SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Mack Brown arrived for the Alamo Bowl with an unranked team and staring at his final game at Texas after 16 seasons.
It's hardly the ending the coach wanted, but his players say they want to at least deliver a fond farewell.
"The man has done a lot for the university, for college football," quarterback Case McCoy said Friday. "You can't look past that by any means. You can look at his records. You can look at what he's built at Texas."
Following a season of tension and frustration at Texas, the Longhorns (8-4) say they're relieved heading into Monday's game against No. 10 Oregon (10-2) that they can now reflect on Brown's legacy instead of constantly hearing questions about his future.
Brown announced this month that the Alamo Bowl will be his final game at Texas after losing at least four games for a fourth consecutive season. The school has yet to choose who will succeed the second-winningest football coach in Texas history, behind Darrell Royal.
Texas co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite, who also played under Brown, acknowledged that distractions surrounding Brown have extended far back as the last three years. He recalled Will Muschamp being named the head coach-in-waiting before leaving for Florida, and the ensuing questions about when Brown might leave — which only intensified as the Longhorns sputtered.
Applewhite said he was proud of players for handling the atmosphere of uncertainty.
"Honestly, the only four hours they had some peace and solidarity was Saturday when they played," Applewhite said. "Every other time, they're listening to it."
Brown isn't scheduled to speak to reporters until Sunday. He hasn't spoken publicly since a Dec. 15 news conference when he said he was stepping down and acknowledged that his teams were no longer meeting the lofty expectations that set during the height of his run.
Texas averaged 10 wins from 2000-09 and captured two Big 12 titles. Led by two Heisman Trophy finalists in quarterbacks Vince Young and Colt McCoy, the Longhorns won a national championship in 2005 and played for another four years later.
But Texas hasn't been a contender since. It went 22-16 in the three years after losing the BCS title game to Alabama in 2009. Brown raised the stakes this season and declared the Longhorns were ready to return to prominence, only to stumble early with losses to BYU and Mississippi.
If the pressure got to Brown, McCoy said he didn't show it.
"I think he's had fun all year long," McCoy said. "He kind of went into this season with nothing to lose. He's had a blast these last few weeks."
The university has assembled an eight-member search committee to help find a replacement for Brown. The panel includes the same members who hired new Texas athletic director Steve Patterson away from Arizona State this fall.
Also saying goodbye at the Alamo Bowl will be longtime Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti, who announced Friday that he's retiring after 38 seasons in football. He expressed no regrets other than some second thoughts about never becoming a head coach.
Then again, Aliotti said, he's grateful to be leaving on his terms. The typically candid Aliotti bit his tongue after starting to reflect with disappointment on the tension that precipitated Brown's resignation.
He then said "football in Texas is..." while raising his arms over his head, expanding them farther and farther apart. He said he felt bad for Brown.
"I didn't like the way that was handled. That's just my opinion," Aliotti said.
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