While Texas football celebrates its win over Oregon State in the Alamo Bowl, there's a looming question left unanswered.
How does head coach Mack Brown fit into the big picture of Texas Longhorns football?
Personal opinions on the matter aside, it's important to take a holistic look at what Brown has done for the UT program during his tenure in Austin.
Since taking over in 1998, Brown and the Longhorns have had a winning record in 14 of 15 seasons, including three BCS bowl victories and a national title.
That sustained level of success provided clout on the recruiting trail, and Texas became a giant centered in the most talent-rich state in America. Consequently, Brown hauled in Top Five classes in six of the last seven years (according to Rivals).
But it wasn't just talent rolling into DKR, as UT football became the highest-valued program in the country, earning a whopping $104 million in revenue in 2012.
The report from Forbes valued Texas at $133 million for the newly passed year, lifting the Longhorns well above second-place Michigan and third-place Notre Dame. Clearly, the numbers support Brown's methods, but recent underachievement and an extremely anxious alumni base have raised some doubts.
After suffering its only losing season of the Brown era in 2010, Texas has improved each year, going from 8-5 in 2011 to 9-4 this season. Unfortunately, when you have the kind of recruiting that the Horns have had, there are much higher expectations than narrow wins in mid-tier bowl games.
So how does a New Year's present like the 31-27 besting of the Beavers affect Brown's standing in Austin?
Well, it's certainly better than a loss would have been, but it hasn't silenced the critics just yet.
The Longhorns finished 2012 tied for third in the Big 12, but suffered an embarrassing thrashing at the hands of Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry. Two tough losses ended the season on a sour note, and the nation took notice.
As a result, UT's recruiting power lost a little luster, and the Horns slipped to No. 16 in the nation for the 2013 class. A barrage of recent decommitments has fueled the fall, and the rumblings of a "culture change" have followed them closely.
In an interview with the Dallas Morning News, widely regarded television analyst Kirk Herbstreit assured the world that Brown will return to coach the Horns in 2013, but that his long-term future is unclear.
So if Herbie's hunch is worth its weight in pigskin, we can expect to see Brown at the helm for another campaign.
And while the Longhorns' upset of a talented Oregon State team definitely calms the storm, Texas' performance next year will ultimately decide Brown's fate in the big picture.
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