When Texas Longhorns head coach Tom Herman met with president Greg Fenves and athletic director Mike Perrin late last Friday night, he wanted to know that their collective vision for Longhorns football matched up with his own.
In that respect, he was interviewing them just as much as they were interviewing him. The fact that the two sides came to terms on his contract in the early hours of Saturday morning was proof that Herman heard what he wanted to hear.
There are several areas in which Texas lags behind national powers that Herman would like to fix, as he expressed to Dan Patrick this week when discussing recruiting.
“We need to stay competitive with the elite teams in the country — the Alabamas, the Ohio States, the Clemsons of the world — in terms of our facilities and our resources and support staff and recruiting staff and all that,” Herman told Patrick.
The last two areas are the most important in the short term, as the lack of a large support staff and recruiting staff contributed, at least in some part, to Charlie Strong’s failed tenure in Austin.
And the failed tenure of Mack Brown before him.
In fact, Texas was one of the last two schools in the Big 12 to hire a Director of Player Personnel in 2013. At the press conference to create that position, Brown admitted that “we’ve kinda been mom and popping it around here for a long time.”
The ‘Horns also didn’t have a football-specific strength and conditioning coach or a nutritionist until that time. Mom and popping it indeed.
Under Strong, it was much of the same, though there were some reports that former athletic director Steve Patterson wasn’t always willing to give him the resources he needed.
What do the support staffs and recruiting staffs look like at those other schools?
Alabama and Clemson both carry the maximum-allowed number of strength and conditioning coaches (five) and both have a veritable army of support and recruiting personnel.
In fact, head coach Nick Saban employs nine football analysts, including former head coaches like Mike Locksley and Steve Sarkisian, three Assistant Directors of Players of Personnel, and two Directors of Player Developments.
The Directors of Player Personnel and Player Development even have an assistant.
In all, there are 23 members of the football support staff.
“It allows coaches to focus on coaching,” former Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart told CBSSports.com in early 2016. “It allows more input. It also allows you to see an offense from years past, look at (what they did) three years ago and what they did in a situation. It just gives you more manpower and gets you more ready."
During the 2013-14 school year, the Crimson Tide spent $2.7 million to employ the support staff. During Saban’s first season, the combined salaries of the support staff jumped from $837,000 to more than $1.9 million.
In Columbus, the personnel staff totals 20 under head coach Urban Meyer, with five graduate assistants, four quality control assistants, and two Directors of Player Development.
The support staff at Clemson totals 21 and cost the Tigers $2.5 million in 2013-14.
“We used to have one GA,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “Now the GAs have GAs. They have their own staff. I tell these guys sometimes, like man, y’all have no clue.”
The associate athletic director for football administration at Clemson sees himself like an NFL general manager, so he talked to three of them when he took over his position in 2009 to develop “a GM model for college football.”
Alabama and Ohio State have combined for five of the last seven national championships, while Clemson finished as the runners up last season.
Coincidence? Not likely — Meyer, Saban, and Swinney are arguably the top three coaches in the game, but they don’t achieve success by themselves. It takes a lot of help.
Brown didn’t have that help and neither did Strong.
Texas lost 10 games by seven points or fewer during Strong’s three seasons with the Longhorns, with a host of special teams mistakes contributing to a handful of those losses.
Since Meyer started coaching the Buckeyes in 2012, Ohio State is 13-2 in those games. He employs two quality control assistants just for the kicking game.
Again, some of that success is due to the fact that Meyer is one of the best coaches in college football, but no small part of it is having the right people around him. And lots of them.
Herman gets that.
“I think I'm the right guy because I surround myself with great people,” he said during his introductory press conference. “We wouldn't be able to do the things that we've done at the University of Houston without a great staff, and by that I mean, the nine assistants, the strength staff, the support staff, and everybody around our program builds us up.
“I think you win with people. To steal a line from Woody Hayes, you win with people, and I think people are extremely important in what we do in terms of our family.”
Right now, the Texas jobs site lists the following open positions — Director of On-Campus Recruiting, Director of Player Personnel, Football Administration Director, Quality Control, two Social Media Coordinator positions, and a Graphic Designer.
Obviously, that’s a much shorter list, but further postings are possible, if not likely, once Herman assembles his full coaching staff. So far, he’s brought with him two members of his personnel staff — Assistant AD for Football Operations Fernando Lovo, Director of Player Personnel Derek Chang.
It’s also unclear if Herman will retain any of the previous staff members, as the football staff page on TexasSports.com is currently unpopulated.
One thing is clear — the new head coach understands that he’s going to win with people and that it will take more of them than his predecessors employed.