AUSTIN, Texas -- Following Texas' 49-24 victory over Texas Tech on Friday, which concluded the Longhorns' regular season at 7-5, athletic director Chris Del Conte said he feels good about the overall direction of the program even if this season didn't go as well as those in the program had hoped.
The Longhorns, who came into 2019 ranked 10th in the Associated Press poll, are currently fifth in the Big 12 standings, taking a step back from where they were last season, when they went 10-4, earned a Big 12 title game berth and defeated Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.
"I think we're all disappointed because of expectations. We all had great expectations," Del Conte said Friday. "At the beginning of the year, everybody thinks you're going to go undefeated and win a national championship. Right? So anything short of that, you're going to be disappointed. There's so many things that have went right and went wrong throughout the year, but that's what happens. ... But I'm also very fired up for our seniors, proud of how they played today, excited about the foundation that they've laid."
Del Conte was not critical of head coach Tom Herman, who has been the target of some fans' ire in recent weeks. After winning four of their first five games, the Longhorns went 3-4 down the stretch, including a loss at unranked TCU and a meager offensive showing at Baylor.
Herman himself noted that "7-5 is not our standard here," and said he'll evaluate all aspects of the program in hopes of improving the results. On Monday, two days following the loss to Baylor, Herman noted he was in "big-time evaluation mode," and said he, the staff and the players hadn't done a good enough job developing the high-level talent they've signed in the past two years (the Longhorns had back-to-back top-5 recruiting classes in 2018 and 2019).
Like Del Conte, Herman had an overall positive tone when asked about the Longhorns' outlook.
"We're going to be OK," Herman said Friday. "Things are still headed in the right direction. Obviously, we're not happy with the totality of the season. The kids are fighting. ... The future is very, very bright. But we're not oblivious to the fact that we've got to evaluate what needs to be fixed and fix it."
Del Conte encouraged observers to take a big-picture view of where the Longhorns are and consider their recent past. Texas has finished ranked in the AP poll only twice in this decade and won more than eight games only twice in the same span. The victory over Texas Tech on Friday clinched the Longhorns' third consecutive winning season, something they hadn't done since 2013. It also marked the first time since 2009 that Texas won back-to-back home finales.
"If you step back, not in the storm but take a little bit of a step and say we went 7-6, we went 10-4, we're at 7-5 right now and we're in a situation right now where we lost a lot," Del Conte said. "When was the last time we had three [consecutive] winning seasons? When was the last time we had back-to-back bowl game wins? When was the last time we had two senior classes go out on top here [by winning their last home game]? So think about that, guys. As much as we want to write about it being doomsday, there are so many great things that are happening."
When it comes to potential changes on the coaching staff, Del Conte said that will be up to Herman.
"At the end of the day, Tom is his own man," Del Conte said. "He's the coach, he has the blueprint, I understand what he's trying to do and get accomplished and when you're in the swarm you also have to step back and say, 'Hmm, let's look at it all.' We are all disappointed from our expectations; I am not disappointed about where we're at today."
Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger, who stood on the stage at the Sugar Bowl trophy ceremony in January and said, "Longhorn Nation, we're baaack!" following the win over Georgia, said he, too, believes in the direction of the program.
"Rome wasn't built in a day," Ehlinger told reporters, according to the Associated Press. "If you had told Texas fans three years ago that we would have seven wins and headed to a bowl game and had a chance to win eight, I think people would be pretty happy. ... Overall, we did a great job."
While some might be questioning Herman or wondering if changes need to be made, Del Conte is taking a much more deliberate approach.
"At the beginning of the year we thought we'd be in a different position but we are where we are," he said. "But we're in a great position when I look at the totality of the program.
"This has been a tumultuous last six-seven years for this program. Three chancellors, two presidents, four ADs, three football coaches, two basketball coaches and baseball coaches and yet this is the first time we've had three [consecutive] winning seasons [since 2013]. So at the end of the day, I see light at the end of the tunnel."