But Texas started 1-2 to rekindle dissatisfaction that would fester all season, particularly after revelations that in January, several members of the school's board of regents and a prominent donor were involved in efforts to lure Alabama coach Nick Saban to the Longhorns.
The possibility that Texas could hire Saban to take over for Brown ended Friday night when Alabama announced it had agreed to a contract extension with its coach. Texas' announcement that Brown would retire came less than 24 hours later.
Brown was considered the perfect fit at Texas when the Longhorns hired him away from North Carolina in 1997 to replace the divisive John Mackovic. The affable Brown immediately won over Longhorns fans at his introductory news conference when he flashed the traditional "Hook'em Horns" sign and urged fans to "come early, be loud and stay late."
Mackovic's blazer-polished image never seemed to fit the Texas football personality. In Brown, the Longhorns found a kindred spirit -- a boot-wearing Southerner, accent and all, who talked about restoring Texas' swagger.
Brown did what no Texas coach had been able to do for 20 years: unite a fan base that had been split since Royal left after the 1976 season. Brown embraced Royal's legacy to help win over fans aching a return to glory, and just as important, he embraced Texas high school football coaches, immediately establishing a talent pipeline from Texas' rich recruiting fields straight into Austin.
"Sally and I were brought to Texas 16 years ago to pull together a football program that was divided. With a lot of passion, hard work and determination from the kids, coaches and staff, we did that," Brown said. "We built a strong football family, reached great heights and accomplished a lot, and for that, I thank everyone."
And he won. In Brown's first season in 1998, the Longhorns went 9-3, beat Oklahoma and Texas A&M and won the Cotton Bowl as tailback Ricky Williams tore through defenses to win the Heisman Trophy.
Later known as "Coach February" for annually signing some of the top-rated recruiting classes, no recruiting pitch was more important for Brown than convincing Williams to wait on the NFL and play his senior season in '98. The turnaround and the Heisman Trophy quickly elevated Texas back to a place among the nation's elite. Even though they slipped to 9-5 the next season, they had returned to the top 10 with momentum building for the future
Young led the Longhorns to the national championship in 2005, scoring the winning touchdown on 4th down in the final minute of a wild 41-38 victory, the Longhorns' first undisputed national title in 36 years. McCoy led them back to the title game five years later, but Texas lost to Alabama.
But even Brown's best years were peppered with some epic defeats, most notably against Oklahoma. While Brown dominated rival Texas A&M, the Sooners embarrassed Texas 63-14 in 2000 and 65-13 in 2003 and both losses came in a five-game losing streak at the Cotton Bowl.
Texas ended the losing skid in the 2005 national championship season and beat the Sooners four times in five years.