AUSTIN, Texas -- Mack Brown must like these 2013 Texas Longhorns. If he doesn't, he sure has a strange way of showing it.
Brown announced Thursday the next step in his summer-long movement to up the transparency of his program: He agreed to open up the Longhorns’ first six days of fall camp.
He and his staff are throwing open the doors and permitting reporters to watch practice Monday through Saturday next week. Fans are also invited to attend the final three days of that long stretch of access.
“Our staff is so excited about this team, and I want you to see them coach and see how hard they’re working and what they’re doing,” Brown said to a crowd of 1,300 Thursday at the Texas Gridiron Kickoff luncheon. “So we’re actually going to open up practice on Thursday, Friday and Saturday afternoon of next week. We’d like for everyone to come out.”
The move is a strong and somewhat surprising one, considering Brown has preferred to keep things in his program as private as possible in recent years -- with the exception, of course, of the Longhorn Network.
Though the network televises portions of spring and fall practices, Brown has eschewed opening up fall practice to reporters in recent years, perhaps fearing that valuable information would make its way onto message boards.
“Most coaches are cutting out all fans at practice,” Brown said. “They’re doing it because of camera phones. You can video, and we can’t keep it to just our fans.”
Brown has been changing his tune since this spring, though. He opened up two spring practices in addition to the annual spring game, and he liked the results. Having the public in the stands put more pressure on his players to raise their game.
Then, in the summer, he broke from his own tradition in a major way by opening up both of Texas’ summer minicamps. That permitted reporters to witness how his staff coaches up potential prospects, essentially giving a behind-the-curtains look at the Longhorn recruiting machine.
Brown has been saying for months now that Texas is “getting ready to make another run.” He wouldn’t make moves like this if he weren’t confident. And it’s not hard to see why, this year, opening fall camp makes more sense than usual.
Texas was voted No. 15 in the preseason coaches poll and returns 19 starters. There is no quarterback battle. In fact, there are few position battles of critical importance this spring other than some reshuffling of a veteran offensive line. Barring injuries to significant contributors, this is setting up to be an August of minimal drama. So, really, what’s the harm?
Brown told the crowd he and his staff are taking the blame for the past three seasons. Opening up practices is essentially a gesture of gratitude to the fans, and an acknowledgement of their expectations.
“The kids are in a good place. They know nine [wins] is not enough for Austin,” Brown said. “They know nine is not enough for Texas, it’s not enough for them and it’s not enough for me. It’s not that the fans don’t like nine – the players don’t like nine. They’ve talked about it. We’ve played very poorly and not represented Texas well.”