AUSTIN, Texas – After a dismal 2010 season when Texas went 5-7 and missed a bowl game for the first time in 13 years, coach Mack Brown had to do a lot of soul searching — of himself and the entire program.
He didn't like what he found: a lack of energy, ideas and a lingering hangover from losing the 2009 BCS title game.
"I had to go back first and look at me. I'm responsible for what happens, the good and the bad," Brown said. "I do feel like I had a hangover after the national championship game. I don't think I did a good job of coming back out of it. I didn't realize it. I was pouting."
Now, after two months of hiring six new assistants and a dizzying effort to hold together what should be rated as one of the top recruiting classes in the country, Brown on Monday declared himself and the Texas program ready to turn things around.
"I'm back in the game," said Brown, who is paid $5 million per year. "Full speed ahead."
Brown hadn't taken questions from reporters since his post-game comments after Texas lost to rival Texas A&M on Thanksgiving night. His time since then has been spent looking for new coaches, watching a lot of bowl games on TV and evaluating the program from top to bottom.
Brown had all of his players fill out a confidential survey of their thoughts on the program. He read them, talked to the players, then tore them up. He did the same thing after a 10-3 season in 2007 and Texas went 12-1 the next year and narrowly missed a chance to play for the national title.
Brown promised a "clean slate" for everyone, coaches and players, and planned to treat the upcoming season like 1998, his first in Austin when the Longhorns turned a 4-7 team into one that won nine games and went to the Cotton Bowl.
"I told them I had never been so excited and that I was starting over," Brown said.
Brown sees similarities between the program in 1997 and 2010. Both seasons fractured the fan base, Brown said. He brought it together back then and urged Longhorns fans to do the same next season.
"I thought we got splintered a little bit. It's time to pull back together," Brown said. "When everybody pulls for one, it's a powerful thing here."
All positions will be open when spring practice begins, giving players who were unhappy last season a chance to prove to new coaches they belong on the field. Veterans will have to prove they still belong in the starting lineup.
Brown is also trying to refocus on team building and leadership, which was something Texas sorely lacked last season. Brown said he and his wife Sally had not been as committed last season to having players out to their house to get to know them better.
"We've got to make sure our leaders step up and take over," Brown said.
The offseason turnover included former "coach-in-waiting" Will Muschamp's surprise move to take the head coaching job at Florida. Brown dismissed rumors that he and Muschamp didn't get along, but said the contract was probably a mistake because it constantly raised the question of when Brown would retire.
Brown left it open-ended, but said he has no plans to retire soon.
"Texas fans are going to have to put up with me for a long time," Brown said.
There will be challenges. Brown and former offensive coordinator Greg Davis spent 15 seasons together and several of the other assistants that left the program had been with him for several years.
Brown says his biggest challenge this spring is making sure all the new coaching pieces fit as a team.
"It's great being out of my comfort zone," Brown said. "It's a great time for Texas football."
Brown is excited about the new television deal the university signed with ESPN to create a 24-hour network dedicated to Texas sports and other school programming. The still-unnamed network is expected to launch in time for next football season.
The network will give Texas a recruiting advantage and national exposure unmatched by any other school, Brown said. The challenge will be giving the network just enough information to keep things interesting while not exposing everything.
"You give them nuggets," Brown said. "You can't have them the huddle."