Mack Brown At Carolina: An Analysis
Gerry WatkinsMack Brown At Carolina: The Consequences of “New Breed” Coaching
History 90 – Sports in America
The coaching profession has come a long way from the early days when coaches were little more than faculty advisors to student clubs. The modern incarnation of college football, where millions of dollars and the intangible value of school prestige are constantly on the line, has created a “new breed” of coach. The traditional image of the head coach as simply a field general is overly simplistic in the sophisticated world of college athletics, where off-field factors can heavily influence team performance. The “new breed” coach must be capable of building and leading not only teams of young athletes but entire programs. These programs are large-scale bureaucracies that stretch from the field, to alumni, to the university administration. The skills of a “new breed” head coach resemble those of a shrewd industrial executive, who must influence and bargain with equals, far more than they resemble a no-nonsense military commander who simply issues orders through an established chain of command.
A “new breed” head coach must be a political animal, capable of long-term planning, organization, and negotiation. Few coaches demand the kind of instant compliance that a charismatic, old style coach like Knute Rockne did. A “new breed” coach must be able to win within the limits of his situation, be they geographic, institutional, or economic. He must be able to convince powerful partners that their interests will not be lost. Specifically, he must convince alumni that he can win, he must convince the media that he is worth covering, and he must convince his institution that he is not jeopardizing their academic standing with corrupt practices.
This paper will first assess the three distinct styles of the “new breed” in an effort to put Mack Brown into a historical context with his peers. It will then proceed to a case study of Mack Brown’s tenure at the University of North Carolina. It will appraise his success in building the Tar Heels into an elite football program and the degree to which his qualities as a “new breed” coach of the “recruiter” type allowed him to succeed. Finally, it will discuss Brown’s hasty departure from North Carolina in favor of the University of Texas and how it might have been anticipated given Brown’s record.
Sub-Species of the “New Breed”
While no one coach fits perfectly into any category and salesmanship is crucial to any “new breed” coach, there are three general variations in the pitch:
1) “engineers” who promise a program based on superior X’s-and-O’s
2) “motivators” who sell their ability to get the most from their players
3) “recruiters” who offer a program fueled by a relentless pursuit of talent
The first of the sub-type is the “engineer.” Chief among the engineer’s strengths is his on-field expertise. First and foremost, the engineer places his confidence in his own skills as a tactician and, while he is not blind to recruiting, he does not necessarily depend on top-level talent to fuel his program. The engineer is content to sign whatever players he can and then make up the difference with schemes and game plans. Historically, engineers tend to find homes at smaller schools, particularly in the West, where local talent is not as strong and expectations are not as high.
Engineers are usually associated with new, non-traditional styles of play. When selling his program to the public (i.e. to media, fans, and alumni), the engineer will focus on the “revolutionary” qualities of his system as a means of generating both wins and interest. In employing this type of salesmanship, the engineer runs a greater risk to his job security. By pinning his promises on his tactics and not on his players, he cannot automatically write off a bad year to lack of talent. Furthermore, he intensifies his own personal responsibility for the on-field results and invites experts and pseudo-experts (coaches, sportswriters, broadcasters, Monday-morning quarterbacks) to make a name for themselves by attacking his ideas.
The prime example of this was the Jack Pardee / John Jenkins era at the University of Houston. These men were two of the earliest and most vocal proponents of the controversial “run-n-shoot” offense. When Pardee and Jenkins arrived at Houston the program was in dire straits. The Cougar program was already on probation for an earlier coach’s indiscretions. Furthermore, despite being in the football-fertile state of Texas, Houston’s talent level was low since most of the blue-chippers went to nearby regional powers, such as Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, and Nebraska. Nevertheless, Pardee and Jenkins’ offensive ideology turned Houston into the most consistently prolific offensive programs in the history of college football. All this occurred almost overnight. In 1990, Pardee moved onto the pros and Jenkins took over the Houston program. In 1991, Houston was ranked in the preseason Top 10, QB David Klinger was a Heisman favorite, and Jenkins was profiled in a Sports Illustrated feature that portrayed him as a brilliant mad scientist. Jenkins, however, was eccentric, prone to obnoxious self-aggrandizement and overconfidence in the run-n-shoot. After being dominated by the eventual national champion, Miami, in an early season match-up, the Cougars fell apart and finished 4-7. Jenkins would be run out of town two years later amidst a backlash of national criticism against the run-n-shoot and all its practitioners in college and pro football. By linking himself so closely to his offense, Jenkins had sown the seeds of his own downfall.
On the positive side, engineer-style coaches can be incredibly attractive to small schools without Top 10 aspirations and to those schools who are unwilling to lower academic standards for top talent. It could also stand to reason that high quality academic schools might appreciate the engineer’s cerebral approach to the game, but there is no real evidence for this. In either case, engineers promise a consistent measure of success without prohibitive costs or compromised educational values. Stanford, one of America’s top research universities, was the proving ground for Bill Walsh’s West Coast System, and has since remained committed to his philosophical progeny who promise success through systemic precision without academic compromise. Similarly, engineers such as Lavell Edwards at BYU, an original supporter of the West Coast offense, and Fisher DeBerry at the Air Force Academy, who remained committed to the semi-antiquated “flex bone”, have had long-term success and job security at their institutions.
The second sub-type is the “motivator”. The motivator is perhaps the closest to the traditional idea of a football coach. Unlike the engineer, the motivator is not attached to any one style of play, but instead sells himself on more intangible points: unity, discipline, attitude, effort. The motivator believes that overwhelming talent is not necessary to win. He does not necessarily need blue chip players, only good ones that he can mold into winners. A motivator puts his faith the experienced players, those that he has conditioned into his idea of winners. Like engineers, motivators can promise a consistently decent program and even an occasional flash of brilliance, given the right circumstances, but universities cannot expect to be perennial contenders without a full-fledged recruiting effort. Consequently, motivators are preferred by schools content to accept some year-to-year fluctuations on the field provided that school remains in good standing.
Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech is an example of the motivator type. Virginia is not recognized as a hotbed of talent, yet Beamer has led the Hokies to national prominence without the benefit of highly rated recruiting classes. Under Beamer, the Hokies gained national recognition for their fiery play on special teams, which is generally considered a product of coaching more than talent, and for a defense that compensated for its like of exceptional size or speed with disciplined play. Even prior to the Hokies’ success in 1999, Beamer had been recognized for his motivational skills. In 1996 writers poll by The Sporting News, Beamer was ranked as the best teacher and motivator in the Big East Conference.
Like engineers, motivators appeal to university leadership because they sell the idea of winning on things other than costly superior talent. Motivators appeal to boosters who hunger for classical symbols around which to build a tradition. However, the pressure on motivators to protect their players from academic and legal pitfalls is intense and can put the program in compromising positions. Consider the legal woes at Virginia Tech, where a sexual abuse charge resulted in a long legal battle that finally ended in the US Supreme Court. It was crucial to Beamer’s program that the culprits be protected for two reasons. First, if Beamer’s authority as a motivator was based on a personal relationship with his players then might he have jeopardized his program by not protecting them from an investigation? Second, if Beamer’s program is based on development and experience then could he really have afforded to turn his back on two players that he had already invested time in?
Lastly, the “recruiter” sub-type puts his faith in simple logic: it’s the players that most directly effect the outcome, therefore, if you want to win, then you should get the best players. For the recruiter, motivational speeches need not be rousing sermons and game plans need not be masterworks of tactical genius. A recruiter’s strength is his ability to sign players, particularly the coveted blue-chippers and high school All-Americans. If there is a problem with performance, a recruiter will usually attempt to solve it with talent. For example, suppose a team is crippled by a poor running attack. An engineer, such as Bill Walsh, might say: “I’ll use a short passing game to compensate.” A motivator, such as Frank Beamer, might say: “I’ve got to get the offensive line to work together better.” A recruiter, such as Mack Brown, will simply put more focus on recruiting a better running back or a bigger offensive line.
Typically, recruiters flourish in Southern and Midwestern states near strong high school programs which act as talent factories. In the 1980s and 1990s, recruiters flourished at perennial powers in these areas. Recruits from Florida supported three elite in-state programs (Miami, Florida State, and Florida) and supplemented countless others at all levels. Recruits from talent-rich Texas powered the entire Big XII conference. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s every state in the Deep South and Midwest, fielded at least one perennial Top 25 program on the strength of their in-state talent.
Recruiters represent a tradeoff for prospective employers. On one hand, the formula is well proven. Given enough money for perks and facilities and enough academic leeway in admissions, a recruiter can all but guarantee a university a top-level program. On the other hand, the formula is volatile and expensive. Even when pursued within the minimum requirements of the NCAA recruiting is a minefield of ethical questions for university officials. How much money is it really worth to go to a bowl game every year? How much academic credibility is it worth? The answer is different for each university and the best recruiter-type coaches are able strike a balance between their need to pursue top talent and their institution’s restrictions.
1988 to 1992: Transformation Strategy
After the 1987 football season, the North Carolina program was in dire straits. Losing seasons and jokes about Tar Heel futility had become the norm. Further insult to injury came from across the triangle in Durham where rival Duke led the ACC in total offense and passing and beat Carolina, 25-10. The fear that the Blue Devils were on the rise under newcomer head coach Steve Spurrier was active among football boosters and alumni. Since Crum took over from Bill Dooley in 1978 the Tar Heels had been steadily mediocre. Crum had won only one ACC title (1980), had never been to a major bowl, and was behind the national curve in terms of speed and talent. Furthermore, Crum’s teams had not been especially exciting to watch either; in a time when college football was becoming more high scoring and pass-oriented, Crum’s conservative offenses had averaged over 30 points per game only once (1983). Despite the fact that he was well-liked and respected by University officials and faculty, rumors of his firing were running rampant by the season’s end and the Duke loss seemed to be the final straw for the alumni.
Carolina’s criteria was strict. The boosters wanted a winner, someone who could vault them to the top of the ACC and approach the sort of consistent dominance that Carolina fans were used to on the basketball court. The faculty, however, was bitter over losing Crum and weary of risking the school’s academic integrity in pursuit of a top-notch football program. Mack Brown was a good compromise candidate with qualities both sides could appreciate.
On the one hand, boosters appreciated his pedigree and accomplishments. In addition to stints as a head coach, Brown had been Oklahoma’s offensive coordinator. Brown’s association with an elite program as well as the high praise he received from coaching giant Barry Switzer, who later called Brown “clearly the most talented offensive coach that I was associated with” and said that “[Brown] had the complete package [of coaching skills].” Boosters also respected Brown’s work in reviving Tulane, a traditional doormat, into a successful team. In 1987, in only their third year under Brown, Tulane ranked number eleven in the nation in scoring offense and reached only its fifth bowl game since 1940.
On the other hand, the University appreciated Brown’s careful, intelligent approach. He had Masters degree in administration from Southern Mississippi and had served as Tulane’s athletic director at the same time he was head football coach. Clearly he had an appreciation for football’s role within the framework of the university. On a personal note, the same friendliness that won over alumni helped to soothe the school’s anxiety over Crum’s firing and convince the administration of his willingness to work within their limits. Despite his time with the Sooners, Brown did not come off as the imposing type of “win-at-all-costs” coach that would drive North Carolina’s academics down to Oklahoma’s level.
Ironically, although Brown would never have any notable conflicts with the university officials, early failures would put him at odds with the alumni who had been so instrumental in drawing him to Carolina. In his first two seasons Brown posted a dismal record of 2-20 and was the ACC’s whipping boy at 1-13 in conference. NC State outscored the Tar Heels by a combined score of 88 to 9 in their two head-to-head contests. Brown wept in his car after a sloppy 12-7 loss to lowly Navy in 1989. Perhaps the most maddening loss came in the1989 season finale against Duke. In that game Spurrier’s Blue Devils clinched a share of the ACC title by running up the score on Carolina in a 41-0 thrashing and then twice posed for pictures in front of the Kenan stadium score board.
Although one might not have known it from the scoreboard, Brown had the transformation process well underway. True to his style as a recruiter, Brown saw the problem in personnel terms and set about correcting it on the grassroots level by developing a relationship with high school programs in the state. This was a marked difference from Crum’s recruiting strategy, which had largely taken in-state recruits for granted and mistakenly focused on recruiting in Virginia and Ohio. Former instate blue-chipper and first-round draft pick of the Dallas Cowboys, Greg Ellis explains:
Coach Brown makes you feel like you’re obligated to come to the school. When he recruited here, he let people know that they were supposed to graduate from high school and play for Carolina. That’s the type of attitude that got Carolina turned around.
By 1990 Brown had landed twelve All-American recruits, seven of them from North Carolina. Among this group was running back Natrone Means, who would become a fixture in Brown’s backfield and a key component in the team’s rise from the bottom of the ACC.
Consequently, as Brown’s recruiting successes matured, things began to brighten on the field as well. In 1990, UNC finished 6-4-1 and could boast of tying Georgia Tech which finished the year as co-national champion with Colorado. Sparked by Means’ talent, the next two campaigns were similar successes as the Tar Heels continued to improve each year: to 7-4 in 1991 and 9-3 in 1992. The 1992 season also included a victory in the Peach Bowl. All the while, Brown continued to collect top instate talent. His 1992 freshman class featured seven all-state players, and ten of the Raliegh News & Observer’s Top 30. At the start of the 1992 season 52 of Carolina’s 88 scholarship players were from North Carolina. A solid foundation for the program was laid during these dismal early years.
1993 to 1995: The Turnaround
Improvement increased in 1993, particularly on offense where scoring leapt from 24.4 to 35.1 points per game, the highest average in Carolina history. Furthermore, this accomplishment was made in spite of Carolina’s more difficult schedule which included traditional powers such as Florida State, Southern Cal, and a bowl game against defending national champion Alabama. UNC beat Southern Cal on national television in the Pigskin Classic 31-9 and later won the so-called “state title” by defeating Duke, Wake Forest, and NC State all in the same season. Brown would never again lose to another instate team. Again, all this was accomplished on the strength of individual talent picked up by Brown’s recruiting strategy. Most notably Corey Holliday, who became Carolina’s all-time leading receiver, and Jason Stanicek, who would go on to break Tar Heel great Charlie Justice’s record for total offense.
The 1994 season was similarly successful, the Tar Heels finished 8-4. If the measure of a top program is its ability to maintain consistency by constantly “reloading” with talent rather than cyclically “rebuilding” with experience, then 1994 further demonstrates Brown’s prowess as a recruiter. The Tar Heels found their replacement for Holliday in freshman star receiver Octavus Barnes and Leon Johnson stepped up to fill Means’ role as offensive centerpiece.
1995 was an average year for the team on the field. The Heels went 7-5 and posted a win over Arkansas in the Carquest Bowl. However, this was a watershed year for Brown’s program off the field. First, the 1995 freshman class was Brown’s ultimate recruiting masterpiece at Carolina. Of the 23 scholarships given that year, nearly half (11) went to high school All-Americans. Furthermore, while Brown maintained his dominance of recruiting instate, he expanded his reach as well, particularly into the coveted blue-chip gold mine of Florida. Brown picked up four recruits, including two high school All-Americans, in a state where most other coaches in the ACC had been unable to make significant gains. This freshman class would be at the heart of Brown’s two jewel seasons at Carolina in 1996 and 1997.
Second, having finally obtained the 48-50 million in funding through extensive lobbying of the Educational Foundation, it was in 1995 that the multi-year plan for a renovation of the football facilities was launched. For the stadium itself, the plan included an increased seating capacity and preferred seating box, a new playing surface and drainage system, as well as improvements in restroom and concessions facilities. The team also benefited from improved football facilities: a new weight room, refurbished locker room, administrative headquarters, Hall of Honor, academic center, and players’ lounge. These facilities figure prominently when entertaining alumni and in the tour given to recruits.
Finally, 1995 saw the beginnings of an important shift in the Tar Heels defense to a more aggressive, attacking style. Brown’s defensive coordinator Carl Torbush explains how the foundation of recruiting success made this possible:
When we got here [in 1988] we just didn’t have the foot speed to match up with people…After the [1994 season and the] Sun Bowl game…we decided to get to the Top 10 we needed to be more aggressive on defense.
Although the switch did not really begin to pay dividends until the 1996 season, the aggressive meshed was a perfect fit with Brown’s ability to bring in top level talent. The new defense, which was adapted from Florida State’s “press-n-stress,” relied on fast, aggressive defenders. More particularly, it required highly talented cornerbacks capable of playing tight man coverage, thereby freeing the rest of the defense to swarm and blitz at will. The goal was to crack opposing offenses physically and mentally by way of constant attacks; the “press” coverage allowed for a blitz to “stress” the other team, hence the name. While this may sound like an engineering solution and out of character for a recruiter like Brown, consider that it is a “player intensive” strategy, necessarily based on a foundation of top athletes.
1996 and 1997: The Payoff
1996 marked the arrival of UNC as an elite team. Mack Brown’s squad boasted one of the nation’s best, if not the best defense which allowed less that 10 points per game and recorded a staggering 42 sacks. It was individual talent from Brown’s famed recruits of 1993-1995 pulling the load. Redshirt freshman Dre Bly broke the NCAA’s freshman record for interceptions and linebacker Brian Simmons and defensive lineman Greg Ellis were nominees for post-season awards.
On offense, Brown brought in Greg Davis from Georgia to modernize the system. Like the defensive shift that began the year before, the offensive adjustments were player intensive moves designed to utilize as many of UNC’s blue chip recruits as possible. To this end Davis focused on spread formations and short passes designed to allow talented Tar Heel receivers to maximize their talents in yards-after-the-catch. Like Torbush’s defensive changes, Davis’ adjustments paid off. Quarterback Chris Keldorf, who Brown had discovered at a junior college in California, broke nearly every single season Tar Heel passing mark.
Despite their improvements Brown’s team fell short in 1996's big games, losing close contests to Virginia and Florida State. Nevertheless, the season was a huge success in terms of public relations. The Tar Heels finished in the Top 10 with a Gator Bowl victory, Mack Brown was named ACC coach of the year and given a contract extension through 2001, and pundits lavished praise on UNC. Between ABC's national coverage and the ACC’s regional deal with Jefferson Pilot Sports, the Tar Heels had become a fixture on regional broadcasts and also gained coveted national exposure for their games against FSU and UVa. Furthermore, in a landmark deal, the entire athletic department was now outfitted by Nike, which meant increased merchandise sales and, combined with full home games, benefited local small businesses.
The 1997 progressed similarly well. The stadium renovations were complete and praised by editorials in the school paper. Carolina was ranked in the top five in most preseason polls and as high as number one in one. The Tar Heels worked easily through the early season, despite some sloppy play and a mild quarterback controversy, but all eyes were on the eventual showdown with Florida State. The preseason hype had expectations sky high. This shift in fan attitude is another testimony to how far Brown had brought the program in his time. Fans were now thinking like an elite team: criticizing minor errors in victories, showing dissatisfaction with anything less than total dominance, looking ahead to big games, talking about bowl games as givens, etc.
Once again, however, FSU dominated the Tar Heels to reassert their dominance over the ACC. Although UNC would rebound and finish the season 10-1, this punishing defeat on ESPN's "Game of the Week" would haunt Brown for the rest of his time at Carolina. The drubbing became cause to question the entire program. It seemed that his recruits, the best of the best from North Carolina, were easily superior to the best from South Carolina and Virginia, but that they were equally inferior to the best from Florida. How could Brown have brought Carolina so far and still be so behind of Florida State?
After a slow start against Duke in the season finale, a crowd of only 45,000 (approximately 13,000 under capacity) fans booed a slow start by the Heels. Brown's normally cool and gregarious spin was absent after the game. In the post-game press conference he attacked the Carolina crowd for their perceived lack of loyalty. By now fans weren't the only ones down on the Heels though. With their momentum broken Carolina fell from their popular pedestal as the football media's new golden-boy. Once again UNC was framed as a basketball dynasty that occasionally played pretty good football too.
Nowhere was this attitude more apparent than in the Bowl Alliance’s decision to deny UNC a major berth in favor of teams with lesser records but more national clout. Mack Brown made a fiery case in the press conference after the Duke game, but the crowd’s attitude had already decided matters. If Carolina couldn’t sell out their brand new stadium, with a 9-1 team, against their most hated rival, then why should the selection committee expect their fans to spend large amounts of money to travel to another city for a major bowl? The Alliance snubbed Carolina, who would finish out there season by crushing Virginia Tech in the Gator Bowl, 49-3. By that time Brown would no longer be on the sidelines.
Mack Brown resigned on December 5, 1997, approximately two weeks after the Duke win, in order to take the head coaching position at the University of Texas. His departure was marked by a backlash fan accusations of manipulation and lying, due to earlier statements in which Brown emphasized his desire to stay at Carolina and downplayed the extent of his negotiations with other schools.
Brown’s Departure: Why?
Carolina loyalists framed Brown as a heartless opportunist. Brown, who was once again cool and collected in press conferences, defended himself by pointing to all that he had accomplished and claiming that it was not fair that he be attacked for making a "business decision". There was a certain amount of truth in both spins. Mack Brown’s reasons for leaving Carolina in favor of Texas were simple: Texas was a perfect fit for his style as a recruiter and it offered other intangible advantages that Carolina could not match.
1) Grassroots recruiting in Texas is stronger than North Carolina
For a recruiter type coach, there is no better job than the University of Texas. The state of Texas has a huge population, a wealth of quality high school coaches and programs, and depth of football tradition driving young men towards the game of football. Brown’s instate recruiting techniques become all the more potent in a state like Texas and, as his record shows, Brown’s success on the field is a direct function of his recruiting success. Consider that, only one year after arriving at Texas, Brown’s 1999 freshman class was the consensus-number one group in the country among recruiting analysts and of those freshman 25 of 29 were instate. The state of North Carolina, with its smaller population and lower talent production, was simply not on Texas’ level in this respect.
2) Texas does not have to be cajoled into supporting their football team
Texas football does not have to compete with Texas basketball for alumni funding, local media spotlight, or the hearts of its fans. Even after the redemption of Carolina from perennial loser to title contender, the NC logo still triggered thoughts of basketball in most fans. Conversely, Texas was established football country. Alumni money flowed more freely, admissions were easier to get, attendance was consistently higher and more vocal, etc. As with recruiting, Brown’s abilities as a salesman are magnified by Texas’ natural tendencies towards big time football. Instead of the uphill effort Brown had faced to win support at Carolina, Texas boosters would be eager to get behind their new coach.
On a more personal, Texas could offer him a chance to be lionized, like his mentor Barry Switzer was at Oklahoma. It is doubtful he could have expected the same sort of grandiose opportunity at Carolina, given their lack of a commitment to football and the obvious prioritization of basketball. The drop in attendance after the FSU loss and the booing at the Duke game, may very well have convinced Brown that he would always be second best at UNC and encouraged him to seek greener pastures.
3) Texas has national clout
Brown took the Alliance’s snubbing of his 1997 Tar Heel squad hard. Against his normally non-confrontational character, he ranted against the system, calling it “unfair” for its favoring of traditionally good draws over the top teams of the day. Brown’s attacks on the Bowl Alliance should not be mistaken for a commitment to meritocracy. He knew very well how the politics of bowl selection worked and he tried to use the media to leverage the Alliance, but the media ploy did not work because Carolina simply did not have enough football clout to back up the fairness argument. The opening at Texas allowed him to turn the tables. Due to its tradition and strong fan support, Texas is the type of program that gets the benefit of the doubt in Bowl selection and television contracts. Certainly, given his aptitude for the politics of college football, Brown welcomed these advantages.
True to his “new breed” status, Mack Brown excelled at the salesmanship aspects college football, support for his program increased every year during his tenure at Carolina. By capitalizing on his abilities as a recruiter, Brown formulated a long-term strategy that was able to convert recruits into wins, wins into support, support into dollars, dollars into improvements, and improvements back into recruits. Through this methodology, Brown’s teams steadily improved each year in terms of wins, statistics, and national recognition. He was able to capture alumni support by winning.
Brown was a master marketer. During his time at Carolina he was constantly giving press conferences, attending functions, holding events, etc. The annual pre-season FanFest in 1997 set an attendance record for the event with 4,000 attendees and Brown helped establish the pre-game festivities at “Tar Heel Town”. Under Brown, the coaching staff also held teaching an annual clinic for women who desired to better their knowledge of the game. Brown never challenged the basketball program’s supremacy with the fan base and was quick to compliment local coaching fixture Dean Smith. His wife, Sally, was actively involved in the community as president of Marin Development, a member of the Public, Private Partnership (an organization that fostered better relations between the University and the town), and chair of the fundraising efforts for the UNC Black Cultural Center. Brown was able to capture the local fan base with his gregarious nature and exceptional marketing skills.
Brown also succeeded in avoiding the ethical pitfalls of coaching. There were no substantiated accusations of illegal recruiting techniques, grade tampering, or criminal activity by his coaches or players. He instituted strict academic requirements on his players requiring two hours of forced study time at the football center each morning and frequent check-ups with academic counselors. His players graduated at better than 70% and the program received honorable mentions from the College Football Association in nine of Brown’s ten years. The University leadership never had cause to question Brown’s methods or integrity. Chancellor Michael Hooker was a frequent guest at practices and, even after Brown’s controversial resignation, Athletics Director Dick Baddour was complimentary of Brown’s concept of the academic-athletic balance. Brown was able to capture institutional support by deferring to their academic requirements.
The popular backlash that accompanied Brown’s departure was unfortunate. Within the Carolina community, it cast a shadow over the 1997 team’s accomplishments under Brown and detracted from the solid foundation that had been laid so methodically since 1988. Within the college football community as a whole, it made Carolina fans appear petulant and unappreciative which hurt both recruiting and the search for a new coach. Thanks to his skills as a “new breed” coach of the recruiter type, Mack Brown’s program grew into success on the field, a source of pride and revenue for the university community, and was able to avoid the pitfalls of other high profile programs.
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