BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Mack Brown's Texas teams were winning just about every game, but couldn't snare a national title, beat rival Oklahoma or satisfy hard-to-please Longhorns fans.
So he called big brother Watson and got a healthy dose of perspective.
"We won 11 games and they're still mad," Mack grumbled.
"He said, 'Just grow up and quit listening to it. You're doing a great job and your program's in great shape, and if you put up with it long enough, maybe you'll win a national championship,' " Mack recalled.
Yep, it's good to have a big brother in the business. Watson is head coach at UAB, where fans dream of back-to-back 11-2 seasons
like Texas had in 2001 and '02 to prompt Mack's venting phone call.
Texas captured that elusive national title last season, proving
big brother right and finally earning Mack the (Darrell) Royal
The two Brown brothers are confronted with vastly disparate
situations and challenges, but remain as close as, well, brothers.
Mack's program is draped in tradition with All-Americans galore
and a Texas-sized presence in the NFL. The Blazers hardly had a
tradition before Watson presided over their rise to Division I-A a
decade ago. Now they have one bowl appearance, no first-team AP
All-Americans and four NFL draft picks.
The Longhorns draw 40,000-plus fans to spring games. The Blazers
average about half that in the regular season at aging, off-campus
Differences aside, the coaching siblings give each other a
trusted confidante in an ultra-competitive business, checking in
almost daily during the season for anywhere "from 20 seconds to an
hour," Watson said.
"Of course, we talk about a lot of things, but during the
season it's a whole lot of football," he said.
"I'm just so fortunate to have Watson with that trust, that
love we grew up with, who will call back in two minutes, and I can
ask a very direct and honest question and get a very direct and
honest answer," Mack said.
They'll have plenty to talk about in September. The Blazers open their season at Oklahoma.
Watson and Mack always played on the same teams from Little League on. Watson was the shortstop, Mack the second baseman. Watson was the point guard, Mack the shooting guard. Watson was the quarterback, Mack the running back -- at both their Tennessee high school and at Vanderbilt.
They grew up in a coaching family, riding the team bus with their grandfather, Eddie "Jelly" Watson, a successful Tennessee
high school coach, and scampering around the sidelines at 3 or 4
Mack always wanted to coach. Watson considered a pro baseball
career before opting to play football at Vandy.
They are definitely equal in the eyes of at least two people: their mother, Katherine, and brother, Mel, who is in the insurance
business in Tennessee.
Katherine Brown goes to their games when she can and otherwise
catches them on TV. "I never miss one, one way or another," she
She is definitely a proud football mother.
"It's wonderful. You're just so proud of them and you expect
great things from them everyday and they usually come through for
mom," Katherine Brown said. "It's been a very fun life. It's all
I've ever known."
The two brothers vowed never to schedule each other's teams
after two awkward, difficult meetings when Mack was coach at Tulane
and Watson at Vandy. (Tulane won both). Instead, they prefer to
remain supporters, not foes.
Mack likely pays more attention to UAB's scores on fall
Saturdays than rivals Oklahoma and Texas A&M.
"[Media relations director] Bill Little always gets me Watson's score immediately," Mack said. "Sometimes he slips it down to the
sidelines, especially if it's good."
The 56-year-old Watson has led UAB to the 2005 Hawaii Bowl and
Conference USA's third-best record over the last six years. It
doesn't sound like much compared to his little brother, but the UAB program started at nonscholarship Division III in 1991 and plays in
the immense shadows of in-state powers Auburn and Alabama.
Both Watson and Mack display considerable brotherly love in
touting each other's accomplishments. Watson marvels at his
brother's handling of success and his ability to cope with the
attention bestowed on Texas' coach.
"He is such a people person. It's one of his best traits,"
Watson said. "But he's not on an ego trip. Somebody called me in
the spring and said, 'How's your brother.'
"I said, 'I haven't seen one bit of difference.' "