One of the amazing things about working at the Stark Center is the opportunity to see and interact with materials related to the amazing athletics programs at the University of Texas at Austin. As one of the most storied programs in sports history, the University of Texas football program is a phenomenal resource for archival items.
The Stark Center is fortunate to hold many items from the personal collection of former Texas football head coach, Mack Brown. Arriving on the Forty Acres in 1998 and leading the Longhorns until 2013, Brown compiled a record 134 wins and 34 losses at Texas and led the Longhorns to the 2005 National Championship, the school’s first since 1970. The Longhorns defeated the USC Trojans 41-38 in the 2006 Rose Bowl, in a game some consider to be the best ever.
As part of the Mack Brown Collection, the Stark Center received the three commemorative footballs awarded to Coach Brown in the image below. They each represent a significant win in Brown’s head coaching tenure at Texas and provide insight into his time on the Forty Acres. Here are descriptions of the three commemorative footballs, in the order of the dates on which they were presented to Mack Brown.
The first commemorative football is from the 1998 Red River Showdown game between the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma, held at the Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas, Texas, on Saturday, October 10, 1998. This was Brown’s first season as head coach, but it was running back Ricky Williams’ senior year at Texas. Williams won the 1998 Heisman Trophy for the nation’s best collegiate player due, in part, to his 166 rushing yards and two touchdowns in the Longhorns’ 34-3 victory against the Sooners. The ball commemorates Mack Brown’s first Red River Showdown game and his first victory over Oklahoma.
The second commemorative football is from the Graveyard Game between the University of Texas and the University of Nebraska, held at Darrell K. Royal-Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, October 23, 1999. This marked the first home game versus Nebraska for Mack Brown, and it became a famous victory for the 18th ranked Longhorns over the 3rd ranked Cornhuskers. The offense struggled in the first half with only five first downs and 92 yards and trailed 13-3 at the half. However, Texas bounced back in the second half, outscoring the Cornhuskers 21 to 7 to win the game 24-20. The triumph marked the first time that Texas defeated a top 5 opponent in the Mack Brown era.
The third commemorative football is from the “Believe” Game between the University of Texas and Oklahoma State University held in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, November 6, 2004. The 6th ranked Longhorns overcame a slow start that saw them fall behind 35-7 late in the second quarter. Nevertheless, the Longhorns responded with a flurry of 49 unanswered points to eventually overwhelm the 19th ranked Cowboys by a score of 56-35. This game typified the mental toughness exhibited by Mack Brown-coached teams during his tenure at Texas. These three commemorative footballs are indicative of the special role that the Stark Center plays in connecting the fans of Texas Longhorns football to the history of their beloved team. If and when we can again open our doors to the public, be sure to stop by the Stark Center and see our “Coaching Greatness” Exhibition that celebrates Darrell Royall and Mack Brown’s years leading the Longhorns.