North Carolina coach Mack Brown wanted to clear a thing or two up about his history with Will Muschamp.
The two worked together at a turning point moment in Muschamp’s career. He was coming into his own as one of the most well-regarded assistant coaches in the country, working for a national champion coach and looking at some of the more prestigious jobs around. Then he was given a future: head coach at Texas when Brown stepped aside.
Only what was categorized as a long-term move was actually just about the short term.
“The reason we did the coach-in-waiting, and Will and I understood that, was not that I was getting out, which people thought, and it was not that Will was going to be the head coach at Texas at that point,” Brown said Friday. “I thought he was a good enough coach if we could keep him, we could win the national championship.”
The pair, brought together Friday morning for an event connected to the USC-UNC kickoff game, almost did. Their 2008 team went 12-1, missing out on a shot at the title because of tiebreakers with an Oklahoma team it defeated. Their 2009 team made it to the title game.
Brown still remembers the win against the No. 1 Sooners, a 45-35 game. It was the early days of up-tempo offenses, and after Oklahoma ran a play while Muschamp was looking at plays on his wristband, Muschamp pulled it off and tossed it away with a simple message.
“OK man, let’s play,” Brown recalled.
They’d been brought together by Greg Davis, who had coached at Georgia in the tail end of Muschamp’s playing days and was Brown’s offensive coordinator from 1996-2010.
Muschamp ended up departing after the 2011 season to replace Urban Meyer at Florida. That tenure didn’t go as many expected, lasting four seasons.
As Muschamp looked back at his departure, he said the struggles his final season in Austin, a 5-7 campaign, ultimately made the split an amicable one.
“We didn’t have as good a football team as we wanted to have,” Muschamp said. “And I think that put some stress on both of us from the standpoint of No. 1 our fansbase asking, ‘Do we really want this guy to take over our program?”, and ‘When are we getting rid of the other guy?’ I think from that standpoint, it created some difficulties, not between he and I, but those questions, you get tired of hearing that.”
Brown’s influence still can be felt in Muschamp’s program.
Muschamp said he took a great deal in terms of building culture, how to manage a team and a staff and even the lessons about life outside of football. He said his team’s Beyond Football program, led by Gamecock great Marcus Lattimore, came from his time working with Brown.
Back together this week, there was some of that amiability of two old friends.
Their teams are in different spots. Brown came out of five years in the broadcast booth to rebuild a Tar Heels program that had fallen off. Muschamp is entering Year 4, having posted three bowl seasons but coming off a year that fell short of some lofty, perhaps overblown, expectations.
Their programs are already facing off on the recruiting trail and soon enough will on the field. They wished each other the best, but maybe not so much on Aug. 31 at Bank of America Stadium.
“(Brown) had a great first tenure at North Carolina,” Muschamp said. “Hope his second tenure is just as successful, starting with his second game.”
South Carolina 2019 schedule
Aug. 31 — North Carolina (2-9 last season)*
Sept. 7 — Charleston Southern (5-6)
Sept. 14 — Alabama (14-1)
Sept. 21 — at Missouri (8-5)
Sept. 28 — Kentucky (10-3)
Oct. 12 — at Georgia (11-3)
Oct. 19 — Florida (10-3)
Oct. 26 — at Tennessee (5-7)
Nov. 2 — Vanderbilt (6-7)
Nov. 9 — Appalachian State (11-2)
Nov. 16 — at Texas A&M (9-4)
Nov. 30 — Clemson (15-0)