They were both born in 1951. Mack Brown, the soon-to-be former head coach at the University of Texas, is three months older than Nick Saban, the head coach at the University of Alabama.
As head coaches at their respective schools, they both have multiple appearances in the BCS National Championship game. Saban has the better overall record in the BCS title game, as he is 4-0 (3-0 with Alabama, 1-0 with LSU), while Brown is 1-1.
Saban won the only encounter that pitted them directly against each other, in the BCS title game for the 2009-10 season.
In that 2009 season championship game (it came in January of 2010), Alabama defeated Texas, 37-21. Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram rushed for more than 100 yards and two touchdowns to help the Crimson Tide secure a title. But that contest is most remembered as the game that Colt McCoy went down early on with a freak injury to his shoulder, and didn’t return.
McCoy had played every game of his four year career as a starter (53 games) and took many vicious hits without having to come out of a game. This particular hit jarred him at the most unfortunate of moments. Without McCoy, Texas didn’t really stand a chance to win, although they did make a comeback late to make the game closer.
If McCoy hadn’t gotten hurt and had led the Longhorns to victory, it would have taken one national championship away from Saban and would have given Brown one more, thus closing the gap between them considerably.
These guys are competitors. They are fiery, heated competitors who want to be known as the best in their field. Right now, Brown can’t say that, while Saban can. Saban has earned the title of “best in the business,” just as Brown earned it and then lost it a few years back.
What’s the edge that Saban has on Brown? It’s all about recruiting, or, in other words, it’s all about the hair.
The recent “60 Minutes” piece on Saban made it pretty clear that he is a marketing machine and he’s in this to become legendary, even more legendary than Bear Bryant. He wants to dominate and he believes his feisty, focused, football personality along with his youthful appearance is what attracts the best recruits.
For a recruit, going to Alabama is like having “Benjamins” for pupils. The next step is the NFL.
One day after the 62-year-old, Saban, signed a multi-year/multi-million dollar extension, 62-year-old Brown called it quits.
Brown is resigning from Texas and possibly retiring now and won’t have to compete against Saban, his recruiting or hairstyle, any longer.
Mack Brown stewed hard over all the stuff he’d gone through this season. He wanted to fight back and show he could build a title contender all over again.
But, it’s almost impossible to do it all over again in sports once the magic is gone. Sports are often about momentum, fluidity, staying current, topical and progressive.
The lesson to be learned here for the pretentious and ego-driven coach is that Brown needed to get rid of the gray years ago. Saban figured that out himself.
Saban paints his hair and couldn’t imagine looking gray and old. Brown stayed true to himself and never tried to be someone he wasn’t. In the messed up world of college football, it seems perfectly normal that Saban will be around at his age to keep pressing the record books further and that Brown, at the same age, will be at home doing some gardening.
Howard Alperin is Managing Editor of AmericanizeSoccer.com