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Mack Brown returning to UNC as Head Football Coach

Reports of the 67-year-old’s return conclude the fastest coaching search in history.

University of Texas Football Coach Mack Brown Announces Resignation Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images

Well, that was quick.

After formally announcing the firing of Larry Fedora just before noon on Sunday, Inside Carolina and others are reporting that Mack Brown is the next head football coach at UNC.

Given Brown’s increased presence around campus in the past few months, and the speed at which a deal was put together, this feels more like a coup d’etat than a thought-out coaching search— but here we are.

Brown famously left North Carolina— where he won 69 games from 1988 to 1997, including 10-and-11 win seasons, respectively, in ‘96 and ‘97. He left for Texas after the 1997 regular season, at the time disgruntled with (hey this might sound familiar) fan support and questioning of the athletic department’s commitment to football.

Once in Austin, Brown guided a Texas machine for 16 years. He coached Ricky Williams’ Heisman campaign in his first year, won 9 games each of his first three seasons before nine CONSECUTIVE double-digit win seasons, of course highlighted by his 2005 national title. Skeptics will point to his finish— just 30-21 in his last four years— as a sign that the game has passed him by.

From an outside perspective, I understand the hire. People who write big checks were around for the glory years, it is a splash in the “name” category, and Brown’s recruiting in North Carolina was unprecedented during his time in Chapel Hill.

Cynically, however? I need a few questions answered, which will certainly come to light in the coming days:

  • He’ll be 68 when the Heels kick off against South Carolina next season. Is there a contingency plan or head-coach-in-waiting scenario?
  • If this is more of a Dabo Swinney/Herm Edwards “CEO” situation, can he hire an all-star coaching staff? Early, unemployed names with Brown connections include Gene Chizik for DC and Kliff Kingsbury for OC— that would be a hell of a start and ease some concerns. Tommy Thigpen returned to Chapel Hill this year and played under Brown, and will almost certainly be retained, and other Brown-era alums such as Dre Bly and Ronald Curry could cut their teeth as position coaches and ace recruiters.
  • Did Brown orchestrate all of this? Fedora thanked Brown for being a mentor at his introductory press conference in 2011. Reports indicated that Fedora asked Brown for advice about recruiting in-state recently, and then largely ignored it. As Carolina stumbled to 5-18 over the past two seasons, did Brown (and boosters) assemble a pitch to Bubba Cunningham that couldn’t be ignored?

Mack Brown (back) to UNC as head football coach, in 2018, is weird, intriguing, dumb, and fascinating all at once. As we get news on the staff he’s bringing with him, we’ll have a better idea on how to feel about it.