Saban out, but Brown saga isn't over yet

AUSTIN, Texas -- Mack Brown has not yet said he’s coming back. But we at least know he has survived his biggest challenger in the saga surrounding the head coaching job at Texas.

Brown did not address his future at the Texas football banquet Friday night amid news that Nick Saban has secured his own future by agreeing to a new deal to stay at Alabama. While this ordeal remains unresolved, the coach many had speculated was Texas’ top target to replace Brown is no longer an option.

In a six-minute speech to end the Longhorns’ annual banquet Friday at the Frank Erwin Center, Brown thanked president Bill Powers, former athletic director DeLoss Dodds and new athletic director Steve Patterson, but made no statements on whether he’ll return next season.

“I’m proud of this team,” Brown said to end his speech. “It’s been a team with no excuses. It’s been a team with no regrets. Now what we need to do is go beat Oregon.”

Less than 15 minutes before Brown took to the podium, reports emerged that Saban had agreed to a long-term extension.

As U.S. Secretary of Commerce Donald Evans’ long keynote speech continued, word spread, prompting many of the more than 500 people in attendance to pull out their smartphones to find out what had happened.

We don’t know what Brown knew when his speech began. He met with Patterson and Powers on Friday afternoon to discuss the program and the plan. He had an opportunity Friday night, in his speech to close the banquet, to declare that he’ll be back. Brown didn’t.

When asked before the banquet if he had anything to say about the Friday meeting, Patterson offered only, “When we’ve got something to say, we’ll say it.” Following the event, Patterson and Powers did not speak with reporters. As Brown left the arena, a Texas spokesperson said he would have no comment.

Saban, meanwhile, finally broke his silence and announced that he plans to finish his coaching career in Tuscaloosa.

We might never know how serious his interest in Texas was, or whether it was all just smoke, leverage and message-board rumormongering. But the coach who’d long said he was “too damn old” to leave is sticking with the dynasty he’s already built and will be paid handsomely to keep it rolling.

The rumors of Texas’ interest in Saban have been a persistent problem for Brown this season. The simple possibility that the best coach in college football might take the Texas job was enough to turn a faction of the fan base against Brown.

Now those who envisioned Saban saving Texas are left to wonder: Is it going to be Brown or the field? What’s preferable at this point?

Brown has to like his chances against the field. In his speech Friday, Powers acknowledged the case to be made for giving Brown another year: Texas overcame countless injuries and obstacles and still played for a Big 12 championship.

“I am so proud of these seniors and I’m so proud of this football team,” Powers said. “I’m proud of the coaches and everyone involved in it.”

Will that be enough to keep Brown, despite all the grumbling from the fan base? An answer is needed soon, and it can only come from the three men who met Friday.

The head coach of the Crimson Tide isn’t coming to Texas. But until Brown’s fate and future are finally resolved, there’s still a gigantic elephant in the room.