win a bunch of championsips" which is exactly what has happened.

So his first act was to lead the team and he hasn't stopped leading them since. If you ask Mack how to lead a team as head coach he's likely to talk about at least four things.

First and foremost there must be trust. And trust doesn't start after just calling one good play. Trust starts the first time you meet somebody. It's earned, of course, and it's always a two-way street. If I trust you I'm gonna expect you to trust me. Trust is essential. Without it nothing works for very long. Trust is the foundation on which great institutions and your most valued relationships are built.

Second he'd talk about communication which includes listening to others but also making sure they are hearing you clearly and consistently.

Third there is respect. You must respect the game, the players, and everyone involved and all those around you.

And finally, there must be a common purpose. This rolls out of the first three. And when your players trust you and they hear your message and respect you and the teammates and the game, you will accomplish that common purpose of success.

There has been a lot of success under Mack Brown, in fact phenomenal success under Mack Brown. When you think about it, not enough time to go through all of it, he's amassed a record (at UT) of 158 wins and 47 defeats including ten bowl game victories, the most of any head coach in the history of UT football. And the tenth most bowl wins of any coach in NCAA history. He's one of four active coaches with more than 200 wins and one of only two coaches nationally to lead his team to 20 bowl games in the last 21 years.

More important than these milestones are the way in which they are built and achieved - The Mack Brown Way - completely above board with total integrity, with character, and class.

I've seen Mack put together a winning football program. I've watched as he's restored the reputation of a program that had lost its way. And if you know Mack you know he is never one to rest on his laurels. One of my favorite memories was when I called Mack a few days after the 2005 National Championship game. I caught up with him just a couple days after the game. Thought he'd be at home. Resting. Not so. Mack was out on the road recruiting for the next season looking to build for the future. Always looking forward.

I sat down to talk to him a few minutes ago about the eight or nine cities he'd been to in this week alone. Always looking forward, always building. Making sure this program retains the glory we all expect.

Off the field Mack understands the importance of academics for student athletes. This past year, as has already been mentioned, the Longhorns achieved the highest GPA of any football team in Texas history (turns to seniors, "Fabulous, guys."). Under his watch more than 80% of Longhorn football players earned their degrees. And the Longhorns have led the Big 12 in academic all-conference selections in five of the last seven years.

You know, when I came to The University in 1995 to serve on the Board the people would ask me about fund raising and football program and people would say that it didn't really make much difference and I disagreed. I think that a successful program can bring energy and excitement and make people want to be a part of it, want to contribute to it.

Where here's what's happened since Mack showed up. In 1997 the giving that year was $120,000,000. This past year that number was $453,000,000. What does that mean? I tell you what that means. That means more young men and women that need scholarships will get a scholarship. In 1997 the endowment was $2,500,000,000. Today it's more than $9,000,000,000. What does that mean? It means we can continue to attract the best and brightest teachers and professors from across the country. The Longhorn Network has already endowed seven faculty chairs.

So is the football program all of it? Of course it's not. This man right here, Bill Powers, has led incredible capital campaigns the last several years. But it's all part of the team.

And then there's also the quiet leadership that Mack Brown demonstrates every day. Take his visit to Baghdad in 2010, for example. There are a lot of Texans in the military, and quite a few Longhorns like Green Beret Nate Boyer, who fought for our country and who have fought all these military guys who have fought for our country in the streets of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mack knew this and he recognized the powerful signal it would send to Longhorns that the head coach showed up on the front lines.

He wasn't there to call the plays, but he understood the stakes.

He knew that when you stand shoulder-to-shoulder with somebody that is in a tough situation people take notice.

Because it matters when you show up, when it's the toughest.

And it sure mattered to the troops he met in Iraq. And it mattered to all the American soldiers.

Closer to home I remember back to that tragic day in 1999 and that UT-A&M game when the annual Aggie bonfire collapsed and killed twelve A&M students. Mack led the team and The University to find ways to help. He led the drive to donate blood. He comforted those who were shaken by the tragedy at a campus candlelight memorial service on the mall where there were hundreds if not thousands of students from both universities.

For Mack, care and compassion for others come straight from his heart. In the rivalry of the game that week, I must say to you, was trumped only by the performance of The Longhorn band when they played the performance of Amazing Grace. And I'll give everybody in this room a Christmas present. If you have not seen that just go to your youtube and look for 1999 Bonfire Tribute by the Texas Longhorn band at Kyle Field. It is powerful. A lot of that was Mack leading the whole effort that week.

You know as I look out at this crowd tonight I'm so proud to say that our future is brighter than the burntorange sun. And integrity, determination, positive attitude, and hard work continue to define the Texas football program.

And team, because of your commitment to these core values in 2013, you have continued to build and have a great impact on one of this State's most treasured legacies.

Talk about hard work a lot, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention coach Royal. When people would ask him, or tell him, I hope he was lucky, he'd tell them, "I'll tell you what luck is, or what being lucky is, that's when hard work (ie. preparation) meets opportunity." He sure knew. And take heart in that. Seems like the harder you work the luckier you get.

And all of you (players) have worked hard. You've worked hard to earn your place in Longhorn football history. We are proud of each and every one of you. The trail you have blazed here and in life will lead to great things well beyond the stadium.

And now there's a bowl game coming up. For some of you it will be, and the men on this stage, your last game wearing the Longhorn uniform. For others, it will be your last chance to leave a mark for this season and set the tone for the season ahead.

For every player, every player, running through that tunnel on bowl game day it's another chance to embrace our proud Longhorn legacy and to honor the team's motto, "For the man on my left and on my right." And to relish the view as you emerge on to the field and hear the crowd roar and to show the world why We're Texas and why you are true champions in football and in life.

I salute and congratulate all of you. God Bless you, God Bless Texas, and Hook ‘em Horns.