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  • COLLEGE FOOTBALL

    Brown's No. 1 priority is beating Oregon

  • As usual, the Alamo Bowl will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.
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  • As usual, the Alamo Bowl will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.
    Because of the unsteady circumstances and speculation surrounding Mack Brown's job status — is he coming back, resigning or getting fired and replaced by Nick Saban? — the bowl's Thursday meet-and-greet press conference with the embattled Texas coach and Oregon counterpart Mark Helfrich aired live on SportsCenter.
    Alabama announced on Friday that Saban had reached a long-term deal to remain with the Crimson Tide. Alabama didn't release terms of the deal, which must be approved by the board of trustees.
    Despite that, Brown, who has compiled a 158-47 record in 16 seasons, will reportedly be coaching his final game for the Longhorns on Dec. 30 against the No. 10 Ducks.
    "Beat Oregon. That's the only thing that's important," Brown said. "This is about the kids, this isn't about me. It's about the kids moving forward."
    Helfrich, whose presence at the event was overshadowed by the elephant in the room, was impressed with how Brown handled the situation.
    "You're good at this," Helfrich said as Brown was deftly deflecting questions about his future and focusing on selling the Alamo Bowl matchup as if it were the Super Bowl.
    The Ducks (10-2) are 131/2-point favorites over the Longhorns (8-4), who will essentially be playing an emotional home game at the Alamodome.
    "It's an honor for me personally to sit next to Coach Brown and compete against the University of Texas. He's an icon of our game, an iconic program," Helfrich said. "As I started watching film on these guys, that's not much fun. They're big, fast and physical."
    Brown's seat really warmed up after early-season losses to BYU (40-21) and Mississippi (44-23). He fired defensive coordinator Manny Diaz and brought back Greg Robinson in between the two embarrassing nonconference defeats.
    The Longhorns responded with a 6-0 start in Big 12 play, including a 36-20 victory over Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry.
    Road losses at Oklahoma State and Baylor prevented Texas from winning a conference championship and appearing in the Fiesta Bowl. Brown said eight of his top 10 players will not be available for the Alamo Bowl because of injuries sustained throughout a difficult season.
    "No team has put up with more stuff than this team," Brown said. "You really like them and appreciate them. Whether it was early coaching changes, they responded to it. They responded to me, trusted me, played their rear-ends off."
    Helfrich's first season as Oregon's head coach was not without its share of bumps in the road.
    Talented tight end Colt Lyerla left the team in October after being suspended for the Colorado game. After an 8-0 start, the Ducks' national title hopes were smothered by Stanford. Following some unflattering comments about the Rose Bowl made by disappointed players, Oregon came out flat in a 42-14 loss at Arizona.
    And another talented starting tight end, Pharaoh Brown, was suspended by Helfrich for the Alamo Bowl for his involvement in an on-campus snowball fight last week.
    "We're both at places where if your record doesn't end in hyphen-zero, there's problems," Helfrich said. "Those things are exaggerated. Maybe the guy just didn't line up right. How do we fix that? Sometimes when you win, you get lucky. OK, we need to fix that, too.
    "Top to bottom, our guys will be very excited for this challenge. "¦ You want to put an exclamation point at the end of the season rather than dot, dot, dot."
    Mariota is UO's key"pickup" for 2014
    The Heisman Trophy presentation will take place today. Florida State's Jameis Winston is the heavy favorite with five other finalists making the trip to New York.
    Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, who was slowed down by a left knee injury in November, was not invited.
    "We think Marcus is pretty special. If there's six better players in the country, and that's not in any way disrespectful of those players, those guys are really great players," Helfrich said.
    "But Marcus Mariota is a top-notch guy in every form, excellent person, excellent student and excellent football player, a guy our guys have rallied round."
    Helfrich said he had a feeling Mariota would not leave for the NFL after this season. The redshirt sophomore announced earlier this month he will return to the Ducks in 2014.
    "He had been hinting at that for a long time. It wasn't a huge surprise," Helfrich said. "It was a nice pickup in the recruiting class, absolutely."
    Florida State's Bryan Stork won the Rimington Award Thursday night. Oregon's Hroniss Grasu was a finalist.
    Burnt orange or burnt orange?
    Brown was asked why Texas, which also wears Nike uniforms, doesn't follow Oregon's lead and change up its wardrobe combinations.
    The issue was discussed with legendary Longhorns coach Darrell Royal many years ago.
    "When I got to Texas, Coach Royal sat down with me and he says, 'You know our colors are burnt orange and white, right?' " Brown recalled. "I said, 'Yes, sir.' He said, 'You know we like our uniforms, right?' I said, 'Yes, sir.' He said, 'You're not planning on changing them, ever, right?' I said, 'No, sir.'
    "I think that answers the question."
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