Mack on criticism of Simms: 'That's not fair'

<B>Mack Brown</B> ended several days of silence on the UT quarterback situation Friday by talking to the media about his decision, announced Tuesday, to start <B>Major Applewhite</B> instead of <B>Chris Simms</B> in the Holiday Bowl.

Following is a transcript of that interview session:

Would you elaborate on your decision to go with Major Applewhite, particularly at this time? In the past you have waited until the week of practice and everything . . .

MB: My job is three-fold. Do what's best for this great institution, do what's best for the kids, and do what's best for the team. A lot of you folks (the media) asked after the game if we were going to change who we were going to start. So we met with the kids and Greg (Davis) and I felt that it would be better to go ahead and make the decision instead of having a lot of speculation over the decision so it would be clear for the kids when we started back to practice on Thursday. It wouldn't be a decision at game time–we tried that around here and it didn't work–it wouldn't be something that people beat up both kids over for a week, and therefore choose sides. After the Oklahoma game last year I felt in evaluation that there was too much talk about the quarterback position, too much talk about freshmen receivers, too much talk about two defensive tackles and we were supposed to talk about team. At that time, I made a decision, after being here for two and a half years, that I was not going to talk about individuals near as much as I had the first two years, because the team is more important that any individual. And we've been a much better team since we did that. So to me, I was asked a question, "which one's going to start?" I thought it was in the interest of both kids, and our team, to go ahead and announce who was going to start. We didn't have a press conference scheduled after the game. Everybody's scattered. This is probably the busiest week of the year that we'll have because we have recruiting this weekend, we are a week behind on our recruiting because of the game last week. That was the first week coaches could go out and see kids in their homes, and we were fortunate to be getting ready to play Colorado. Next week is even busier, because we need to be in New York for the College Football Hall of Fame Dinner on Tuesday and then fly to San Diego for a press conference and Holiday Bowl director's dinner on Wednesday. We get back here Thursday in time for practice and have our football banquet Friday with a bunch of recruits in. In my estimation, calling some press conference to announce who is going to play a position is not something that you do. I didn't do it at tailback, I didn't do it at tailback before. The reason Major is going to play in this game is that he had momentum at the end of the last game, and I think he gives us the momentum going into the Washington game. Chris has had a great year. He's done a tremendous job. It probably would have been best for next year just to let Chris go ahead and play in the game. But we need to beat Washington. We want to win 11 games. That is really important. Chris struggled in the first half of the game the other day. I'm sure that's my fault, because I'm responsible for everything we do. Maybe the kids were too uptight. I have never seen a group of kids play that hard in my entire life. When we got back, the kids were crushed. I'm not going to use names, but I walked down in the dressing room and saw kids crying two straight days, days after the game. They were all blaming themselves. I figured out right quick I'd better quit feeling sorry for myself and help the kids, because that's my job. A lot of people wanted to jump on Chris. That's not fair. He's had a great year. Tiger Woods has hit some balls in the water. He may be the best golfer there's ever been. He's had some bad days. Sometimes it doesn't work very good for you, and that's why we made the change during the ball game. We've got to help Chris get his confidence back for next year, and he may have to play in this game. Joey Harrington (Oregon) threw five interceptions against Oregon State last year before we played them in the bowl game. He looked great against us. I saw Peyton Manning throw four against us. That happens at that position. I wish it hadn't happened.

Do you have any plans to play Chris in the game?

MB: We are just going to start like we have and try to win the game. It is not about individuals. It is about the team. It's about winning and taking care of the kids. I make all of the personnel decisions at this football program. Assistants don't make 'em. I make them all. I ask their opinion, and then I make them. So anything that goes wrong at this school is my fault. I can't blame one assistant for anything that happens here. When people want me to go public and tell them why I make a personnel decisions, if I explain that, what I have to do is talk badly about one of the two. I am not going to beat up a kid. I take care of our kids, I have done it my entire career. I want people to take care of my children like we take care of these players. This is not pro football. I don't appreciate people being negative about a kid on this football program, because they are 20 year old kids. And I'm gonna take up for them. I make a whole lot of money and I am the head coach at Texas, and anybody that should be mad about anything should be mad at me. And I am a big boy and I can handle it.

Given that Chris was devastated after the game, did you have any thought that you might need to start him to prop him back up for next year?

MB: What you do is try to look at everything. I have had two long talks with Chris. Chris is tough. He's tough as nails. He's disappointed that the first half didn't go well. They (the players) are all studying for finals, because finals are really difficult during bowl preparations, especially when you play in a bowl that is not January 1. The kids really need to take this week to prepare for finals. I felt like for all of the kids who were so crushed the best thing for them to do was go be kids, go be students, go study, go get away from football. If somebody said something that bothered you, don't read it, don't listen to it. In Chris' situation, he'll be fine. He is going to have a great year next year and he may have to play in this ball game to help us win. He's disappointed but he has been around the game enough to know it happens. Major really helped him after the game, because he said "hey, it's happened to me." After the Kansas State game two years ago they were calling him "Apple Turnover" and "Major Disaster." It was really, really classy for Major to stand by Chris and say "it's part of the deal here." You better be tough if you are the head coach here, and you'd better be tough if you are the offensive coordinator here and you'd better be tough if you are the quarterback here, because they are the three most talked about positions in football at this school. But the fact is, we are a field goal away from playing for the national championship, and that's a whole lot better than it was at 4-7 (when we came). We had a great year and a tough game. In fact, we had two tough games, and we were fighting in the fourth quarter. Kids didn't lay down, they were fighting their guts out. We're disappointed we didn't finish it like we needed to in order to play for the national championship, but it is the closest we've been since 1983. I'm excited about the kids, I'm excited about where we are, and we need to move on. One of the jobs I have for our kids and coaches is to get through a loss as fast as we can, evaluate it and start working on the next thing. And that is the reason I did what I did.

Have you met with the team?

MB: We met with them three times. I wouldn't ever announce anything like this without telling the team first. We looked at the film, and had meetings about the bowl and our football banquet.

Did you make the announcement because of what happened last year in the Chris-Major debate?

MB: It didn't work last year. We didn't need surveys to decide who was going to play. That's my job, and I didn't want the kids getting battered. If somebody's mad, they need to be mad at me for the decisions I make. I make them based on 27 years of coaching and I make them based on what I feel in my heart and what I see. And to protect the kids, and sometimes our assistant coaches, I'm not going to discuss all of them publicly. That's who I am. So people do discuss it. I don't. And I'm not going to change. I am not going to beat up a kid to make it look better to me.

Do you in any way regret not playing Major more?

MB: That goes back to hypothetical. I've done what I've done, and I always move forward, and that's what I am doing. I think the season's been great. We were 10-1 and in the BCS, and third in the BCS two weeks ago. We're seventh now, and 10th in the country and have a chance to be in the top 10 for the first time 18 years. I told our kids "you don't apologize for anything to anybody. You make sure you understand you've had a great year and a tough game." And I was so proud of them. I don't know any other team I've ever had that could be down 19 points twice and fought back and had a chance to win. And after watching the film, I really believe coach Royal's statement is true. These kids didn't get beat, they ran out of time. And that's something that will be with them for a long time. They are going to understand they didn't lay down and quit. My job–and it's a huge job–is to try to get them back for the bowl game. Because when you lose the championship game in this league it puts you in a tough spot. We didn't play well against Arkansas two years ago, and this time I'm trying to get our kids to take a deep breath, and have a little fun, because it's been a hard year. It's been a positive year, but it's been a hard year.

The coach also addressed the booing by the Texas fans in the second quarter of the Championship Game

MB: I heard them boo once, and I thought they were booing me. I've been booed my whole life. Nobody in their right mind without alcohol is going to boo a 20-year-old. Alcohol changes the way you think about some things. I've always felt like when someone boos at a ballgame, they're booing the coach. . . . Some of the people started drinking at their Winnebagos at lunch watching Miami-Virginia Tech. They drank their afternoon meal. By the time they got in the game, they heard Florida had gotten beat, so they were still drinking. And they sold beer at the stadium. A lot of the response that you get at a game like that when you've got beer at the stadium is a little different than we get at Royal-Memorial Stadium.

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