IRVING, Texas — Mack Brown once walked into auditoriums where Big 12 writers waited, knowing he would have to face his demons. Knowing he would have to address the "Oklahoma problem."
Mr. February, he was called by detractors back then. Stinko de Macko.
Seems a long time ago.
Another Big 12 Media Days arrived Wednesday, with Mack's demons long gone. The Texas football coach is Mr. January, with a 3-0 record in BCS bowls. His program is stronger than ever. And, most relevant to fans of a certain rivalry, Brown no longer is Bob Stoops' foil.
The Oklahoma problem has been solved.
Mack has won three of four from Stoops, and while no one can legitimately argue that Texas has the superior coach (the Sooners have won three straight Big 12 titles; Stoops is up 6-1 on Brown in pennants), no one can legitimately argue that Stoops still has his foot on Brown.
Three victories over OU in the last four years have ended all talk of Stoops' dominance.
Stoops wins the Big 12 titles, but Mack wins the bowl games. Stoops once owned Texas, now Mack has the upper hand.
"During the period of time it was rough going, the right people at Texas knew they had the right coach," said Donnie Duncan.
Duncan knows well the Brown/OU dynamic. Duncan was the athletic director at OU, the Big 12 football czar and the head coach at Iowa State, where in 1980 Duncan promoted to offensive coordinator a 28-year-old pup named Mack Brown.
"Mack Brown is not a good coach, he's a great coach," Duncan said.
That's more apparent than ever. Texas football rides higher than it's ridden since Darrell Royal's heyday in the 1960s. Don't be surprised if Mack approaches Royal as a Longhorn icon.
"Is he loved more than ever?" asked UT radio voice Craig Way. "That's a safe assumption."
OU's biggest edge in the Cotton Bowl clash — the man at midfield with the headsets — has been nullified.
"It's back to where it's a great game instead of some of those lopsided games where I didn't do a very good job coaching," Brown said.
"That game is such an emotional game between two states. It's a national game. I feel like the team that lost the year before has more pressure because their fans are so hard on them. That's all they talk about.
"And I do feel like our guys are relaxed in the game more than they were previous years, and we're playing better in that game."
Mack's success is not complicated. Good quarterbacking and good defense. Vince Young led Brown out of the wilderness, but Colt McCoy has kept him from returning. And Mack keeps hiring big-time defensive coordinators. Greg Robinson, Gene Chizik, Will Muschamp.
"I'm really, really proud of what we've done at Texas," Brown said.
Texas is proud of Mack. His demons are gone.
Berry Tramel: 405-760-8080; Berry Tramel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.