Mack Brown and the Curse of the Stolen Rose Bowl.

My resentment towards the Texas Longhorns didn’t begin in Texas when I lived there.  It wasn’t like that.  To be honest, before I moved to Los Angeles in 7th grade, I hadn’t even heard of USC or Southern Cal.  In fact, as recently as the USC vs Northwestern Rose Bowl, I even rooted against USC.  It takes a lot to admit that, but it is true.

My resentment of the Texas Longhorns didn’t begin when the Vince Young led squad tore out my Trojan heart at the end of our 2005 clash at the National Championship.  No, my resentment began one year earlier and USC was not even involved.

In 2004-05, Texas beat Michigan in the Rose Bowl while USC went on to smack around the Adrian Peterson-powered Oklahoma Sooners in the Orange Bowl to win the BCS Championship.  Michigan got to the Rose Bowl by winning the Big Ten.  Texas got there because Mack Brown cried to the media.  Mack Brown’s actions were the spark in my loathing.  And it had nothing to do with USC.

this is mrs. brown's favorite pose

It’s hard to compare matchups in football and how performances against one team can translate to performances against another team.  Oregon murdered USC this year.  USC beat Ohio State in Columbus.  Ohio State beat Oregon on a neutral field.  There is no transitive theory in football.  That said, let’s look at what was going on in late 2004…

With USC and Oklahoma set to due battle in the Orange Bowl and Michigan already in the Rose Bowl, there was an open spot in Pasadena.  Prior to the final BCS standings, Cal looked poised to secure the Rose Bowl bid.  After all, their one loss was a nail-biter to USC, the unanimous #1.  Texas had lost to Oklahoma, the unanimous #2.

Cal had a chance to run up the score in it’s final game against Southern Miss.  Despite a less-than-stellar performance, Cal had a chance to run the score up in the end, but did not.  This was in the era of Bob Stoops (even moreso than Mack Brown) running up ridiculous 70 point games to look good on paper (they sure didn’t look very good on the field in Miami).  Jeff Tedford told then-Cal QB Aaron Rodgers to take a knee.

Mack Brown saw the Rose Bowl bid leaning to Cal and he took it to the airwaves.  He took interviews.  He took television appearances.  He lobbied east coast voters who had never seen Cal or Texas play (but heard Austin has a lovely music scene).  He was what high school football coaches refer to as a “whiny bitch”.

you pay for them roses, mack?

Texas did not leap Cal in the human polls, but they closed the gap.  Brown swung votes.  He swung enough votes to snub Cal from the Rose Bowl by a narrow margin.  I remember this being hard to watch.  Don’t get me wrong.  I really do not like Cal.  I don’t like Jeff Tedford.  I think Cal is consistently overrated, but make no mistake that in 2004, they were not.  That was a good football team who did everything, but going undefeated.  If USC was the clear number one, and there was little doubt after they completely massacred Oklahoma, Cal’s one loss had to be a better loss than Texas’ to Oklahoma.  Right?

Cal had statistically dominated the Trojans all day and fell short on a 1st and goal series, culminating in a missed pass attempt on 4th and 9.  It was one of those great games.

Do I mean to say Texas didn’t deserve a bid to that Rose Bowl?  Not at all.  That Rose Bowl was a gem and it was Vince Young’s arrival on the big stage.  You see, my loathing of the Longhorns had nothing to do with the team, their really bad ass logo, their cool school colors, or their giant walking steak of a mascot.

My loathing of Texas is all about Mack Brown and him whining like a school girl that skinned her knees.

As much as I was sad to see USC lose to Texas the following year by squandering a 12 point lead late in the game, Texas earned it.  As much as it ticked me off to hear the NCAA admit the referees blew some important red zone calls in a game that was close enough that they mattered, I took nothing away from Texas.  Both teams were tremendous that night.  USC was a part of Texas’ greatness.  Without a worthy adversary, that win is just a championship.  That game was Clash of the Titans.

I remember sitting in the Rose Bowl with that 12 point lead thinking we were due for a slap in the face.  Something was going to go wrong.  I knew because just three months earlier I was in a Notre Dame section in South Bend watching the infamous “Bush Push” game.  To be there, to see it, you’d have understood.  We cheated death.  I snuck back to my car and drove a silent, shocked and stupefied late-night run back to Chicago staring at the other USC fans on the road giving each other “no way that just happened” looks.

After stealing a win in front of Touchdown Jesus, you just kind of knew you’d have to lose a heartbreaker.

I have been waiting for Texas’ heartbreaker since Mack Brown begged his way into that Rose Bowl.  I finally saw it last night.

I felt terrible for Colt McCoy, even though I  have never really liked the guy.  He is the all-time winningest college quarterback and deserved a chance to go for a title.  I think they probably win that game if he is not hurt.  But he was.  It was austere.

I found myself pulling for the rookie Gilbert.  I couldn’t believe I was rooting for Texas, especially with Bama’s QB being a diehard Dodger fan, but I was…

…Until I saw the look on Mack Brown’s face.  That was all I needed.  I was seeing the cosmos return to normality.  The football gods evened things out.  How fitting that Pete Carroll was there as an analyst to see it.  I hoped somewhere Jeff Tedford was watching.

Colt McCoy will be fine.  He will heal and make millions in the NFL.  He’ll even get over that game.  It wasn’t his fault.  It was just a surreal cosmic shuffle.

Mack had violated the adage of “letting your play on the field do the talking for you”.  Sure, that year Texas said a lot with their performance on the field.  It’s just that Mack knew it wasn’t enough.  He knew it and so he lobbied.  And then got his way.

Some six years later, he got what he had coming.

cue the hate mail.


Filed under Rants and Musings

27 responses to “Mack Brown and the Curse of the Stolen Rose Bowl.

  1. Drew


  2. CalBearRob

    Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  3. peter

    As a Cal fan, I couldn’t have described this any better. In fact, I was about to write an e-mail to a friend about my hatred for Mack Brown in reference to 2004 (and beyond), but I decided to Google “mack brown is a bitch cal 2004” and you were the top hit! Thanks for that.

  4. Mike

    A couple things…

    1. Texas actually lost votes in the human polls after that. It was the computer polls where they gained ground.

    2. Remember this game?

    That was Cal’s big chance to make a statement that they got hosed. They ended up making a statement that the system got it right. Texas had gone to Texas Tech earlier that season and beat them by 20 on their home field.

    Their beatdown of Cal was a lot worse than the score indicates, if you can imagine that. Aaron Rodgers scored a touchdown in the last minute of the game to make it appear “respectable”.

    The better team got the Rose Bowl bid. The inferior team went to the Holiday Bowl. I don’t see how that equates with getting hosed. Please explain.

    • Zack

      Clearly you went to Texas. What happened in the bowl games has nothing to do with who should have gone and even you, a Longhorn fan, knows it. Cal had a road loss to the #1 team, (exas had a neutral site loss to #2. Texas was great that year and obviously in 2005 (not so much right now where the Toilet Bowl would have been a big win for you. The thing is, if you get hosed, sometimes college kids crack. If you were clearly the better choice for a job and they promote the idiot in the next cubivle over, people sometimes need a while to get it together.

      Its pedantic to argue this when your team is so bad right now. We are busy enjoying sanctions and killing bears.

      Here are the facts:
      1. Texas was great that year.
      2. Cal, who I loath, deserved to be there.
      3. Texas was awful this year.
      4. Bears are a threat to national security.
      5. Mack Brown whined like a punk that year and if you are looking to change my mind please do ot after you’ve convinced the other 30 sportswirters who agree.

  5. Tim

    Zack, there is one important, and perhaps most important, aspect that has not been discussed. In the poll system, both with human and computer polls, late season games are more important than early season games. Cal lost to USC on Oct 16. Texas lost to Oklahoma on Oct 2. That is not to say it is right or fair, but that is how college football has always been. In addition, many coaches over the years used the media to sway voters. One point that you make is let your play on the field do your speaking. Well in Division I college football that does not always happen. You also say that you know when a team gets hosed. In that case, write an article about the 2008 Oklahoma/Texas/Texas Tech controversy.

    • Zack

      I would, but I don’t care about Oklahoma or Texas or Tech usually. That said, college football is a sport run by rats and played by warriors. I don’t subscribe to the point you make, but in a Voltaire sort of way I dig it and am glad you wrote it. Early or late wins, which I do see your point, have nothing to do with Mack Brown whining like a bitch. That’s kind of my point. VY and the Longhorns clearly were good enough to be in that game, it was just some Mack Brown bitch whining.

      Regardless, good point made and you are welcome in the bearhunting lodge anytime, friend.

  6. Tim

    And my other point is that coaches have done that forever. Barry Switzerland, Lou Holtz, Bobby Bowden, Steve Spurrier, heck every coach who ever coached in the SEC. The reason it got so much play is that this time there was so much focus due to the BCS and only a few votes could make a difference. I think it is safe to say that everyone thinks D1 college football is a perverted system. Therefore, Mack brown did what he had to do (within the rules) to help his team. Without a perverted system and the game truly decided on the field coaches would not need to publicize their teams. I think Tedford is the one who should be criticized.

  7. DRU

    your an idiot. Glad you went to Cali… We have enough fruitloops in Texas already.. College Station is the hub for people like you.

  8. Michael

    “Whined” like a “bitch?” You give me one line that came out of Mack Brown’s mouth that implies either of those things. You won’t be able to find one. You criticize him for publicly supporting his team? Ludicrous! You clearly have some other resentment for Texas and Mack Brown because no one in their right mind would criticize someone for advocating a BCS bowl bid for their 1-loss team. Give me a freakin break man. And you didn’t really like Colt McCoy? Uh…why? He’s one of the nicest, most polite, classiest athletes ever to play the game. What’s not to like? You, sir, are an unreasonable douche bag. The only whiny bitch I see in this article is you.

    • Zack Jerome

      who reads a post from over a year ago about an event from yearS ago and writes a paragraph? someone who knows mack brown’s whining was well documented where he went on a tirade about how hard the big 12 is (which is breaking up either soon or just around the corner) or how bad the pac 10 was (which let’s be honest, texas will end up joining) .

      look, it’s not that texas didn’t deserve to be in that rose bowl. it’s that cal, as much as I hate them, deserved to be there more.

  9. Bevo

    You are a moron. Cal might have an argument if they stepped up and beat Texas Tech, the team Texas beat by 20 that year in Lubbock, but they failed miserably while Texas won the first of the two most memorable Rose Bowls in history. You USC hacks need to get over the fact that Texas beat your “best team ever” that is now having to give up all their wins because you were running a semi-pro team there in LA. Texas had wins versus 4 ranked teams that year and the Big 12 was much higher ranked than the Pac 10 that year also. Cal had one win versus a ranked team. Your logic for why Cal deserved it so much could be argued to this day and in reality Texas would have been the ones screwed but all the Texas haters out there are the ones whining about Mack Brown. I have a suggestion, get over it and the results of the bowl games that year I thought shut everyone up about this topic but no idiots like you are still out there I guess.

    • Zack Jerome

      we’re ranked 5 in the AP under sanctions. what’s your excuse for being awful now. also, what’s your excuse for looking through old articles about cal/texas? oh yeah, because texas is shitty again.

  10. Bevo

    Please post a video or provide actual quotes of Mack Brown “whining”. He simply told the media that he thought his team had a good year and was just as deserving of a BCS bid as anyone. They then went out there and proved it and followed up that year with one of the best years in recent hisotry. Eat it.

    • Zack Jerome

      and where are you now? there are plenty of articles with mack quotes that a pac 12 person would call whining and a big 12 guy would call supporting his team. regardless, you are garbage now and despite being sanctioned, USC, who is not involved in the Cal/Texas argument, is ranked 5 in the AP.

  11. Drew

    I hope Texas drubs the piss out of Cal. It would give their fans something else to complain about.

  12. David

    Cal ended up losing their bowl game anyway that year to a team Texas crushed.

  13. RR

    The Mack Brown scandal continues to live on in everyone’s memory. The fact that the AP pulled out of the BCS in 2004 because of his behavior was all the evidence neeeded to show he lobbied. Texas losing the National Championship two years ago was a good start, but the effects of the scandal will go much further I think. Whether Cal wins or not on December 28 at the Holiday Bowl, people know the program is permanently tarnished.

  14. Willem

    I am a Longhorn, and don’t tend to be a fan of articles that trash my team, even if I have come to think maybe another coach would be better. That said, the final section about basic football karma here is fantastic writing.

  15. Drew

    So Zach. How does Bevo’s balls taste?

    • Zack Jerome

      um, i typically order steak, not cow balls, but thanks for asking. if you are bragging about barely beating unranked cal, need i remind you we finished top five in the AP this year. i take nothing away from the Vince Young victory, but talking shit at this point is kind of funny. you’re on our schedule soon enough.

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