SAN DIEGO — Mack Brown is an excellent head coach, but he is an even more remarkable individual. He represents the beauty of college football through his everyday actions.
It has been a pleasure for me to cover the Tar Heels’ football coach and his team this past week before the Holiday Bowl as he has displayed high class while visiting San Diego’s most notable locations. He should be a role model for his peers.
On Monday, Brown received a tour of the USS Abraham Lincoln, a United States Navy aircraft carrier. He and his wife, Sally, viewed the ship with a group of Oregon Ducks football players and their head coach Dan Lanning.
The group heard opening remarks from their guide, commanding officer Amy Bauernschmidt. Then, they moved across the carrier’s immense runway to learn more. Between Bauernschmidt’s brief presentations, Brown scrambled around the group to greet each Ducks’ player. And he did it with a smile while giving seemingly genuine compliments.
Brown generally acknowledged each players’ commitment to football and praised their hard work. He did not have to introduce himself or even interact with the Ducks, but he demonstrated his strong character by doing so.
“I like to speak to [the Ducks] and congratulate them because they’re amazing kids… They don’t get the credit for how hard they work and all the joy that they give all of us,” Brown said.
First, he met with Alex Forsyth, a sixth-year senior offensive lineman for the Ducks. Forsyth had just won the U.S. Grant Sharp Admiral’s Trophy for unselfish commitment to his team, a trait Brown looks for in his players.
“Kids are going to mess up some stuff, but if they give us 100% effort, I’m good,” Brown said. “That’s all we can do.”
When given the chance to express his admiration for his opponents, he jumps at the opportunity. Brown even responded to a question I directed toward Lanning about quarterback Bo Nix during a joint press conference praising the selflessness of both teams’ players.
“It’s incredible how hard they work,” he said. “They work year-round like Olympic athletes.”
Brown dedicated his press conference opening remarks to thanking the Holiday Bowl staff, Mesa College (since they practiced there), and the Navy. Even when his team arrived at their hotel last Friday following multiple delays, he shook hands with most of the committee members welcoming them.
Brown’s actions throughout the Holiday Bowl week illustrate how a coach can be a competitor without disrespecting his opponent. He does not let on the field conflict sever relationships and understands the scrutiny that young athletes face. He does not participate in physiological games.
Two teams may be rivals in the game but should not be enemies in life. Many have the same aspiration: become their best self and win. However, some coaches attempt to diminish others in pursuit of personal improvement. Brown does not.
Brown hopes his players hold similar regard for every adversary too. For him, slacking off is not allowed because many opposing players leave their hearts and soul on the field. He was embarrassed when the Tar Heels played in the Mayo Bowl against South Carolina last year. Not because they lost, but since his team disrespected the bowl.
“We didn’t treat the Mayo Bowl fair last year… That’s one of the worst feelings I’ve ever had in my life walking off that field thinking, you know what, we didn’t show up… It made me want to throw up,” Brown said.
Brown appreciates college football and its intricacies. He demonstrates this by expressing his regard for every one of his opponents. That is not a sign of weakness; it is an indicator strength. And his victorious track record proves this; he has won 66% of the games he has coached in the 33 seasons.
Schools should strive to find a coach as honorable as Brown.