Fulmer versus Brown: The First Decade

May 20, 2008

Mack Brown has completed his first decade at Texas, and some Texas fans are wondering if he is on the hot seat. Brown has won a national title, but the perception of some is that he can’t win The Big One without Vince Young. He also has struggled against his rival Oklahoma, something that has never made Longhorns happy. To make matters worse, he has lost his last two against Texas A&M.

The situation reminded me most of Tennessee in the 1990s under Phillip Fulmer. He had a national title but ended up getting overshadowed by division rival Florida in the decade. I decided to go back and compare Fulmer’s first ten seasons with Brown’s ten years at Texas.

For the purpose of evening things out, I included Fulmer’s four games as coach in 1992 after Johnny Majors got fired to make up for the extra games Brown got thanks to 12-game seasons. The AP Top 10 refers to teams that finished the year in the top 10. For Fulmer, “Rival” means Florida; for Brown, “Rival” means Oklahoma.

Fulmer vs. Brown, First Decade
Fulmer Brown
Record 103-25 103-25
National Titles 1 1
Conference Titles 2 1
Division Titles 3 2
vs. AP Top 10 7-14 (.333) 4-15 (.211)
vs. Rival 2-8 (.200) 4-6 (.400)
Heisman Finalists 1 (Manning) 1 (V. Young)

Those two slates are remarkably close. Fulmer did better against the top 10, but Brown did better against his rival school. Brown’s first win against OU did come before Bob Stoops got there, so Mack has gone 3-6 (.333) against his foil.

There have been some key differences: Brown so far has mostly avoided the rash of off-the-field incidents that have plagued Fulmer, while Fulmer won his national title without his Heisman runner up. Brown had more 10-win seasons, but three of them were 10-3 seasons that would have been 9-3 years without the 12th game against a cupcake.

It’s impossible to say where Texas will go in Brown’s second decade. Fulmer has won two more division titles so far in his second decade, but he did have an inexplicable 5-6 record in 2005. The Longhorn faithful point to 2009 as their next best chance to contend for a title, so we shall see.

I just find it funny that the best analogue for Brown’s tenure at UT just so happens to be the other UT: Tennessee.