Mack Brown raised eyebrows this week when he left his stable gig at ESPN to return to North Carolina as head coach following the firing of Larry Fedora. Fans everywhere are bracing themselves — not because they think little of Brown’s ability — but because he has been out of the coaching game for five years. Encores after that much time has passed rarely go well.
That being said, Brown may surprise us all and win again in Chapel Hill. Or he may end up like these five coaches who had the worst encores in college football history.
5. Dennis Franchione
First Act: New Mexico (1992-97), TCU (1998-2000), Alabama (2001-02), Texas A&M (2003-07) — 107-72, two conference titles
Second Act: Texas State (2011-15) — 26-34
Coach Fran resigned from Texas A&M after a controversy-filled 2007 season. He tried broadcasting briefly before deciding he wanted to return to coaching. He landed at Texas State, where he had coached from 1990-91 when the school was still I-AA Southwest Texas State, going 13-9. In five seasons, Franchione did help guide the program from FCS independent to its current FBS home in the Sun Belt Conference. He just did not win a lot of games.
4. Bill Curry
First Act: Georgia Tech (1980-86), Alabama (1987-89), Kentucky (1990-96) — 83-105-4, one conference title
Second Act: Georgia State (2010-12) — 10-23
Curry was asked to step down as head coach of Kentucky in 1996 and spent 11 years in the broadcast booth at ESPN before returning to be the first football coach of Georgia State. He shocked everyone with a 6-5 season his first year, but only won four more games over the next two seasons before retiring for good in 2012.
3. Bobby Ross
First Act: Maryland (1982-86), Georgia Tech (1987-91) — 70-45-2, one national championship, four conference titles
Second Act: Army (2004-06) — 9-25
After successful stints with the San Diego Chargers and Detroit Lions, Ross retired midway through the 2000 season because of blood clots in his legs. After Army went 0-13 in 2003, the academy lured Ross — himself a Virginia Military Institute graduate — out of retirement. Although Ross won more games, he did not have the success he experienced in his first act. More importantly, he never beat Navy.
2. Wallace Wade
First Act: Alabama (1923-30), Duke (1931-41) — 146-32-8, three national championships, 10 conference titles
Second Act: Duke (1946-50) — 25-17-4
Wade is one of the greatest coaches in college football history and had led Duke to the Rose Bowl just before joining the military in 1942. Eddie Cameron took over and led the Blue Devils to three more conference titles in the four years that Wade served in World War II. After his return, it was apparent that Wade had lost a step and Duke never finished higher than fourth in the conference in his five-year encore.
1. Mike Price
First Act: Washington State (1989-2002), UTEP (2004-12) — 131-139, two conference titles
Second Act: UTEP (2017) — 0-7
Following a fall from grace during his brief (i.e, less than six months) stint at Alabama, Price went to UTEP, where he and his family were beloved. When head coach Sean Kugler resigned after an 0-5 start in 2017, Price was asked by UTEP athletic director Bob Stull to coach the team through the remainder of a winless season. As Seinfeld’s J. Peterman would say, "Congratulations on a job... done."
— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.
(Top photo courtesy of @TarHeelFootball)