King Midas so they say, was a mythical lord who turned everything he touched into gold. Mack Brown would be the first to tell you it isn't that easy, but he and his staff would like to make a run at it all the same.
When his 2001 Longhorns team achieved a regular season ranking of No. 5 in the country, Brown joined a small, elite group of coaches who have managed such success at two different programs. His North Carolina team in 1997 finished at No. 4 nationally, and four years later, he has UT in the exclusive neighborhood of the top five.
Two seasons ago, when the Longhorns were playing Nebraska in the Big 12 Championship game, Brown made it clear that the goal for his team was to get Texas back to where it was a perennial top-10 finisher.
"It's nice to visit that neighborhood," Brown said after his team had moved to No. 7 nationally before a loss at Texas A&M following the bonfire tragedy. "but now we want to buy a house there."
For a fellow whose wife is a land developer, it is clear he understands the art of developing in his own business.
Brown is the only Texas coach besides the legendary Dana X. Bible to achieve such success. Bible produced outstanding teams at Texas A&M and Nebraska before being hired to rebuild the Texas program in 1937. Darrell Royal, who is the winningest coach in Texas history, didn't really stand still in one place long enough to build a big winning program. He spent two years at Mississippi State and one at Washington before joining Texas as one of the youngest head coaches in America in 1957.
The remarkable thing about Brown's success is that it has come in competition with National Champion contenders. His Tar Heels of North Carolina and his Longhorns of Texas have finished as league or division runners-up to teams that contended for the National Championship four of the last five years.
It is one thing to build a program and sustain it at one school, but to leave that school and start all over again is even a larger challenge.
From the beginning at Texas, however, Brown made it clear that was his goal. When he met with the Longhorns team the night he was hired, his message was clear. He wasn't into rebuilding and he wanted to win with that 1998 team. And he did. With Ricky Williams winning the Heisman Trophy, the Longhorns went on to finish as Southwestern Bell Cotton Bowl Champions.
In 1999, Texas won the Big 12 South Division but lost the conference championship game to Nebraska. In 2000, the Longhorns' only league loss was to eventual National Champion Oklahoma.
At North Carolina, Brown's last two Tar Heels teams missed a chance to win the Atlantic Coast Conference and play for the National Championship only because they lost to Florida State, which played for the national title.
In the last 50 years of college football, Brown's accomplishment of building two different national powers is almost unparalleled. Paul "Bear" Bryant once had Texas A&M in the top five in the mid-1950s and he went on to win big at Alabama. Lou Holtz had national caliber success at Arkansas and won a National Championship at Notre Dame. Dennis Erickson had a national contender at Miami, and last year, he put Oregon State in the top 10.
The true test, of course, will come in the ability to sustain success. Royal's program at Texas, which is considered the benchmark of excellence in this part of the country, enjoyed a 20-year run. In the 10 years from 1961 through 1970, his Longhorns won three National Championships and finished in the top five seven times. That's the kind of foundation Brown is trying to build.
The blocks of that base are pretty simple. Brown began with an excellent, experienced staff and it recruited good players. Brown also united Texas in support of what he was trying to do - win championships with nice kids who graduate
Arguably, the Big 12 is now America's toughest football conference, so it didn't get any easier for the man who used to have to battle Bobby Bowden and Florida State every year for a league title. However, everything is big in Texas, particularly the dreams and especially the expectations in the neighborhood.