Mack Brown started his college coaching career in 1973, the year Mark Helfrich was born. Brown arrived at Texas — his latest of 11 coaching gigs — in 1998, the year Helfrich began coaching. On Dec. 30, Brown and Helfrich will face off in the Alamo Bowl. For Helfrich, this will be his first career bowl game as a head coach. For Brown, it might be his last.
In many ways, the Oregon and Texas football programs have about as much in common as their current head coaches. Since Texas lost to Alabama in the 2010 national championship game, the Longhorns haven’t won more than eight regular games per season. The Ducks ascended into college football’s upper class during that time, earning BCS bowl bids so frequently (four straight from 2009-12) that this season’s 10-2 record looks pedestrian to many Oregon fans.
“It says a lot when a team goes 10-2 and it’s kind of disappointing,” Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota said. “That says a lot about where we’ve come as a program and where we want to be.”
For the first 105 years of Oregon football, the Ducks never reached double digits in the win column. Then, in 2000, Oregon reached that milestone with a 35-30 win over Texas in the Holiday Bowl.
That season might’ve marked the beginning of the Oregon football renaissance. Brown and Texas, on the other hand, were simply experiencing another successful season and gearing up for one of the most prosperous runs in the program’s history.
Brown took over for John Mackovic in 1998 and set Texas’ floor at nine wins. Literally. Until 2010, the Longhorns never finished worse than 9-5 under Brown. From 2001-2009, they never won less than 10 games and won a national title in 2005. The run turned Brown into a legend in Austin, Texas.
“Our guys will be very excited to take on an iconic program and an iconic coach in Coach Brown,” Helfrich said.
But Helfrich and the Ducks won’t be facing the same program and coach. Texas has only reached nine wins once (last season) since 2009 and needed an Alamo Bowl win to do so. After this season, many expect Brown to step down.
A win in the Alamo Bowl likely won’t satisfy the Longhorns fan base, as Texas’ current 8-4 record is a far cry from its dominance in the 2000s.
Many Oregon fans will feel the same way regardless of the Alamo outcome, but if the Ducks win, it will be their fourth-straight season with 11 wins or more. Not even Brown’s Longhorns have accomplished that feat.
“Maybe some people are disappointed but I don’t think anyone’s disappointed,” Oregon center Hroniss Grasu said. “It’s an honor to play in a bowl game against Texas and getting a bowl win in the Alamo Bowl would be a big boost in the offseason getting ready for next season.”
Brown also mentioned the importance of winning a bowl game.
“You need to win your last game, regardless of where you’re coaching,” Brown said.
While Brown was referring to the last game of any season, the 2013 Alamo Bowl will likely be his last game.
Helfrich, meanwhile, is preparing for what could be the first of many bowl games during his tenure at Oregon. Who knows? Maybe Brown will be on his couch this next decade watching Helfrich lead the Ducks on a 15-year run of excellence nearly identical to the Brown-led Longhorns.
Follow Victor Flores on Twitter @vflores415