Brown met with Akina on January 2 to pour over a list of approximately 50 candidates. The two met all day and narrowed the choices to 15 and, eventually, to five. Mac Duff was atop the list and the only candidate interviewed, Brown insists.
"We look at what the positives, and the concerns, would be for each (candidate)," Brown said, "and the one thing that we both felt was really important was continuity. We wanted to make sure that we could be fair to the kids in looking at terminology and philosophy so we can move forward in a similar direction that we have been on the last few years. As we started discussing who would fit the staff, who would be the ultimate 'team guy' for us, who would bring us experience in big games, the first name that came to Duane's mind was Larry Mac Duff."
Brown knew that Akina and Mac Duff shared the sideline at Arizona and Hawaii and, more important, were of the same ilk philosophically. As such, Brown described defense in terms of "tweaking" rather than a makeover.
"It depends on how the personnel comes come along because Duane has got some young ones in the secondary," Brown said. "We may be more aggressive and blitz a little more, but that depends on how we play and who are. We know we can be better on defense in some areas than we've been. But we will not change a lot of our terminology, which helps."
Brown reports that one of the first things Akina said after Gene Chizik accepted the Iowa State head coaching job on November 27 was, in essence: "I want you to hire the best coach for the staff, even if that means he's the coordinator. I don't care about titles. All I want to do is be a team player and for us to win."
Mac Duff first met his new boss when Brown invited him to speak at spring clinic when Brown coached at North Carolina (1988-97). It was a positive, yet such a brief encounter, that it was primarily Akina's influence that prompted Brown to give Mac Duff the first shot at the coaching vacancy. After receiving permission from the 49ers organization to approach Mac Duff, Brown made the call on January 6. Mac Duff flew to Austin the next day, spent the night, and then accepted the job. Texas men's athletic officials officially announced Mac Duff's hire late January 7.
Brown said he deferred the search for a new coordinator until after the New Year because he placed a premium on ending the two-game skid that knocked Texas out of BCS title contention last November. As such, Brown wanted his staff and players to focus exclusively on beating Iowa in the Alamo Bowl and finishing with at least 10 wins for the sixth consecutive season.
"We were disappointed in our finish," Brown said. "We all felt 100 percent that the most important thing for us to do was win the bowl game. We decided it was best for us not to discuss anything with anybody. There were people that called, and wrote, and applied for the job. I did not respond to any of them. I did not talk to anybody and we promised the players that that's the way we would handle it. (Note: staff members returned calls, as a courtesy, to interested parties who began lobbying for the job after former Co-Defensive Coordinator Gene Chizik became Iowa State's head coach on November 27. Mac Duff, however, was not among those who initiated contact with Texas).
The decision to give Akina the play-calling assignment on game-day was not made until after Mac Duff accepted the job, Brown said.
"Duane could have been defensive coordinator at a number of Division-I schools," Brown noted. "He's turned down three pro jobs in the last three years."
Akina was offered the Defensive Coordinator position at UCLA at the end of the 2002 season. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Baltimore Ravens and Houston Texans also expressed interest in Akina as a positions coach.
"The reason I decided that Duane should call the defense is because I think he's really, really good at it," Brown said. "We made the decision the day we found Larry because we had to find the right fit. With Larry, there's so much continuity here. These two guys have so much similarity with their philosophies it's going to be really exciting to watch them work together."
Whereas Brown has refuted the notion that Texas' 26-24 Alamo Bowl win was a de facto audition for Akina, he noted, "Given that Duane had not called defenses in 10 years, I felt that he had a great knack at halftime (of the Alamo Bowl) for pulling things together and nearly shutting (Iowa) down in the second half."
Texas now enters the first full week of its off-season strength-and-conditioning program with Mac Duff functioning as the staff liaison for the defense. Spring training is slated to begin February 27.