UNC fired Larry Fedora on Sunday after seven seasons and amassing a 45-43 record.
The 67-year-old Brown coached the Tar Heels from 1988-97, with his last two teams finishing in the top 10 nationally.
On Tuesday, the UNC Board of Trustees met in closed session for less than 30 minutes before the announcement of Brown's hire was made.
UNC Head Coach Mack Brown (left) and College Football Television Commentator Kirk Herbstreit pose in front of picturesque Kenan Stadium, home of the Tar Heels since 1927.
Brown came to UNC after three seasons (11-21) at Tulane and with a 6-5 season as the head coach at Appalachian State on his resume.
Brown will have his work cut out for him as North Carolina has won just five games over the last two seasons under the leadership of Fedora.
Brown led a lengthy period of success with the Longhorns, including winning the 2005 BCS national title in the infamous Rose Bowl game against USC. Two former head coaches that took a career in commentary and analysis for college football in the past few years included former LSU Tigers head coach Les Miles and former head Texas football coach Mack Brown. Texas went 8-4 this year and Brown's final game will be the December 30 Alamo Bowl against Oregon. At the end of the 2013 season, he announced his (forced) resignation from Texas and has not coached since.
Brown, who is now an analyst for ESPN, is tied with Coach Bill Dooley for second place in all-time wins at North Carolina.
He has most recently worked for ESPN as an analyst.
Brown will be introduced as the Tar Heels' head football coach at a noon press conference. He was selected for induction into the College Football Hall of Fame this past January.