Three years have produced only two combined conference titles by Texas football, basketball and baseball teams. For anyone watching, it has become clear Texas athletics are no longer at the elite level they were when the likes of Vince Young, Kevin Durant and Huston Street donned burnt orange. Well, at least not the sports we’re used to.
Over the past several years, a surprising trend has developed; The biggest sports programs at Texas, especially football and basketball, have floundered despite huge budgets and continued national relevance. While these athletic juggernauts have struggled, others have excelled.
At the moment, the most notable Longhorn program is women’s volleyball, which won the 2012 national championship in dominant fashion after securing its second straight Big 12 title. However, volleyball is not the only Texas team to win a conference championship lately. Women’s rowing has won four straight Big 12 titles. The men’s swimming and diving team captured the 2010 national championship and has won 34 straight conference crowns. And although it has not won the Big 12 in nine years, the men’s golf team won the national championship last summer. While these are impressive accomplishments, they shine brighter having come at a time when the largest sports at Texas have failed to live up to lofty expectations.
No doubt, men’s athletics director DeLoss Dodds envisioned something different when Texas teamed up with ESPN to create the Longhorn Network. After all, having your own television channel is a bit dull when the most prominent sports it features are having their worst years in over a decade. However, that is not to say these sports do not play their part. Last year the University gathered over $100 million in revenue from football alone, indicating that like many things, much of what Texas sports come down to is money.
Nonetheless, Texas athletics are at an impasse. The basketball team just missed the NCAA tournament for the first time in Rick Barnes’ tenure at Texas. The baseball team is in danger of missing postseason play for the second straight year after making it in Augie Garrido’s first 15 years here. The football team, despite top-five recruiting classes three of the past four years, has managed a winning record in conference play only once since losing to Alabama in the BCS National Championship to finish the 2009 season.
Eventually, marquee programs like football, baseball and basketball will meet our expectations. Until then, Dodds’ dollars is money poorly spent.