Legendary Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry once said, "Football is to Texas what religion is to a priest."
Landry was not specifically referring to the Texas Longhorns, but his quote is the perfect way to describe the importance Longhorn football has on the University of Texas and the entire state of Texas.
"It's the flagship university in the state," McNeil high school coach Jack Estes told Bleacher Report. "If you're good enough to play college football, and good enough to play at any school in the state, you go to Texas. Other schools may temporarily compete, but it is still the university in the state of Texas."
Longhorn Football's Impression on Texas High School Coaches
Texas football would not be what it is today without its relationships with Texas high school coaches. But those relationships were not consistently maintained until Mack Brown took charge.
"Mack Brown won over the Texas high school coaches early in his career," Coach Estes said. "Mack never acts like he is better than you. He has done things that us high school coaches haven't been able to do. But, out of all of the college coaches I have talked to in my career, Mack makes me feel more like an equal than anyone else."
In a time when cheating in college football and recruiting has been widely speculated and discussed, Texas football—and its numerous top 10 recruiting classes—have not been the topic of cheating allegations.
"Since I have been coaching, SMU got the death penalty and Texas A&M was in trouble when Jackie Sherrill was there. But I have never, ever heard of any issues with the University of Texas," Estes said. "Texas has always been clean. It's always up-front. The message is always, 'What we have to offer you is a chance to be the best football player and to get a degree from the University of Texas.' That's it."
Brown's relationships with the state's high school coaches has paid off in the recruiting department, and has left a lasting impression on many high school coaches.
"There will come a time when a recruit and his parents will ask you, as a coach, where you think he should go," the 5A Coach Estes told Bleacher Report. "You don't ever want to steer them too much, but when you have the personality and the staff that Mack Brown has always had and compare it to another school that only cares about winning, you will encourage them to pick Texas. As a high school coach, you want your players to land at a school that will care for them off of the football field. That type of relationship is what Texas has built with the high school coaches."
Brown and Texas' extraordinary ability of winning over recruits, their families and high school coaches has constantly made an impact, but is that still the case after the Longhorns recent on-field decline?
The Cash Cow of College Football
With today's "what have you done for me lately" type of mentality, it isn't surprising people have questioned the direction of Texas football. But if you think the 2010 season and rebuilding years following destroyed Texas' future, think again.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and the Longhorns pudding tastes like financial success.
The business side of Texas football has continued to flourish. The Longhorns logo was named the best of college football by Athlon Sports in 2013, Texas has topped Collegiate Licensing Company's royalties list for eight straight years and Longhorn football's six-year annual gross revenue reign over NCAA Division I teams will probably extend its streak to seven years upon the release of the most recent figures.
The Office of Postsecondary Education has not listed all Division I revenues for the 2012-2013 school year. But the Longhorns' 2012-2013 numbers are in, and the $109.4 million of football revenue will likely stomp the competition for the seventh consecutive year.
The current financial success stems from what the Longhorns accomplished on the gridiron between 2004 and 2009: an impressive 69-9 run, two Big 12 Championships and a national championship. The run is ultimately what resulted in Texas securing a 20-year, $300 million deal with ESPN for the Longhorn Network.
"It was unprecedented for a single school to get $300 million for third-tier rights, which are the bottom-of-the-barrel football and basketball games, and softball, baseball and Olympic sports," Chip Brown of Orangebloods.com told Bleacher Report. "That type of deal has never been done."
But the economic impact of Longhorn football affects more than just the Texas athletic department.
"During the football season, Texas has a major impact over the economy of Austin, Texas," Chip Brown said. "Businesses know people get excited about Texas football and know the fans are willing to spend money on the program, whether it's going out to restaurants to watch games or out-of-towners coming into Austin and spending money on hotel rooms."
Texas football makes a substantial economic impact on the city of Austin. Home football games create an estimated economic impact of $99 million through fans spending at hotels, transportation, restaurants and retail stores, according to University of Texas president Bill Powers.
Texas football's impact on the state's economy has helped the Longhorns become a political power, which became publicly known in the summer of 2010.
Politics and Texas Football
As the flagship university in the state, Texas played a significant role in the future of the Big 12 conference. Chip Brown—who has covered Texas football for more than two decades and was the lead reporter on conference realignment in June 2010—told Bleacher Report the Big 12 would have dissolved if it wasn't for Texas.
"The run of success in football made Texas the most powerful player in realignment," Brown said. "Everyone wanted Texas. The Longhorns could have picked any conference. The Big 12 was dependent on Texas to either keep the conference together or pick the schools it wanted to be partners with in another conference."
The threat of Texas football potentially leaving the Big 12, which is based out of Dallas, Texas, for a conference based on the West Coast caused the legislature to step in with the hope of stopping Texas from abandoning the state.
"The legislature tried to pressure Texas from going to the Pac-12 in the summer of 2010," Brown told Bleacher Report. "It threatened to call hearings in which UT officials would have to testify as to why it was in the best interest of the state of Texas for the University of Texas to join a conference based in California."
But the political influence did not end in 2010.
UT president Bill Powers has endured an ongoing battle with Governor Rick Perry and his appointed University of Texas regents over higher education costs. But according to Brown, Perry has been advised to lessen his stranglehold on Texas and Powers if he wants to run for president in 2016.
"The University of Texas has some of the wealthiest alumni in the state," Brown said. "According to my sources, we're talking about billionaires who went to Perry and said, 'If you want to raise money in the state of Texas for a White House bid in 2016, you need to back off on pushing your higher education reforms on Texas and leave Bill Powers alone.
"I was told the people who approached Perry made it known that they couldn't get him elected, but they could absolutely get him defeated."
Let's put politics aside and focus on the current state of the Texas fans.
Longhorn Football's Impact on the Student Body, Faculty and Fans
The Longhorns football revenue accounts for 65 percent of the entire athletic department's revenue. According to one University of Texas staffer, the success of the program determines the mood of the university employees.
"Everyone is a lot more upbeat when football is playing well," the University of Texas employee told Bleacher Report. "It may not be that way for every department, but from my experience, football's success absolutely impacts every facet of the university."
In a blind survey conducted by Bleacher Report for this article, more than 50 percent of participants listed Texas' winning football history as a reason why they attended the University of Texas. Even more shocking, multiple participants listed Ricky Williams and Vince Young as a motivation for choosing Texas.
But is that allegiance still seen on the Longhorns roster? If senior defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat is answering that question, he would say yes.
"It has been a great experience to play for Texas," Jeffcoat said. "If I had to choose all over again, I would absolutely still pick Texas."
Jeffcoat, son of two-time Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl Champion Jim Jeffcoat, said the tradition of playing at Texas, especially on Thanksgiving day, made him feel like he was following in his father's footsteps.
"Watching my dad play on Thanksgiving was a special time in my childhood," Jeffcoat said. "I feel like I am following in my dad's footsteps by being able to play on Thanksgiving. We're the only college game on TV, so all eyes are on us. You can't get that annual tradition at any other university."
The national spotlight and tradition of the Longhorns' annual Thanksgiving game has played an important role in Texas' recruiting.
"It's huge," Texas offensive coordinator and former Longhorn quarterback Major Applewhite said. "It's big when you are the only college game on television. It's a great opportunity and a great niche we have cut for ourselves. Being able to get that prime-time slot and having the national spotlight on us impacts our recruiting."
Times have changed in college football, but the history and tradition has not.
Win or lose, the University of Texas still reigns over all schools in the state, and barring drastic change, that trend will continue for many years to come.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.
Follow Taylor on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar
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