North Carolina and Mack Brown have reportedly agreed to terms on a deal that would bring the hall of fame coach back to for a second stint with the Tar Heels. 247Sports affiliate Inside Carolina is reporting that an announcement is expected Tuesday with Brown already beginning to assemble his coaching staff. The News & Observer has confirmed this report.
Brown won 69 games during his run as North Carolina coach from 1988-97, good for second in program history. After back-to-back top-10 finishes from 1996-97, Brown left to become coach at Texas. There he led the Longhorns to 158 wins and a national championship during a 16-year run that included nine straight 10-win seasons.
Efforts by CBS Sports to reach Brown and athletic director Bubba Cunningham this morning were unsuccessful.
North Carolina fired Larry Fedora on Sunday morning after a 2-9 record this season. Fedora had a 45-43 mark across seven seasons with the Tar Heels, a tenure that was highlighted by an 11-win season and ACC Coastal championship in 2015 and the rewriting of nearly every offensive record in program history. But after just five wins in the last two seasons, Cunningham moved quickly to “take the football program in a new direction.”
That “new direction,” we know now, is a return to the past.
Though reported candidates for the job included coveted assistant coaches on the rise like Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott and successful Group of Five coaches like North Texas’ Seth Littrell (an offensive coordinator under Fedora prior to taking his current post), the speed of the coaching search suggests that Brown’s willingness to return to the sideline was never in question. Fedora’s fate may have been determined prior to Saturday’s regular season finale against NC State, thanks in part to Cunningham and North Carolina having the next move already lined up.
So what are the takeaways from this big move by UNC? Let’s take a look.
1. It’s a Les Miles-like hire: Brown is the second hire of the cycle that brings a former national championship-winning coach in his 60s back to the sideline. Brown, 67, is two years older than new Kansas coach Les Miles but nonetheless going to be tasked with the same kind of challenge. Brown will be asked to deliver success on the field but also to establish (or in some cases reestablish) relationships that can help generate energy and resources that can improve the football program.
2. There may be an interesting twist: Before Inside Carolina’s report of a done deal, Austin American-Statesman columnist Kirk Bohls reported the possibility of an interesting twist, where former Auburn coach Gene Chizik (who was defensive coordinator for Fedora for two years before returning to broadcasting) could join Brown, as a defensive coordinator and potential coach in waiting.
3. Brown will battle a familiar face in Game 1: The first game of the season for Brown’s second tenure with North Carolina is going to be packed with intrigue. Brown not only will draw the attention for his return to college football but the Tar Heels have their opener scheduled against South Carolina in the Belk Kickoff Classic in Charlotte. That will pit Brown against Will Muschamp for the first time since the two were coaches together at Texas. Muschamp, the defensive coordinator and coach-in-waiting under Brown, left Texas before Brown retired to take the top job at Florida.