Chip Brown's original report on Orangebloods, cited "two high-level sources" stating that Mack Brown will step down from the head coaching job, likely making an announcement by the end of the week. That story touched off a firestorm of media attention Tuesday, with Mack Brown himself weighing in.
In a text to Horns247, Brown responded by stating "I'm in Florida recruiting. If I had decided to step down I sure wouldn't be killing myself down here. I have not decided to step down."
New Texas athletics director Steve Patterson also responded to the story, stating that "we continue to discuss the future of Texas football. Mack Brown has not resigned. And, no decisions have been made."
LonghornDigest.com talked to multiple Texas assistants who said they were blindsided by the report, which came at a particularly bad time given that they were out on the road recruiting, and therefore had to spend some of their time addressing the story with recruits, all while they hadn't heard word one way or the other on Brown's decision.
It wasn't that they didn't think that Brown might decide to step down. Instead, it was that the manner of question changed. No longer was Brown's future a rumor on a horizon. Now, they were going into visits where recruits, parents and coaches already felt strongly that Brown was gone.
"That [story] sure didn't make our jobs any easier," one assistant said.
Another noted that, if Brown wanted to step down, he deserved better than to have it aired in that manner.
Several in the athletics department were also taken aback. Again, not that Brown would resign his coaching position, but that they didn't feel the proper conversations had happened to put that wheel into motion just yet. Patterson and Brown talked for about three hours on Sunday, according to the Dallas Morning News, with one Morning News source calling the meeting productive.
"I'm not saying that it can't happen," one athletics department source told LonghornDigest.com earlier in the day. "I just didn't think we were at that place just yet. I didn't think, and I still don't know that [Brown] had had the big, definitive conversation."
"But I guess that's out there now," the source continued.
With Tuesday's developments, another athletics department source said they expected Brown's tenure at Texas to be decided "very soon." Asked which way they saw it going, they responded that it could probably only go one way at this point, and that was with Brown stepping down from the job.
Wednesday was supposed to be a big recruiting day for the Longhorns. Just a day after catching four-star running back Dalvin Cook, a soft verbal commitment to Florida, Brown is slated to have his in-home visit with Tampa (Fla.) Plant linebacker Andrew Beck. Beck is slated to enroll early at Texas. Meanwhile, Texas assistants Darrell Wyatt and Duane Akina are slated to have their in-home with top Texas safety and five-star prospect Jamal Adams, arguably the No. 1 target left on the Longhorns' board.
Now, they'll perform all of that under the shroud of Tuesday's reports. To say that those reports have affected recruiting would be an understatement. Just this week, Texas offered two defensive ends from New Mexico Military Institute, Edmond Boateng and Terry Ayeni. Both were slated to visit the Longhorns this weekend for the banquet, and could have provided Texas with some key pieces as the Longhorns look to replace Jackson Jeffcoat and potentially early-entry candidate Cedric Reed at defensive end. Instead, both players will now not make the trip, with Boateng traveling to Arizona State instead.
But the key date, for everyone, would appear to be Thursday. Not only is there a Texas Board of Regents meeting on Thursday, but there's also a scheduled press conference at The Club at Sonterra in San Antonio to introduce both Brown and Oregon coach Mark Helfrich as their media availability before the Valero Alamo Bowl, set to be played later this month.
The regents meeting has its own significance. No, Brown's job isn't on the docket, but Brown supporter and Texas president Bill Powers's job is up for discussion. While it would be surprising for anything to happen to Powers, it reads as a power play of sorts.
Not that any of that would seem to matter at this point. Most expected Brown to step down after the season, and after Tuesday's media scramble, and the various anonymous quotes spilling out of the athletics department, it may be too much to put the evil back in Pandora's Box, even if Brown should want to return. The unfortunate thing for Brown's image is that now, even if he does elect to retire or resign, he most certainly won't be able to do so in a manner that appears he's doing so by choice.
With the team banquet on Friday, an annual celebration of the team's successes, a timeline would appear to be in place for Brown to make his announcement within the next 24-48 hours and have the banquet serve not only as a fête for the team, but also for Brown's contributions to the program after 16 years and 158 victories, an average of nearly 10 wins per season, and a BCS National Championship.
At this point, it's too messy to suggest that everything could be wrapped up in a nice little bow, but that may be the best way to ensure that the transition process and the coaching search goes as smoothly as possible.
As for coaching targets, it might be a bit early for that, as the people at the top, including Powers, haven't had those discussions, per sources. Nick Saban will almost certainly be at the top of the list, and one candidate that I've heard bandied about by multiple boosters — and ironically one not on a ton of media members' hot lists — is Florida State's Jimbo Fisher.
Could Saban be the man for the job? Sure, though privately, multiple Big 12 coaches wondered Tuesday whether Saban would be the right fit for the job. The Texas job presents its own brand of challenges with an active — some would say overactive — alumni base and the challenges presented by the Longhorn Network.
"Saban seems to run his programs like a dictatorship, with total autonomy," one coach said. "I just don't know how easy it would be for him to have that at Texas."
Whatever happens, expect this thing to resolve itself quickly, likely within the next few days.