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It’s Official: Mack Brown Will Return To UNC

But is is smart?

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Tostitos Fiesta Bowl - Texas v Ohio State
GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 05: Head coach Mack Brown of the Texas Longhorns celebrates after defeating the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl Game on January 5, 2009 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. The Longhorns defeated the Buckeyes 24-21
Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Well now it’s official: less than two days after firing Larry Fedora, UNC has rehired Mack Brown.

Brown was at UNC from 1988 to 1997 and after two 1-10 seasons (the famous, or infamous Duke pose under the 41-0 scoreboard in Kenan Stadium was in Brown’s second season at UNC), he did well, making bowl games in his last six seasons.

At Texas, he took some criticism but recruited very well and won the national championship in 2005.

After making it back to the title game in 2010, his program declined and he stepped down in 2013.

lt’s a bit of strange hire and reminds one slightly of Carl James’ nutty idea of hiring 72-year-old Adolph Rupp as Duke’s new basketball coach in 1974 (Rupp was reportedly ready to take the job but the story we remember is that someone who helped run his farm died and he didn't feel he could leave).

To be clear, Brown is not Rupp. He’s not 72, he’s not senile as Rupp reportedly was in 1974, and he’s still plugged into the game as a TV analyst.

However, he’s inheriting a program with some issues and while he’s not 73 he is 67 and that’s a tough age to take on a rebuild.

And UNC is still recovering from its massive series of scandals featuring 20 years of academic fraud.

In the coverage we’ve seen so far, no one has yet pointed out that Brown was coaching UNC when the academic fraud started, nor to the best of our knowledge has anyone even asked him if he had any knowledge of academic fraud.

In fairness to Brown, obviously no one has proven that he was aware of the cheating. However, it’s reasonable to argue that UNC, professing a desire to leave the scandal behind and to regain its good name, might have gone a different direction.

What sense does it make to hire anyone who could, even remotely, be tied to the most devastating scandal in ACC history?

If someone digs up some e-mail in a few months that ties Brown directly to it, things will not go well for A.D. Bubba Cunningham, who will have made two major hires only to see them both blow up in his face.

That goes double for the university. The fact that it’s rehiring someone who was coaching during the scandal, regardless of his presumed innocence (and he does get the benefit of the doubt here) underscores what we have learned about Carolina: all the fluff about the UNC Way and taking academics seriously is just a load of hooey. Athletics comes first, second and third in Chapel Hill. If it were seriously concerned for its reputation, it wouldn’t have risked hiring someone with any potential ties to the scandal it so wishes to leave behind but can't quite seem to do.

All that aside, can Brown, at 67, rebuild a program?

Quite possibly he can.

He may be able to put together a tremendous staff in a hurry, he’s always recruited well, and UNC is certainly going to bend over backwards to help because, as we know, athletics is the main focus in Chapel Hill.

Injuries really bit into this team this season and presumably most of those people will be healthy next season.

So yes, he might win.

At 67 though he’s not a long-term solution and ultimately, after significant success, he failed at Texas. So Bubba better keep his short list handy.

We hear Carl Torbush is rested and ready too.

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