AUSTIN, Texas -- Somewhere, between the 13 wins and the seven losses, Texas coach Mack Brown lost his passion.
He was no longer the coach who embraced the future or relished the challenge.
He forgot how he built the Texas program and what it took to sustain it.
He forgot what it was to be that coach, almost 25 years ago, crying in his car after another loss in a miserable 1-10 season at North Carolina. How much losing hurt and everything he would do never to feel it again.
Instead Brown, maybe for the first time in his life, accepted defeat, and took what he had built for granted.
"Things just got kind of negative after losing to Alabama," Brown said. "And what a shame to be 13-1 and be disappointed and sad and feel badly about who we are and what we're doing. And we didn't come out of it very well as a group."
Doubts were evident in Texas' play and were circling around Brown, as well. He was the highest paid coach in college football. He was responsible for a 5-7 football team.
Now, a week before spring football starts and two weeks removed from having his contract extended through 2020, Brown is ready to make good on the promise that his passion has returned.
"When I made the commitment to go forward, they did too, and that just doesn't happen much anymore," Brown said. "I really appreciate it. I appreciate it a lot."
Brown is who Texas athletics director DeLoss Dodds and university president Bill Powers want. The pair made that clear in their 45-minute meeting with the Texas Board of Regents. That the vote to extend Brown's contract was unanimous is evidence of just how clear.
Just how out-of-touch Brown had become with his core mission at Texas became clear to him a year earlier, as he was assembling a new staff. It was then that Brown started to see Texas through their eyes, instead of his.
Stacy Searels, on his interview from Georgia, walked into DKR and started to talk about how incredible the stadium was and how Tommy Nobis had played here.
"And I was thinking, 'Yeah, he did. And that's really cool,'" Brown said.
When Bryan Harsin came on his visit from Boise State, he and his wife, Kes, asked to walk into the stadium.
"Well, if you go in the stadium you're going to take the job," Brown told Harsin. "So don't go down there now unless you want it"
"I'm going to be fine coach," Harsin told Brown. "I've been in a lot of stadiums."
"We walked in the stadium, and Kes started crying," Brown said.
"We are in! It is done!" Brown said out loud to the Harsins.
Bryan Harsin looked at Brown and replied: "I don't think we have any choice."
Brown does. And he has chosen to re-embrace what drew him to Texas 14 years ago and what allowed him to build it into a national power.
"I walk into that stadium every day," Brown said. "I should feel the same way every day I walk in there, instead of thinking, 'Yeah, that's where we lost to UCLA.' "
The staff changes helped Brown to regain that energy. Judging by the contract extension, the administration feels it too.
"The new energy has really helped all of us," Brown said. "And woken us up."
The next step is for Texas to rework the assistants' contracts. Dodds said while the new contracts might not put the assistants at the top of the food chain in terms of monetary compensation, the money will be very competitive. Competitive enough that Dodds does not expect any assistants to leave unless it is for a head coaching opportunity.
As for the opportunity that lies ahead of Brown, he is now embracing it.
"I understand and they understand that the standard that was set last year was not good enough and not what I expect," Brown said of 2011's 8-5 record. "But they want me to be the football coach here, and they want me to do this as long as I can do it, and as long as I am having fun and being productive, we can do it and make this work."
It will be work. Texas will have spring and summer practices to resolve its quarterback situation and replace the guts of its defense. Texas once again will have a young team in 2012, while its Big 12 competition will have experience, especially at quarterback.
But now Texas has a coach who has rediscovered his passion for the game and the job.
"Sometimes you forget, if you're not careful," Brown said.
Carter Strickland covers University of Texas football and recruiting for HornsNation
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