Mack Brown

Network conference calls are a lot like press conference in sports.  Instead of coaches or players producing cliches about “taking it one day at a time” or “giving 110% percent” it’s television personalities.  Everyone is “excited” for whatever broadcast season is upcoming and the lineup always looks “stronger” than ever.  The fact that many of them were former coaches or players probably contributes to this phenomenon.

So it’s rare when something headline-worthy leaps out from a conference call transcript.  That’s exactly what happened from ESPN’s college football call yesterday when new hire and former Texas Longhorns coach Mack Brown said this…

Q.) In that vein, do you have any thoughts why what you’ve seen from Charlie Strong’s rebuilding efforts in Texas, and the large number of players suspensions and dismissals that have taken place this summer? 

Brown: Number one, Charlie is a great coach and has a tremendous background. He and I made an agreement early, and I really suggested it, that I not talk about Texas and let him be the head coach and let him get started because obviously I know too much about that program. If you watch programs in general when a new coach comes in there is usually a huge turnover. Charlie hasn’t had that much. 

I’m proud of those kids. They’re tough kids. They went through things last year that most kids couldn’t put up with and hung in there after we screwed up the Brigham Young game.  As coaches, we didn’t do a good job. So I was really proud of them. Charlie will do a great job and Texas will be good moving forward.

Former Texas head coach Mack Brown made an “agreement” with current Texas head coach Charlie Strong that he wouldn’t talk about Texas?

Isn’t that what Mack Brown is paid by ESPN to do?

How does Brown expect to do his job and not talk about his former team?  Will he just magically disappear from set during Texas highlights?  Whenever Charlie Strong’s name comes up will he pretend he can’t speak English?  It’s a bizarre admission to make before the season begins and puts ESPN in a difficult spot.  Now they’re going to have to answer to whether or not Brown can fairly cover the Longhorns or whether he will have to recuse himself.

Here Brown was asked to analyze Texas, to do his job, and he flatly refused to do it.  Texas has had a rough offseason with players suspended and two of Brown’s former players were charged with sexual assault.  In completely avoiding that situation, Brown is not being accountable to anyone.  There are scores of former analysts and players who can freely talk about their former employers, so why can’t Brown do the same?  If this agreement actually impacts Brown’s work during the season it’ll be a real hinderance to his legitimacy as a television analyst.

Further complicating the matter is ESPN’s business relationship with Brown, Strong, and Texas athletics through the Longhorn Network.  Will ESPN give all these parties a special set of rules since they are all current or former partners?  Along with ESPN’s arrangement with the SEC, there’s a lot of journalistic questions here that ESPN needs to answer or else it’ll only increase the skepticism towards the honesty of their college football coverage.

UPDATE: Here’s a response from ESPN PR: