One of the byproducts of a long and successful coaching career
is a checklist of big numbers. Wins and losses. Players who receive
their college degrees. Friendships, fans and memories. All of those
totals really begin to pile up.
For Watson Brown, entering his 42nd season as a collegiate coach and his 30th as a head coach, many of those numbers are, quite simply, incredible.
During the past season, Brown was on the sidelines for his 300th career game as a head coach. And, later in the season, Watson and his brother Mack, then the head coach of the Texas Longhorns, achieved an historic milestone, earning more Division I combined coaching victories by brothers than any other coaching brother combination in history.
The Brown brothers finished 2013 with 365 career combined victories, surpassing the record of 362 previously held by Vince and Bill Dooley.
But, when Watson roams the sidelines, none of those personal milestones is in his thoughts — he is, quite simply, out to lead the Golden Eagles to their second Ohio Valley Conference championship under his direction.
After guiding Tech to a share of the 2011 OVC title, his program hit a major detour in 2012 when injuries wiped out the roster. The veteran coach kept his program moving forward, but in 2013 the injury bug was more selective, sidelining less players but taking down some of the team’s most vital offensive weapons.
This year the Golden Eagles are hoping to reap the benefits of those injuries — many, many players got to see game action in the past two years in place of those who were injured.
Brown’s staff has done a remarkable job in recruiting the past several years, and has raised the talent level walking the sidelines in Tucker Stadium.
And Brown has also kept a keen eye focused on success in the classroom. This past summer, Tech was honored by the Football Championship Subdivision Athleti c Director’s Association (FCS ADA) for having the “highest APR in 2012-13” in the OVC.
The team has also consistently improved its overall combined team GPA, posting the two highest semester totals during the past year.
Born and raised in Cookeville, Watson Brown came back home in 2007 to take the helm of the Golden Eagle program. Five years later, he led Tech to its first OVC title in 36 years.
The veteran coach has used an even-tempered approach to teach his young staff and players. The 2014 season will be his eighth season at the Tech helm.
Brown, 64, was named in December 2006 as the new head football coach of the Tennessee Tech University Golden Eagles. He returned to his hometown as the 10th head football coach in Tech history.
Brown has previously coached at two schools that are members of the Ohio Valley Conference, serving as head coach at Austin Peay for two years and assistant coach at Jacksonville State, then a Division II program, for two years.
Brown returned to the town where he was a talented baseball, football and basketball player at Cookeville High School. He signed with Vanderbilt out of high school and was a standout quarterback for the Commodores from 1969-72. He is best remembered by many Commodore fans for leading Vandy to a 14-10 victory over Alabama in 1969. Brown was named the Sports Illustrated National Back of the Week for his efforts.
In his stint as TTU head coach, Brown has worked hard in his effort toward rebuilding the Golden Eagles into Ohio Valley Conference champions and has had the support of the community and the Upper Cumberland Region. A popular speaker, Brown has addressed numerous clubs and organizations throughout the region during his time at Tech.
Raising the talent level at Tech is a key step in taking the Golden Eagles to a conference championship. It’s a step that Brown is familiar with — after all, working to rebuild struggling programs has been a calling card for Watson Brown.
The remarkable growth of the UAB program under Brown’s guidance was a major factor in UAB’s entry into Conference USA play in 1999. That year for their C-USA debut, the Blazers recorded a 5-6 overall record against a brutal all FBS schedule, finishing in a four-way tie for second place with a 4-2 league record.
Under Brown, UAB was bowl-eligible three times in seven seasons and in 2004 attained its previously elusive first bowl invitation with a trip to Honolulu to play in the Sheraton Hawai’i Bowl.
A proven veteran in the coaching profession, Brown is known as one of the best offensive minds in football.
He made his head coaching debut in 1979 in the Ohio Valley Conference directing the Austin Peay Governors, and at age 29, he was one of the youngest head coaches in the nation. He posted 7-4 records in both 1979 and 1980, twice being runner-up for Ohio Valley Conference Coach of the Year honors.
Brown began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Vanderbilt in 1973 and was a full-time assistant coach for the first time in 1974 as Pat Dye’s quarterbacks and receivers coach at East Carolina. The Pirates were 7-4 in 1974 and 8-3 in 1975, posting victories over several Atlantic Coast Conference opponents.
Brown was the offensive coordinator at Jacksonville State University in 1976 and 1977 (at the time JSU was a Division II program, and currently is a member of the OVC). During those two seasons, the Gamecocks finished 7-4 and 11-3, and played for the Division II national championship in 1977.
Brown was the quarterbacks and receivers coach at Texas Tech in 1978, where the Red Raiders posted a 7-4 record in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year.
While serving as offensive coordinator at Vanderbilt for two seasons (1981-82), Brown’s offense set 57 school records and the Commodores posted an 8-3 record and made a Hall of Fame Bowl appearance (1982).
In 1983, Brown was head coach at Cincinnati, where he led the Bearcats to a season-opening 14-3 victory at defending national champion Penn State. He ranks that road victory as one of the most memorable in his long coaching career.
Before coaching at Vanderbilt, Brown was athletic director and head football coach at Rice (1984-85). He led the Owls to two of their best offensive seasons.
From 1986-90, Brown was the head coach at Vanderbilt, his alma mater. In 1991 and 1992, Brown was the offensive coordinator at Mississippi State under head coach Jackie Sherrill. During those two seasons, the Bulldogs posted a 14-10 record, made two bowl appearances and upset three nationally-ranked opponents.
Prior to going to UAB, Brown was the offensive coordinator at the University of Oklahoma (1993-94).
Coaching is a big part of Brown’s family. His brother Mack Brown was the head coach, most recently at Texas, and won a national championship with the Longhorns. His grandfather, Eddie “Jelly” Watson, was a legendary prep football coach, compiling a 106-51-13 record at Cookeville High School.
Brown’s brother Mel resides in Cookeville. Watson Brown is married to the former Brenda Arnold, and they have two children; daughter Ginny, who was a four-year letterwinner at Georgia State University (1996-00), and a son Steven, who was a wide receiver/quarterback for the Golden Eagles in 2007 and is currently a member of his father’s coaching staff. After filling a role as a graduate assistant coach in 2008, Steven is now an assistant coach and the team’s offensive coordinator.
Watson Brown is Tech’s 10th head football coach since 1922, joining the ranks of Loyall Duck, Putty Overall, Hooper Eblen, Star Wood, Wilburn Tucker, Don Wade, Gary Darnell, Jim Ragland and Mike Hennigan.
Brown’s many achievements as a student-athlete and later as a coach in the state of Tennessee have not gone unnoticed. Seven years ago he was inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame.
In 2010, the National Football Foundation recognized Watson by selecting him as the recipient of the Roy Kramer Contribution to Football Award.