NCAA Football: Big 12 Football Championship-Oklahoma State at Texas

Texas and Steve Sarkisian agreed to a four-year contract extension that's set to keep the Longhorns coach in Austin, Texas through the 2030 season, the school announced Saturday. Sarkisian led the Longhorns to a Big 12 championship and College Football Playoff appearance during his third season leading the program. 

A swift agreement became a priority once Sarkisian's name became connected with the Alabama job following legendary coach Nick Saban's retirement. Sarkisian served as the Crimson Tide's offensive coordinator in 2019 and 2020 under Saban before landing the Texas job. Alabama turned to former Washington coach Kalen DeBoer as Saban's successor. 

"As we head into the SEC next year, we're doing that with a great deal of momentum, a program we're extremely proud of and with a great head coach and leader," Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte said in a press release. "We knew that Coach Sarkisian was the man for the job when we hired him, and he's proven that each step of the way. We couldn't be more excited about where we are and where we're headed, and we're thrilled that Coach Sark will be our coach for a long time."

Though just 13-12 in his first two seasons, in 2023 Sarkisian delivered the program's best season since 2009. Texas won at Alabama on Sept. 9, catapulting the Longhorns to No. 4 in the AP poll and establishing the season's trajectory.

Despite a loss against rival Oklahoma on Oct. 7, Texas cruised to its first conference title since 2009 with a 49-21 drubbing of Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Championship Game to secure its place in the College Football Playoff. Once there, Texas fell 37-31 to Washington in a dramatic Sugar Bowl.

Sarkisian, 49, brings a wealth of experience to the job, having previously served as head coach at Washington and USC, in addition to his Alabama experience and a stint as offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons. His offensive pedigree paid dividends in 2023 as the Longhorns ranked No. 9 nationally in total offense with a balanced attack that produced over 660 yards on two occasions.

Foundation for the future

Texas is entering a new chapter in its storied history this year as the Longhorns prepare to join the SEC. In addition to the uptick in competition Texas will face in the 16-team super conference, the Longhorns also have a Sept. 7 game against reigning national champion Michigan on the schedule.

And with a home game vs. Georgia on Oct. 19, in addition to its customary rivalry with Oklahoma, the Longhorns have their work cut out for them. But the trajectory Sarkisian established in 2023 suggests Texas has some staying power on the national stage.

The Longhorns landed the nation's No. 5 recruiting class for the 2024 cycle, which followed a No. 3 ranked class in 2023. Collectively, the influx of young talent will help the program deal with the departures of underclassmen such as running back Jonathon Brooks, receiver Adonai Mitchell, receiver Xavier Worthy and defensive lineman Byron Murphy for the NFL Draft.

Set at quarterback

Star quarterback Quinn Ewers announced this week that he is returning for another season after enjoying a breakout 2023 in which he threw for 3,479 yards. While Ewers will be throwing largely to a new crop of pass-catchers, his return helps ensure a high floor for Texas.

While Ewers' decision delays the timeline for heralded prospect Arch Manning to become the program's starting quarterback, it gives the Longhorns an experienced and proven leader amid the transition to life in the SEC.