Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - During the course of last week the head coaching future at Texas was one of fluctuating possibilities.
A wild few days of rumors finally culminated in a resolution last Saturday, as Mack Brown stepped down as head coach at Texas.
The whispers began after the Longhorns were trampled by BYU early in the season. They subsided some when Texas rattled off six straight wins and flirted with a berth in the Big 12 title game. Then they reached fever pitch a week ago, as Nick Saban's name was tossed around and reports circulated that Brown was set to resign.
Even though Saban signed an extension with Alabama, and Brown himself even denounced such rumblings, come Saturday the rumors became reality.
On the surface it seems like a less than fitting end to Brown's 16-year run. After all this was a head coach that led the Longhorns to a national title, nine 10-win seasons, 15 bowl games and a slew of top-10 finishes. Brown also oversaw some of the most talented players to strap on a helmet for Texas, Vince Young and Ricky Williams being the most prominent.
However the overall success has been muddied by recent mediocrity. Brown had his lone losing season at Texas in 2010 (5-7) and has had at least four losses in each of the last four seasons. At a program with few rivals in terms of prestige, those results clearly weren't cutting it.
To his credit Brown remained loyal to the program he has been so important to for 16 years.
"I have absolutely no anger, no regrets for anything that's happened," Brown said in the press conference announcing his resignation. "I told the staff and the coaches, 'You've got to win more than eight games at Texas.' We're the ones that screwed it up."
"We won nine the first year and got a parade. That's what's changed over 16 years and that's okay. The standard is set really high here and I'm darn proud we were part of that standard."
Brown is right about the standard at Texas. The next coach brought in will not be expected to just keep the team competitive. Thanks to Brown, the Longhorns are one of the few teams in the country for which nine wins and a bowl game is seen as a failed season.
"I think you have to be good with the press, you have to be able to recruit, you have to be able to understand what a big time college football program is about," Texas Athletic Director Steve Patterson said of what he wants from his next head coach. You're going to be under a lot of scrutiny. You've got to win and you've got to win big."
As of now Patterson is sticking to the company line regarding who and what Texas is looking for in its next coach. However, that hasn't and won't stop speculation. For every rumor that leaked about Brown stepping down it seemed 10 more popped up about who will replace him.
The biggest and most prominent narrative was that the Longhorns would use their immense resources to lure Saban away from Alabama. With that option out the window, there is no real frontrunner. That doesn't mean there is not a cavalcade of intriguing options, even if some of those options are just tossed around to boost ratings.
If Texas is going to look to the college ranks it may be best suited to look in its own backyard.
Gary Patterson has struggled to get TCU into the upper echelon of the Big 12 in two years in the league. However, before the move from the Mountain West Conference, Patterson headed up a mid-major program that was a consistent thorn in the side of the BCS. Patterson would also bring a defensive mentality to a program that has lost its way. He has had the Horned Frogs among the top 30 teams in the country in total defense in the last two years while Texas has been outside that space in the same time.
Perhaps more likely to get a look, and possibly the job, are Baylor's Art Briles and Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy. In the changing landscape of college football that puts a precedent on incredible offensive numbers, both Briles and Gundy are two of the best.
Briles nearly led Baylor to a BCS Championship berth this season, as the Bears won 11 games, while leading the nation in total offense (623.8 ypg). It was the second 10-win campaign in Briles six seasons at the helm. Baylor has only one other season of double-digit wins in its 108 year history. Working such magic at a dormant program like Baylor could be considered a more difficult task than lifting Texas back up.
Gundy is another offensive guru that would bring excitement and energy to the job. The 46-year-old is also young enough to be a candidate that could really settle in and build a dynasty at Texas. Gundy performed a similar trick at Oklahoma State as Briles did at Baylor. He led the Cowboys to a BCS bowl victory in 2011 and has had 10 wins in three of the last four years, matching the total the team had in the 91 seasons before he took over.
Of course poaching from its own conference is not the only route Texas could take. The Longhorns have watched the SEC rise to prominence and clearly wanted to duplicate the success with Saban. Even though he is not counting BCS National Titles, James Franklin has proven to be a winner at Vanderbilt. The Commodores have three straight bowl appearances during his tenure and last year earned their first Top 25 finish in program history.
Although it has largely been agreed upon that Texas will not look outside coaches with BCS-level experience, it may be well served to check out the talent in the Mid-American Conference. Over the last 15 years the league has been a launching point for some of the nation's best. The list includes Brady Hoke (Ball State), Urban Meyer (Bowling Green), Gary Pinkel (Toledo) and Brian Kelly (Central Michigan). The best candidates of the current crop would include Rod Carey (Northern Illinois) and Pete Lembo (Ball State).
However this lineup of candidates doesn't even scratch the surface. There are hosts of other current and former college coaches that could get a call, most notably Charlie Strong at Louisville. Even some current NFL coaches like Jim Harbaugh and Chip Kelly have been rumored to be on the wish list for the Longhorns.
Whoever is selected will take over arguably the best job in the FBS ranks. The new hire better be ready to take on the crippling pressure that comes with such an opportunity.