Texas Longhorns: Despite record amount of revenue, athletic program at a crossroads

Kirby Lee: USA TODAY Sports

A couple of days ago, USA Today published a report that the Texas Longhorns recorded a whopping $163.3 million for the 2011-2012 season, $103.8 million coming from the football program alone. It marks the first time in NCAA history that a program generated more than $100 million in a single fiscal year. The university is operating at a surplus of $25 million dollars; to put that into perspective, that is more than 135 other Division I schools spent on their entire athletic program for the year.

Being one of the top revenue earners is nothing new for The University of Texas; however, despite this incredible amount of money earned, the athletic program has fallen on difficult times over the last few seasons. For whatever reason, this financial success is not carrying over to athletic success. Despite the UT men’s golf and women’s volleyball teams winning national titles this season, one has to look no further than the recent seasons of the Big Three (football, baseketball, and baseball) to see that the athletic program as a whole has underachieved over the last few years.

In the 2010-2011 season, the Texas Longhorns football program recorded their first losing season since 1997, finishing with 5–7 overall record and winning just two games in conference play. In 2011-2012, the team finished with a 4-5 record in the Big 12, and a 8-5 record overall. While that isn’t too terribly bad for many programs, and there was lots of improvement, it marks Texas’ two worst seasons since in roughly 15 years.

The Longhorns basketball team hasn’t fared much better on the court of late. Last season, the Longhorns eked their way into the NCAA Tournament only to be ousted in the first round. This year, they will miss the tournament for the first time in sixteen seasons.

Baseball has been historically one of Texas’ most consistent programs, yet they too have fallen on hard times. Last season, the team failed to qualify for the NCAA tournament, which wouldn’t be too bad except for the fact that it marked the first time in ten seasons that Texas had not captured either a Big 12 crown or a national title and the first time in fourteen years they failed to make it to the Regionals.

Again, while one might tend to look at the Longhorns recent seasons as anomalies, the truth is that the entire department appears to be in a downward spiral with no end in sight. Yes, despite being the top earners in the game, the Texas Longhorns athletic program is at a crossroads and they have some questions that must be answered:

Is the priority of the Longhorn athletic department to earn the most money or to win?

Is the record amount of money being brought in being used in such a way to maximize the program’s potential and to field the best teams?

If not, why not? If yes, then where is the breakdown?

Is the current leadership the right one to pull the athletic programs out of their recent collective slump? If not, then what changes need to be made and when?

These are questions that need to be answered if the Texas Longhorns want to find their way back to the upper echelon of college athletic programs because right now, the program as a whole seems to be sitting at a crossroads, facing some major decisions that will affect the school’s future athletic success.

 

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