AUSTIN, Texas -- Mack Brown says he doesn't read it, doesn't listen to it and does his best to ignore it. He wants no part of any discussion about whether his job is on the line when the Texas Longhorns play rival Oklahoma on Saturday in Dallas at the Cotton Bowl.
Any talk in Austin about the biggest game on the Longhorns' schedule inevitably comes around to whether it is "win or else" for Brown after 16 seasons as the Texas coach.
"It doesn't affect me at all," Brown said this week as Texas (3-2, 2-0 Big 12) prepared for the No. 12 Sooners (5-0, 2-0).
"There's no giving up, no quitting in this coaching staff," Brown said. "None of that is a factor. ... None of that matters. Winning matters."
A coach whose 153 wins rank second to only Darrell Royal (167) in school history, who in 2005 delivered the program's first undisputed national championship in 36 years and who played for another in 2009, is fighting for his job. Exactly how does it come to this?
There are several reasons.
Start with a 25-18 record over the past four seasons. Add a 6-9 record against Oklahoma that includes two straight blowout losses and four of the most humiliating defeats in a rivalry that dates to 1900.
Top it off with Brown's own promises in August that a team with 19 returning starters was ready to return to national prominence. Two losses in the first three games riled up Texas fans who were already feeling restless.
Brown himself hit the panic button after a 40-21 loss at BYU in which Texas gave up a school-record 550 yards rushing. The day after the loss, he fired defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. Brown insisted it wasn't a move of desperation, but fans wondered why he hadn't fired Diaz after the 2012 season, when Texas had one of the worst defenses in school history.
Now Brown goes into Saturday missing two of his best players due to injury. Linebacker Jordan Hicks is out for the season after tearing an Achilles tendon, and quarterback David Ash will miss the game because of recurring symptoms of a concussion. Senior quarterback Case McCoy, who is 2-1 as a starter this season, will start against Oklahoma.
McCoy has known Brown since his older brother and former Texas quarterback Colt McCoy was being recruited by the Longhorns 10 years ago. He said the players are aware of the questions about Brown's future but defended his coach.
"I've been around this program a long time. He's a great man. There's no doubt he wants to win just as bad as any of us," McCoy said. "The bottom line is ... y'all don't really have a clue what goes on inside and what that man puts in for this team.
"Do y'all think we really want to go out and lose to BYU?" McCoy said. "People are fighting and scrapping, trying to do whatever they can. ... When comes down to it, we got to go out and beat OU."
The rivalry with Oklahoma and Sooners coach Bob Stoops has been dogging Brown for more than a decade.
Brown beat the Sooners in his first two games as Texas coach in 1998 and '99. But then came a 63-14 loss in 2000, a game that launched the Sooners on a path to that season's national championship. It also started a string of five straight Texas losses in the rivalry, including another 65-13 wipeout in 2003.
Back then, Texas fans could still see the program was on an upward trend toward the 2005 championship season. And from 2005 to '09, Texas beat Oklahoma four times. The rivalry swung back to the Sooners in 2010 and has gotten worse each year. Oklahoma won 55-17 in 2011 and 63-21 last year, saddling Brown with the worst four defeats in the history of the series.
Brown doesn't think he gets enough credit for his overall body of work against Oklahoma. And he notes the winner Saturday grabs the early lead in the chase for the Big 12 title.
"We've won four of the last eight" against Oklahoma, Brown said. "You'd have thought we never won one."
Brown said he once asked Royal what it takes to stop a losing skid like the one he's on now.
"When you're tired enough of losing," Royal told him, "and good enough to fix it."