Set to resign after 16 seasons in Austin, Brown guides the Longhorns against Mariota and the No. 10 Ducks on Monday night in San Antonio.
From 2001-09, Brown's teams at Texas averaged 11.2 wins, recorded two Big 12 titles, won the national championship during an undefeated 2005 and played for another four years later. However, since losing 37-21 to Alabama in the title game of the 2009 season, the Longhorns are 30-20 and endured Brown's only losing season with a 5-7 record in 2010.
Texas (8-4) began this season ranked 15th, but lost two of its first three to put some heat on Brown. The Longhorns faced then-No. 9 Baylor with the Big 12 title and a BCS bowl berth on the line Dec. 7, but lost 30-10 to fall to 1-3 against Top 25 opponents.
"The standard is really high here," said the 62-year-old Brown, whose 158 victories at Texas rank behind only the late Darrell Royal's 167. "We set a standard at this place. You'd better win all of them. I understand that. ... The standard is really high here and I'm proud of being part of setting that standard.
"I sincerely want to get back to the top and that's why I'm stepping down after the bowl game. I hope with some new energy, we can get this thing rolling again."
The uncertainty surrounding Brown's future proved to be a distraction for the program in recent weeks. After meeting with school president Bill Powers and new athletic director Steve Patterson, Brown was told he could remain coach but decided otherwise. He was under contract until 2020 with a salary at more than $5 million per year, and will stay on as a special consultant to Powers.
"I felt like I could stay," Brown said. "I really felt like it wasn't best for the university to stay.
"It's been a wonderful ride. Now, the program is again being pulled in different directions, and I think the time is right for a change."
Before Brown steps down, he faces a daunting task while trying to guide the Longhorns to a second consecutive Alamo Bowl victory.
In what also will be Case McCoy's final game at Texas, the embattled quarterback hopes to fare better after he completed 57.4 percent of his passes while throwing 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions this season. McCoy started six games the previous two years and became the starter in 2013 when David Ash's season ended due to concussion-like symptoms.
McCoy and the Longhorns offense will be facing an Oregon defense that will be led by coordinator Nick Aliotti for the final time. Aliotti announced Friday that he'll retire after this game following 24 years with the Ducks, including 17 as defensive coordinator.
It's on the defensive side where Texas likely faces its biggest challenge in this contest.
Despite the presence of Big 12 defensive player of the year Jackson Jeffcoat, who has 12 sacks and 21 tackles for loss, the Longhorns allowed at least 30 points in half of their games and 40 or more three times.
Brown fired defensive coordinator Manny Diaz after a 40-21 loss to BYU on Sept. 7 and replaced him with Greg Robinson. Texas won six straight from Sept. 21-Nov. 9, but allowed 68 points to Oklahoma State and Baylor in the two defeats over the final three games.
It's uncertain if Texas can seriously improve in time to contain Oregon (10-2), which ranks second in the FBS averaging 573.0 total yards and third at 46.8 points per contest.
Mariota has completed 63.1 percent of his passes for 3,412 yards with 30 touchdowns and four interceptions. The sophomore has thrown a TD in each of his 25 career games and set a single-season school record with 3,994 total yards in 2013.
A Heisman Trophy candidate most of the season, Mariota's stock fell after he struggled during a 26-20 loss at then-No. 6 Stanford on Nov. 7. Hampered by a leg injury late in the season, Mariota was picked off twice while throwing for 308 yards and two TDs during a 42-16 defeat at Arizona on Nov. 23.
With perhaps some unfinished business left in 2014, Mariota announced he will return for his junior season.
"It is an honor to be a student at the University of Oregon and to have the opportunity to represent our institution on the football field alongside my teammates," he said. "I look forward to earning my degree next year and to the rest of my career at this great university."
Though the Ducks did not earn an at-large bid to their fifth consecutive BCS bowl game, they expect to finish strong.
"Everyone's been dogging us, and we have a lot to prove," receiver Bralon Addison told the school's official website. "I think we will be ready for this game, and I think we have a lot to took forward to."
Oregon beat Texas 35-30 in the teams' most recent meeting in the 2000 Holiday Bowl.