Mack Brown is North Carolina’s new football coach in a second stint with the Tar Heels.
The school officially announced the move Tuesday morning. Brown, who signed a five-year deal that will pay him $3.5 million annually, replaces Larry Fedora, who was fired Sunday after seven seasons.
The 67-year-old Brown coached the Tar Heels from 1988-97, with his last two teams finishing in the top 10 nationally. He went on to spend 16 seasons at Texas, where he won the national championship for 2005.
Brown left Texas in 2013 and has been working in broadcasting in recent years.
And as with his first stint in Chapel Hill, Brown faces significant hurdles as he takes the job.
The Tar Heels are in the midst of a deep two-year downturn. Fedora matched a program record with 11 wins and won an Atlantic Coast Conference division championship in 2015, but the Tar Heels have lost 21 of 27 games — including 16 of 18 in the ACC — since November 2016.
Recruiting has also slid along with fan attendance at Kenan Stadium. The Tar Heels rank 66th nationally and 13th in the 14-team ACC with their commitments for the 2019 recruiting class, according to 247sports. UNC hadn’t ranked worse than 32nd nationally or fifth in the ACC from 2013-18.
But Brown turned things around once before with the Tar Heels, who hope he can do it again.
He started 1-10 in each of his first two seasons, but steadily built up the program through strong recruiting, particularly with instate prospects. The Tar Heels won 10 games in 1993, then went 10-2 and finished No. 10 in the AP poll in 1996.
His 1997 team finished 11-1 — the only loss coming to Florida State at the peak of the Seminoles’ romp through that decade — and No. 6 in the final AP poll.
But by that point, Brown was gone. He left after the regular-season finale against Duke to take over at Texas and missed a 42-3 win against Virginia Tech in the Gator Bowl.
Once at Texas, Brown coached a Heisman Trophy winner in Ricky Williams, then another Heisman finalist — Vince Young — led the Longhorns to a 13-0 season in 2005 that ended with a win against USC in a Rose Bowl classic for the national title.
Texas played for another championship in the 2009 season behind quarterback Colt McCoy, but lost to Alabama to finish 13-1. Brown’s final four teams went a combined 30-21 before his exit in 2013.
While Brown would inherit a UNC program in desperate need of a turnaround, there is at least one bit of good news for him: the school has been finishing construction on a new indoor football practice facility with adjoining outdoor fields — a complex that was supposed to open this season but hit delays — as part of a $115 million athletics facility project.