Mack Brown press conference transcript: Jan. 31
Jan. 31, 2011
Opening statement: It’s been a while since we talked, and I thought first what I would do is review what I’ve been doing for the last couple of months. The first thing we did was go over a complete and full review of the program. I mentioned that in a press conference where we hired one of the coordinators, but I had to go back first and look at me. I said last year [that] I’m responsible for everything that happens. The good and the bad. After 13 years here and 26-plus years as a head coach in college football, sometimes you have to look hard in that mirror and review who you are and what you are and start over. I tried to look at the good things we’ve done, look at things that fell short last year and move forward with it. I also talked to the kids about the coaches [and] myself. I had a survey from them, and I’m the only one that saw it. It’s something we’ve done two or three times since we’ve been here. We did it after the 2007 season and we ask all the players to put their name on it because we wanted to know who felt what, and that way I could go back and address it with each one that felt like there were concerns or things maybe they misunderstood or why we were doing it. I had them do it about coaches, staff, myself and players. I had people evaluating our players and really everything we were doing from top to bottom. I promised the guys that I would be the only one to see the survey, and I was. As soon as I looked at the survey, I wrote down some thoughts that I felt were right on and I wrote down some of the things that I thought they had given me that they had probably misunderstood, and then I tore them all up the next day and started addressing them individually with some of the players. After that, I obviously had to hold the recruiting together and start the hiring process. We were involved in trying to keep our players aware of everything that was happening, which is very, very hard to do now because a lot of things are reported before we even get a chance to report it to our players. You all even know some of it before we do. I told the players that that’s going to change in the future because they’ll have to read some stuff. We can’t get it to them first. There’s just too much information out there. Some of it is honest and true, and some of it’s not. What we will do is follow up with them after something is reported, and then we’ll tell them if it’s actually true or not. But we may not get it to them first, and that’s something we’ve always promised them we would do. Things have changed from that standpoint.
Hiring has changed very much since 1998. There are agents involved now. There were no agents involved in 1998. We’ve hired very few people, especially very few [in the] years where we’ve been involved with hiring six or seven or eight staff members. Multi-year contracts are much more prevalent than before, and that’s something you have to deal with the universities - with buyouts. That was something that we haven’t really dealt with before. And the salaries are much higher. I didn’t even realize how high they were until I started looking outside. In a lot of cases some of our staff members were not paid near as much as some guys on the outside. [There’s] much more scrutiny. Hiring assistant coaches has gotten much more popular than ever before. I didn’t know how popular it was to those who follow it, but it must be a fun thing for people to do now. That wasn’t really the case when we first got here 13 years ago. Things have changed much more. [Assistant Athletics Director for Media Relations] John [Bianco] and [Special Assistant to FB Coach for Communications] Bill [Little] kind of kept me posted on who was following the planes and who followed the wrong planes and everybody seemed to have fun with it, and I thought that was good. There’s so much misinformation out there -when you’re dealing with agents and agents are throwing misinformation out there and some people throw it out there. I was much more deliberate in this case because in the past we usually just brought a guy in and hired him. I really had five or six, seven guys at each position, and I looked very closely at them and I was much more deliberate because I wanted to make sure that they all fit together and that’s a difficult thing to do when you’re hiring that many. People say, “Why do you care what gets out or who you talk to or when you talked to them?” You always want to protect the guy. If a guy is coming in to interview from his school, his fans are mad [and] his head coach is mad, usually. The assistant coaches with him are all talking to him. His players are upset, and his recruits are upset. It’s not about whether it affects us or not, it affects the other candidate and especially if you don’t hire him. It puts him in a very, very difficult place. Even when it’s reported that he was offered and he wasn’t - it’s a very embarrassing thing for him and that’s why I try to keep that quiet.
In the end we thought we hired a great staff for Texas. The average age was 42-years-old. We tried to hire guys that fit. We tried to hire guys that were on the cutting edge of the new stuff offensively and defensively. And we tried really hard to hire guys that wanted to be at Texas. That’s something that coach [Darrell] Royal told me five or six years ago. Hire guys that want to be there. Hire guys that have earned the right, and they’re excited to be there and that’s fun.
With our nine assistant coaches there have been 71 bowl appearances and they’re 44-27 in their bowl record. Twenty-three BCS bowl appearances and they’re 16-7 in their BCS bowl record of the 23 BCS bowl appearances. They’ve been involved with 12 national championship appearances. They’ve won five national championships. There’s one Super Bowl appearance, and five have either coached or played in the NFL. That’s pretty impressive when you look back at all the guys being tied together. What has to happen now is; you’ve got a lot of experience, you’ve got a lot of knowledge, and they have to come together as one and start working together as a staff. There’s a lot of success, but they’ve got to bind together. It’s been fun watching them recruit so far. You take a guy like Jerry Gray who hasn’t recruited in 14 years and he has to pass the recruiting test and hit the road, and it’s been fun to watch him with his energy and excitement to get out there. I think Stacy Searels saw about 14 linemen in a week. He was on the run just out there hitting everybody. The staff’s done a tremendous job and they’re working really, really hard to look at the offense and the defense and take what Stacy did at Georgia, what Major [Applewhite] and Bruce [Chambers] had here, take what Darrell Wyatt’s done in his different jobs as passing game coordinator and get with Bryan [Harsin] in the Boise [State] system and try to put together an offense that fits us in a very short period of time here. Same thing defensively. Jerry Gray was raised under Gregg Williams, and you look at all the success Gregg has had with the New Orleans Saints defense and with the [Washington] Redskins and with the Buffalo Bills. Jerry was his defensive coordinator there and they’re multiple [defensive looks.] They’re all over the place. They’re a pressure defense. A lot of Manny [Diaz]’s stuff has come from the New York Jets and is very, very similar to what they’re doing with the Saints. And then you take what we’ve been doing here and you take what Bo Davis has from Alabama, which is very similar to what we were doing here with Will [Muschamp] and Nick Saban and put that stuff together, it’s really exciting to watch them try to work together and make sure they put together the best offense and the best defense for Texas. That’s going to be the most important thing.
The recruiting’s been fun. It’s been amazing to me that the class pretty much stayed together and our guys stayed on campus, and after they went home they’ve come back and worked hard to help us recruit. Everybody worked hard to make it fit. Major Applewhite, Bruce Chambers and Oscar Giles worked so hard. And then we put [Coordinator, High School Relations] Ken Rucker and [Special Assistant for Player Relations] Marcus Tubbs on the road for a little while. All those guys worked hard to make sure all the recruits stood strong with Texas, and that’s something that has happened and something that I’m really excited about. It’s been fun to watch, and we’ll address it a little bit more in a minute.
When we first got back I had about a 30-minute meeting by myself and just the players. No staff members, no coaches - nobody else. I basically went back over everyting I’ve done the last two months. I went back over their surveys. I went back over what I thought was important for us to restart. I told them that we would have a new offense. We’d have a new defense. We’d have some changes in special teams, and they all had a clean slate and that I was reenergized with what I had seen with the staff in the hiring process. Reenergized by what Bennie Wylie has brought to us, and they would see that in the coming week, which they have. Also, really reenergized by going out and recruiting and seeing the parents and the high school coaches and the kids, and the fact that all the kids hung in there with us. I also told them that I’d never been more excited, and that I was starting over. That’s very important for them to know. Thirteen years ago I didn’t know what I was doing, and now I’ve got 13 years of experience with new energy and a restart.
Marcus Tubbs and Ken Rucker and Jeff Madden did a whole lot in football operations to try to help over the process. When you start looking at trying to get planes to get coaches in here, and you have to do that at the drop of a hat if a coach decides to come, or if you change your mind and want to look at somebody else. We were constantly changing things to get meals set up for them while they’re here, and who do they need to see. And then the hiring process itself is different when you have to post a job and have to wait a certain amount of time and then you have to close the job when it’s hired. There were a lot of things that had to happen and people on campus, across the campus, the athletic department and Marcus and Jeff and Ken and Arthur Johnson coming to help has really saved our lives. Those guys have us back on track now, and we’ve got our staff headed forward.
When we started looking at the process we noticed that just about everybody had a head strength coach just for football, and that was something we felt was necessary. We had Jeff all over the place. Jeff’s still been able to work with Bennie. They’ve done a great job of working the guys together. They’re very similar in their philosophies, and Bennie’s brought new energy as a 34-year-old that works out with the guys. He works out in every group with them, and that’s nearly unheard of. I’ve said I’m not taking my shirt off around Bennie. He looks good, and I’m going to make sure I stay away from him when it comes to that. I’ve been really, really proud of our players. They hung in there, and they trusted us during this process. There were very few questions. I tried to text or email them every now and then just to keep them posted on what was going on, but I told them not to worry about all the rumors. Don’t look at everything and believe everything you read because it’s not true. But when we do have something that’s factual we’ll get it to you and we thought that was very important.
I was very proud of the recruits. For all those recruits to hang in there with you all [the media] calling them and opposing coaches calling them and talking about all the negatives of staff change - they’ve hung in there for Texas, and I thought that was great. I thought they trusted my staff and I to hire the right guys and most of those guys didn’t even waiver, and I’m really, really proud of that fact.
Some have asked why we didn’t have a press conference every week. I thought the important thing, number one, was you guys get to meet our new coaches. You didn’t need me talking when I wanted you to meet them. I wanted fans to meet them. I wanted recruits to meet them, and I thought if I took away from any of those press conferences it was unfair to them. We really haven’t had press conferences for them before, and I thought it gave you what you needed and at the same time it let everybody get to know them and meet them, and people could share the excitement I had with them. Secondly, I think I’ve learned after this many years - why call a press conference if you don’t have anything to say? The worst thing to do is have you all come over here and I’m not saying anything about anything. I wasn’t finished. I was working really, really hard to try to make sure that we got the right coaches hired, to make sure that we were recruiting the upcoming guys - the seniors - and continuing to recruit the juniors. One of the things that happens is we’re a little bit behind on the juniors simply because we’ve had the same staff for three years and they knew those guys. So now the new guys have to look out and find the juniors. It slows us down a little bit on our offers throughout the junior process, so we’re looking at that now. I’ve been really, really busy and the last two or three weeks I’ve been on the road every day. I haven’t even been back in the office unless I have to come in late at night to meet with a coaching candidate to try to talk to him about who we are and what we were doing, and see if I wanted him hired and see if he wanted to come. Most of my last three weeks I haven’t been around for a press conference anyway.
I have been reenergized by the process. Hearing the positives from the players just as I come back and the excitement about the new start, the excitement about change in the offense, change in the defense and changeup in special teams and moving forward, has really been fun for me to see because it’s really about the players. It’s not about anybody else. When you don’t have as good a year as you wanted - let people who won, let people who made the bowls - they’re the ones that need to be talking. Not the ones that didn’t do well. I also talked to the players about we’re not going to continue to talk about 2005 when we won the national championship. We’re not going to talk about 2008 when we were third or 2009 when we were second. So we’re sure not going to talk about 2010. We are moving forward and moving forward like it’s our first day.
As far as special teams are concerned, Major will continue to do kickoff return like he did at the last of the year. Stacy Searels will do the extra point/field goal and that’s something he has done in his past. Oscar Giles will have help from the other assistant coaches like Major will, but he’ll do kickoff coverage. Punt block and return will be Jerry Gray because he’s been doing it a long time, and it’s something that he feels really good about. I will be involved probably with Manny on special teams. I’ve really done more on special teams in the last few years than anything else, and it’s something I think the head coach needs to be involved with because it sends a message to the guys that you want as many people on special teams as you can possibly get. Manny’s actually been a special team’s coordinator, so we’ll use him in that role in many ways but not take away from his effectiveness as the defensive coordinator. Major and Bryan are working really, really well together as co-coordinators. They seem like the same guy working forward. You never know how that’s going to work when you hire and that was part of the process is that Major was going to be involved in our coordinator’s position the entire time. So I had to make sure that whoever I brought in to work with him - because we wanted some new offensive ideas - that it would be able to work and the chemistry between those two has just been amazing. Same thing with Jeff Madden and Bennie. When Jeff’s running everything, you have to bring in a guy that would fit in the philosophy here and be able to work with Jeff and move forward. He has mentored Bennie for many, many years and that was an easy process. Plus, Bennie worked with the [Dallas] Cowboys and he got a great reputation early from that standpoint. And then the same thing when you hired Jerry with all his experience to come in and work with Manny, because the secondary coach and the linebackers coach/coordinator have to work very, very closely together, and I’ve been very, very excited about the chemistry that I’ve seen in those areas and in those groups. That’s working really, really well.
The fact that we were able to announce the Longhorn Network joining with ESPN is unbelievable to me. I think it’s amazing to see what Chris Plonsky and Bill Powers and DeLoss [Dodds] were able to put together. There’s nothing like it in sports, which is just unbelievable. It will be great for our university but it’s also great for every sport, and it’s something that we’re starting to realize now. There will be a lot of programming ideas that we have to come up with, and it’s something that we’ve got to see how we’re going to use it in football. Do you have your pro day on it? Do you have the offseason on it some days? Do you have a guy that’s going out in the community, whether it’s to the hospital to see sick children? Do you have to get a waiver to put that on national TV? You’ll have some kids that want to work in communications and what a great way for them to so some internships with Longhorn Network and ESPN. So we’re looking at all those possibilities right now, and it’s really exciting for us to have something that no one else has. It will, obviously, be great for recruiting, but we think it’s also something to let people have more behind-the-scenes looks at what we do without giving up everything. So we’ve got to look at what that means and where we go with it.
Lastly, 13 years ago I asked coach Royal, I said, “What has been wrong with Texas football?” He said, “People were all over the place, nobody pulled together.” I thought we got splintered a little bit as a fan base and a group last year, and it’s time for us to pull back together and be like we were in 1998. When everybody – the fans, the alumni, our letterman, the high school coaches – when everybody pulls together for one, this is a powerful place. It’s time for us to go back to work and make sure we get back to where we need to be.
On if any new coaches asked about his future during the hiring process: Yes, it was an obvious question. When you have a coach-in-waiting, it puts question marks into how long you’re going to coach. I told them I was back in the game. I was full speed ahead. I wouldn’t be working this hard on recruiting and hiring coaches if I wasn’t in it for a long time, and I basically told them that Texas fans were going to have to put up with me for a long time. I’m back at work.
On if being reenergized means he will do things differently: I don’t know and in looking at it, everybody wants to know what happened. I think when companies go under, I’m not sure everybody knows exactly what happened. It obviously wasn’t as good and how do you answer a question that you go from number three in the country [or] number two in the country to poor. It’s all over the place. In the evaluation process, I’m not sure I got the answer to “change this, change this, that happened, this happened.” I do know that I felt like I had a hangover after the national championship game, and I don’t know if I’ve ever taken a loss as hard. I think part of it was Colt [McCoy], part of it was it’s just too hard to get there. We just barely missed in 2008. We just barely missed in 2009, and I don’t think I did a good job of coming back out of it and getting a spark and getting the energy back to where I needed it to be and I didn’t realize it. I just pouted for a while, and when you’re pouting at 13-1 that’s pretty stupid, number one. Secondly, I felt like we worked as hard [and] we did the same things. I don’t know that we did it with the same spark. I don’t know that we did it with the same energy. We thought we did. Players are going to watch you very, very closely. I thought that was one thing that there must be something that I didn’t do there from an energy standpoint. I think also coach-in-waiting sends a message that I’m not in it for long, and that’s a bad message and that’s not what we did it for. Now that Will [Muschamp] has taken the Florida job, that question is out of the mix for the future. I think what I did is answered that question for every coach about how long I was going to be here before they asked it because it was an obvious question. I really am enjoying myself again. I’m having fun and last year I didn’t. It wasn’t fun for us off the field, for Sally and I, but I didn’t do my job on the field and I’m going to make sure Texas fans and kids know I’m going to go back and do what I’m supposed to do.
On if winning a national championship caused the staff to press for a second one: I thought in having two months to sit there and talk to all these coaches - and I could be a search firm now too, I’ve seen every assistant coach in America, I think. But after doing this and sitting there watching those bowl games for the first time in 20 years where you’re not involved, you get to know your wife again really well. I think Sally’s hoping we go back to a bowl. She wanted me out of the house. Thank goodness we had our grandson. He saved us through that process. I think the biggest thing is, I started worrying more about the wins than I did about the process. We’ve got to go back and make sure that we’re evaluating properly in recruiting. That’s harder than ever before because of the early recruiting, there’s no question about that. We’ve got to do a good job and everybody misses some. You can’t miss much. If you do you’re in trouble. I do think our players are good enough to win. I think when coaches say they’re not, it’s an excuse. Secondly, the thing I didn’t think we did as well last year, we didn’t develop the young players as much as we need to. That concerns me. Sally and I haven’t had them out to the house as much the last couple of years. We’re going to get them back out to the house. We’re going to spend more time with them and make sure they understand all those things. They’ve always said if you start worrying solely about winning then you forget your process and you don’t enjoy the journey as much. I remember after beating Nebraska this year, I wasn’t fair to the players because I was sad Sally lost her brother and sad Sally wasn’t there, and I was mad we still didn’t beat UCLA instead of being excited for the kids to beat Nebraska. And you don’t know what kind of hangover that had for the next week against Iowa State. I’m going to go back where we’re going to enjoy wins if they’re ugly. After this year, I think it’s a wake-up call, and it’s something I need to go back to work and worry more about teaching the kids and their experience and developing those young people instead of winning. If you do those things like we’ve done for 12 years, you win. When you start thinking about winning and forget the process, then you get ahead of yourself, and they feel that too.
On what it’s like coaching with such a young staff: I haven’t had much sleep. They’re full of energy and they work all the time, and it’s been fun for me to watch them. It’s funny. We met for an hour and a half this morning because eight of those guys haven’t been here for the 13 years we’ve been here, so they know nothing about what we do and how we do it. It’s also a great time for them to being new ideas, like our first year. So we’re saying, for instance, spring practice will be moved back to Thursday, February 24, because the coaches wanted a day to meet on Friday. We’ve been working Friday and Saturday so they wanted to work Thursday, so that’s fair. We have a full day to meet on Friday, and then we’ll go back and have another spring practice on Saturday. So there’s ideas like that that they’ve been able to bring, and we consider and look at and trying to be flexible with those new ideas. Also, the spring game will be April 3, which is Sunday.
On if he thinks recruiting will go slower this next year: It may not because we have no choice. The coaches are killing themselves right now with video and transcripts and they tried to do as much as they could the last couple of weeks to see guys. See them workout in basketball or something if there was a basketball game, but we’re going to have to do a lot of it on video because they will not have seen them play and obviously they weren’t practicing when they got here. We may have a bigger group come in for the second junior day which will be the 26th of February, which will be a practice, then the first [junior day]. We’re still looking at guys in the first one.
On if the turnover in coaches was a good thing: I think so. In our first meeting, I asked Major and Bruce Chambers and Oscar Giles to stand up with the other coaches and say, “My name is [blank] and it’s my first day at Texas.” It was funny in the end of it because the kids were saying, “Yeah, this is my first day at Texas.” They all had to chant with them just so we could start over. If we would have had two more guys stay, they would have started over and we would have had these new ideas. The fact that you’ve got both coordinators changing, there will be some new blood in special teams and it gives everybody a new, fresh start. Greg Davis was calling our plays for 15 straight years, two at North Carolina and 13 here. Really, very few people have ever called them other than me or him when I was calling them before Greg was hired, so that’s a huge change for us. When you start looking at offensive coordinator, you have to look at the new changes, the new ideas, where you’re going and very honestly, I think Boise [State] has fun with their offense. They’ve been balanced with 200 yards rushing and 200 yards passing, and they run trick plays which I love. They actually throw deep a lot, and I love that. I heard Bryan Harsin say the other day to one of the coaches, “You have to work just as much on a short pass as you do a long one, so why not spend that time on the long one and have a chance to score with it?” We wanted that balance, and I thought Greg did a great job for us here. Calling plays for 13 years anywhere is tough, much less at Texas. Manny on defense, when I started looking around for a defense, every coach that I called that had coached against him would say, “I don’t know much about him, but they’ve got it now. They’re doing really good stuff and it’s pressure and they know what they’re doing and he gave us fits.” I just sat there one day and watched the Michigan bowl game and they gave them fits, and they [Michigan] had a great offense and scored 14 points. I had never met Dan Mullen, and I had never met Manny and picked up the phone and called Dan and said, “Can I talk to Manny?” I brought him in that afternoon and hired him. That’s kind of what happened. I would wait because if you call a coach before he plays his bowl game - if you call the head coach - I mean everybody gets on the poor guy. He’s getting beaten down for a week to 10 days before he plays, so I also saw that not only was it better for the head coach if you waited, but it was also better for the assistant and you had a better chance to talk to him when not everybody was beating him up through the process. So that made our process slower as well.
On if he expects player attrition moving forward: I don’t know. I think it will be wait and see. Some may think this is a new start, and they have a chance. If they don’t feel like they have a better chance or they’re not playing well, they may need a new start. What I’ve done is, if an assistant coach wants to leave - and I told the players this and I thought this was fair - if an assistant coach wants to leave, then we should all thank him and obviously appreciate what he’s done here. But if it’s best for him and his family to go somewhere else, we should embrace that and let him go and then trust me that I’m going to hire somebody that’s really, really good in his place. Kids lose their coach and they get their head down and they think the worlds coming to an end until the new guy gets here and then they’re all excited about the new guy. If they’ll just understand you’re going to lose some. We haven’t lost many, and that’s something that will happen. Secondly, some of them that griped about their coach last year need to understand they have to play better. That’s the other part of it. You’ve got a new start, but understand with this new start it’s on you, too. You’re responsible to step up and make plays if you want to play. But likewise, when a player comes in and says he wants to transfer I’ll ask him why and then let him go. We’ll release him to anywhere they want to go. We’ve never kept a young man here that didn’t want to be there, and we’ve never kept a young man from transferring anywhere he wants whether they play against us or not. We want people that want to be here.
On whether other coaches are considering leaving Texas: Lord, I hope not. I hadn’t asked them this morning. Have you heard a rumor? Is this a rumor? Do I have to go out and hire another one in another three weeks? I’ve learned a few things in this process. Deals are usually cut now without the head coach ever knowing it. They’ll never know it. So if one of them is considering - already got the salary, he’s already got the deal cut - that agents got the deal cut before I even know it. Then they’ll call me and I’ll know it’s cut, then I’ll walk in and say, “Congratulations I hear you’re leaving.” He’s not calling me unless somebody’s talked to that guy. So I know that, I’ve learned - in fact I told all of ours when we got back in - that I know that if any coach has called me you already talked to him. You’ve talked to somebody that’s talked to him. And I’ve told ours, if you don’t want to stay, come in, tell me, and you can leave. I don’t care. We can hire good coaches at Texas. DeLoss lets us pay them and they want to come, so I just want somebody that wants to be here. If one comes in and tells me that I am thinking about leaving, then usually I say that means you should. If they’re going to offer you, go. I want guys that aren’t thinking about leaving, because how about if a player is thinking about leaving and the coach gets mad at him. It’s not fair. Everybody’s got to pull together. So to answer your question, if I walk out of here and one comes in and says, “I’m going to leave”, I’m going to say, “Fine.” I’ll get on the phone. I got a list now. I can hire one pretty fast.
On if there was there a low point in the hiring process: I think the low point was when we lost George Wynn. He organized all the stuff for me. So I had to be football operations for another two or three days there. So I learned a lot of stuff that I hadn’t been doing. [Assistant Athletics Director for Football Operations] Arthur Johnson came fast. Arthur is best friends with George. Arthur stayed here five years. He hired George for us. So it didn’t stay off track long for us. And Marcus Tubbs did a fabulous job for us. My gosh, you talk about gun under fire. He was working really, really hard to get it done. But I thought it was kind of fun for me. It was really challenging to hold it together. It was challenging to hire the new staff. It was fun to see how all the pieces fit, and I really enjoyed it. I mean it was funny, you all must have written some awful things about me, and I’d walk out and see people and they’d say, “Are you okay?” And I’d say, “I’m having a blast. What do you mean am I okay?” This has been fun, and I am enjoying the recruits saying, “Coach, we’re fine. I just can’t wait till you hire somebody.” And I wanted to wait and hire an offensive line coach if I could after the coordinator, because I thought that that tie was really important. But all those kids were just so positive and upbeat, and I don’t remember all of the process of who got hired first, but when I started that, this is the direction that I wanted to go. I think that’s when I got really excited again.
On the loss of Greg Davis: Greg is a great friend. And he is a tremendous football coach, and he’ll get a job. And I’ve actually called and recommended people to him. We’ve been talking throughout the process. He’s such a good coach that he is not going to take a job that he doesn’t want. So he will turn down a couple of opportunities because he is my age and he has been around long enough. He’s okay financially, but Greg will get a job and he’ll do fine.
On the new coaches: I thought that we got exactly what we wanted. We really did. I think that it seems that again, talking to John and Bill, that some people took it [that] if I talked to somebody, I offered them. And that was not the case this time. I kind of prided myself on talking to one and hiring him. And that was very different this time. I think that we ended up getting the best coaches for Texas that we could have possibly done. If I had thought that we could get this in place when we started, I would have been so excited. It’s unbelievable. For instance, I’d never thought that we could have got Stacy Searels. I was so excited about that. I think he is a great coach, not a good coach. And [former offensive line coach] Max McWhorter recruited him, so they’ve got a relationship and they’re talking about kids. But he’s turned down so many jobs that I wouldn’t have thought it would be possible. So I thought it worked perfectly for us.
On being out of his comfort zone with new coaches: It is great being out of my comfort zone because I’m back at work. New ideas. Fresh new ideas. It’s fun for our fans. It should be fun for you all. I mean to get to know these new guys, and see a new offense, see the new defenses and what we are going to do on special teams. It’s fun for the players. It’s fun for the recruits. I think it’s a great time for Texas football. The network! When I would go to these high schools over the last two or three weeks, they’re all so excited. The kids are pumped. The fans in the high schools, the teachers and stuff are all excited, “I can’t wait to meet the new coaches.” We have so many high school coaches calling to have them come and speak that it’s a problem for us, because we don’t have enough time. We got so many fans saying, “I want them for dinner. I want to meet them all.” So it’s fun. It’s a restart. It’s a re-do, and that’s exciting for me.
On the talent level being able to win championships: I’m not going to talk about winning championships anymore, until we go back and prove that we can. But I thought we had enough players to win last year, and I think we do this year. Obviously, we have to go back and earn that right and quit talking about it. We’re going to talk about getting better.
On his biggest concern with the staff going into the spring: My biggest concern is, number one, that all the coaching pieces fit. They’ve all got to work together. It doesn’t matter how good they are, or how talented they are. They’ve got to mesh together. And I can sit here and say that I have seen it working, and it’s done really well. You’re not going to know until you play. Until you get some pressure, and that’s when you’ll find out about that. And I really like the coaches and they’re having fun, and they’ve got young families and Sally is already trying to get a two hand touch game with the kids. We’ll have broken legs with all the coaches’ children playing with Sally trying to organize games for them. But that would be number one. Number two is making sure with all the change in offense and defense, that we get it installed properly in the spring. How fast can we go? We’re going to have coaches teaching coaches before they start teaching players. So all of that is urgent right now. Third, making sure that we catch up with what we’re behind in the junior class and recruiting. Those would be the three issues that are most pressing right now.
On if he was surprised Will Muschamp left for Florida: Number one, you would have to ask Will. He was in Florida for ten years. Florida is a great job, and if I was going to stay at this one and he had the chance to be at that one, it seems to be a simple answer to me. I was surprised -not by that Will had an offer, or got a job - I just found out about it right before a dinner [while] recruiting. That’s always great to say, “Hey, we’ve got some change. Everybody come up, got something to tell you.” So I heard it when you all heard it. So that is just part of the process. Again, what a great thing for Will. Will did a great job for us - to finish second and third in the country those two years. I thought we would win the national championship [in 2009] when we didn’t. I didn’t think it would be till 2009, but 2008 surprised me a little bit. It was kind of like in 2004 when we got closer than I thought. Then in 2005 we won it when I thought we would win it in 2006, and Vince left. Will did a great job for us, and he should have gotten a great job. When Florida came up, no one knew Urban [Meyer] was leaving. It happened so quickly, but again, there are a lot of great coaches out there and its fun to hire them.
On the coach-in-waiting strategy: It’s viable. It worked for us. If people ask if it worked for us - we were second and third two of the three years it was here. It was pretty good. Had a chance to win a national championship in two of those three years. so you would have to say it worked. My question would be, “how long it can last?” I would think that if we were to do it again we would have a deadline. There’s too many questions. Those questions are questions that aren’t to be answered in public. If there’s not a timetable, everybody just makes up what they feel like what was said. Then it leaves for some potential turmoil because nobody’s sure what’s going on. And I think that’s what we’ve learned in this process.
On what he learned about himself: You got to make sure that you keep your foot on the pedal all the time. I think at one point that I must have thought that because we’re Texas and we’ve won so much, we’re just going to win. On bad years we’ll win 10. On good years we got a chance to win it all. You can’t think that. You have got to make sure that every day you get up there better be a goal to be set, and you better be moving forward to make [sure] that goal is the right one. It’s a hard business. It’s a hard business. You’re seeing coaches get worn down. Coaches get burned out, and it doesn’t matter. Keep working. You’re going to have negatives. When you have negatives, you got to handle them and move forward. All the negatives now are public. They didn’t use to be public. You’ve just got to handle it all and keep moving forward and not let it affect you, and you got to be positive with kids. These are kids. These are kids that have parents, and their dreams are out there and their lives are out there. And they’re very important, and if you’re not staying above the negative and you’re not staying positive with those kids, they’ll get negative too. That’s just the world we live in now, and it’s changed. And the good coaches change with it, and I got to make sure that's what I do.
On what bowl games he watched: Every one of them. Yeah, Sally got so sick of me. I had that phone in my ear as I was watching, and I turned down the sound and I’d say, “Yeah, so how much is it going to take to hire you?” I can multi-task. Sometimes I don’t do it so well, but I think I watched every one of them. There was one of them the night before the national championship, and Sally said, “Do you want to go to a movie?” And I said, “No. I got Bowling Green and . . ," whoever it was. And she said, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
On if he was definitely going to make changes at the end of 2010: You know, I didn’t know. I thought we would beat every team we played. You know, we got a good lead over Baylor, and then we lose it in the end. We didn’t even come close to Oklahoma State and Kansas State. I thought they tried hard, but they didn’t play well. I thought we’d beat A&M, and then we would go to a bowl game. So I thought all of this would give me more time to look at it, very honestly. Then coaches - some retired, some decided to leave. Greg resigned. It wasn’t like I sat around and planned it all. I think some things happen for purposes. And some people needed fresh starts and changes, and they took them and it worked. The amazing thing is, the coaches that have been here are great men, and they understand Texas and they love Texas and they put a whole lot into this place and they want Texas to win and they want these kids to be happy and they weren’t stupid. When we didn’t do well they understood that it wasn’t working the way it was, and that there would have to be things changed - whether they were here or not. So it was not a process of people throwing lamps at each other, and people screaming and slamming doors. It was a process of this is Texas and we’ve been very successful here. It’s a very hard place to coach. It’s a great place to coach, but a hard place to coach. It’s very unforgiving in many ways. You have to understand that. It’s not their fault. It is what it is, and we are going to move forward and get it fixed.
On if he thought about moving spring practice: I did, and I think it is good that they have pressure to get it [new schemes] in now. That is what I thought. We have recruiting, and I like the fact that we have seven days of practice, and then a ten-day break where they will be able to review all of the guys in the first seven days of spring practice and then be able to do more with them in the last eight days. We have to decide what we are doing in the spring game this year. So we haven’t decided that yet. They will start getting more involved starting in the morning with the offseason program. They will work with all the guys. We have all of the guys with t-shirts with their names on the back, so all the coaches will know which guys they are going to be coaching. So I like the urgency. I like it. There is a fact that they need to be moving forward and getting ready.
On the television network: I’m so excited about it. I think it is an unbelievable thing. As long as I have been in sports, Texas was chosen as the place to do this. What a great thing for DeLoss [Dodds], Bill [Powers], and Chris [Plonksy]. It is amazing to me that they could get it done. When they were talking about it, I didn’t think it was possible. They kept saying it was, then it all happened and they put it together. So what we will do is work very closely with all of the ESPN personnel. There is obviously a fine line from my standpoint. We can’t give you guys everything. We can’t give ESPN everything. You have notes that you feel like will make the network work, but we can’t have them in the huddle. We are not going to have [HBO’s] “Hard Knocks.” But there will be some really interesting things we can look at that will give our players and our programs more exposure than anyone in the country. Our coaches are writing down their thoughts on that right now - on what they would be willing to do. Do we have an assistant coaches show? Do you have a clinic on ESPN? Do you have your own road trip every week for away games? Do you have gameday for your own home games? There is so much to think about and where does it stop? There is just so much to think about, and where does it help ESPN?
On what specific changes he’s considering for the spring game: The last couple of years we have taken the ones against the ones and scrimmaged for 15, 20, 30 plays, then pulled them out and finished the scrimmage. Some of these guys have had a draft. You divide them up and you don’t look as good, but you compete. So we’ll take all those ideas and see what we are going to do.
On steps he’s taking to make sure of a fresh start: We’re going back to all the things that I thought slipped some last year. That means you have to earn the right every day to play. I don’t know why we kept doing it last year. We kept saying it, but I don’t know if we did it as much as we said it. You look back and sometimes you get yourself in a funk, and I think you get blinded by some things. And you get mad and stay down. You ended up missing some stuff, and that is my job. And that is some stuff I missed. We’re really working hard on team building again. Like I said, Sally and I will have each class up to the house and visit with them. I thought Chris Peterson has done a great job with team-building stuff at Boise, so Bryan is bringing some great stuff in. Bennie Wylie is amazing with what he does and what he has done with these kids, because he works out with them and they think that is the coolest thing. Now, I am not going to work out with them. I can’t do that. We’d have a death, or it would be short workouts. And I told Bennie that. Don’t be bringing it up that coaches need to work out too. It is a young coaching staff. Maybe the assistants should work out and not the head coach. Maybe that is a rule we should have. But I think it just going back and making sure we have our finger on everything. That there is more individual attention. We worked really hard on leadership, even more since I’ve gotten back from Iraq. Some of it didn’t work last year, so we’re going back and relooking at everything.
On if having a down year was good for the program in: No doubt. It’s harder in my estimation to take the same stuff that worked for two years and didn’t work for one and figure out why it didn’t work. Get everybody convinced that it didn’t work for a reason, and they were part of it and make everybody change. Then what do, you throw out what you were doing that’s been good for you for 28 years, 30 years, and all of a sudden it didn’t work. So you’ve got to have some change when things are bad. Like I said, if you’re business just drops so much you can’t just sit there and say, “Well, let’s just go back and do the same thing again.” So I really feel like we were fortunate that a lot of guys had opportunities and were able to leave, and we got some new ideas and especially new faces for kids. They are excited by change and we’re in a change society and you all see that every day. If you can get something dramatic people like it. Change draws attention, and that’s helping us right now with our kids. That’s just part of it. I did miss the fact, and with me too, that I thought when you won a national championship you might have an entitlement in a down year. I didn’t know [it happened] when you lost it, but if you look at the two Super Bowl teams, the one that loses is usually as bad as the one that wins the next year. It’s just hard to repeat. I didn’t think it would affect you by losing. I thought you’d be more motivated, but I wasn’t. I was down. It’s probably a different reason. You probably relax a little bit when you win it all. You probably get down a little bit and lose your edge some after [you lose]. You make two straight runs at it, and you miss both of them barely - it takes a lot out of you because it’s too hard to get there. I thought that’s what probably happened when you look back at it.
On developing team leaders for next season: It’s something we talked about this morning. For instance, Blake Gideon was captain last year and he’s back. The two linebackers are older. There’s some strength on defense. You’ve got to find your leadership on offense. It’s got to come from your quarterback. Fozzy [Whittaker] needs to stay healthy because he can be a great leader. Malcolm Williams is older. We’ve got to make sure that our leadership does step up and take over this year. The fact that we had some leadership issues last year goes back to me. I don’t think I did a good enough job of explaining to those that could lead that they needed to lead. It’s funny. You’re in a precarious position when you lose. Everybody wants to beat up everybody. Then if you try to tell the truth it doesn’t sound good. If you blame yourself everybody says it doesn’t do anything. Losing’s just losing and it’s bad, and I thought we spiraled and didn’t come out of it. Every other year here we’ve been able to come out of it, and the bad UCLA game just led further down the tubes. But I didn’t even enjoy Rice. I didn’t think we played well that day. At Wyoming we didn’t seem to have the spunk and the spark we’d had in some of those games. I didn’t even feel good after we were winning early.
On what positions will be open in spring: All positions are open. That’s the great thing about being brand new. Every position is open. Even at running back - you’ve got Traylon Shead, you’ve got Jeremy Hills, you’ve got new faces. Everything is open, period.
On Duane Akina leaving: He was at Arizona for 14 years. He had a sick brother who has since died, and he was trying to get back in that direction. He had said he would only consider leaving for Arizona and Hawaii as he looked at it for the nine years he’s been here. Nine years is a long time. He had two ex-players on the staff that he had coached, so I think it was exciting for him to look at it and I was for it when he decided that he thought it was best for him to leave. I understood that one completely.
On CB Aaron Williams deciding to go pro: We got the evaluation for him through the NFL. We gave the evaluation to him and his family and they sat down and tried to get as much information around that evaluation as we could with the potential lockout and all those things, and he decided to leave which we’ve embraced in every position when a young man wants to leave.
On the former Longhorns participating in the Super Bowl: We’ve got five guys that will be around the Super Bowl. I talked to Limas [Sweed] the other night and of course he and Jermichael Finley will not get to play, but they still get some money if they win and they still get a ring. So they’re excited about going. What Casey Hampton’s done has been absolutely amazing and you start looking at Jonathan Scott. I talked to him a long time the other night and what a great career he’s having now after some time out. But for him to have a chance to get a national championship ring and a Super Bowl ring is really exciting for him. Limas has already got [one] and Tony Hills is doing really well. We had a strong group in the Pro Bowl yesterday with [three] players, and then in the Super Bowl we will have five guys that are around it which is really exciting.
On how you balance getting an edge in a program with having fun: I think if you’ve got the edge you’re having fun. If they feel like they’re accomplishing things, and they feel like every week they’ve got a chance to win. But they’ve got to fight to do it. The most fun I’ve had here are the comebacks, and you had to get behind to have the comeback. So something didn’t work right, but that’s been the most fun for me is for the guys to feel like they’re never out of the game and they keep fighting. We had no comebacks last year. We’d get down and didn’t come back. Whatever we did to lose that, we’ve got to get it back.
On former DT Casey Hampton: I remember when we first got here that we had to take Casey out of scrimmages so we could practice. He was killing our center, and then he’d get so mad at me when I’d say, “Casey, we can’t get the snap. You’re knocking everybody out so get over here and stand with me and just watch.” It’s just amazing that he’s still doing that. He’s just had a remarkable career, and it’s sure not near finished.
On how having former players in the Super Bowl helps in recruiting: It really helps because every young guy’s dream is to play in the NFL. They want to come here and start. They want to play for a national championship and win it, and then they want to go to the NFL and play in a Super Bowl and win it. So we have five examples of guys that can do exactly that. I may miss this, but Aaron Ross has a national championship ring and a Super Bowl ring. David Thomas has a national championship ring and a Super Bowl ring. Some of the guys will come out of this game with one as well. I just think it sends a message that we have 51 active guys in the NFL and have guys in the Pro Bowl and have guys that are now playing in the Super Bowl [and that] is a great message for young people to keep their dreams alive.