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Tom Herman explains the hire of Texas staffer Casey Horny

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The much-anticipated response from the Longhorns head coach didn’t quite hit all the right notes.

Tom Herman

In Texas Longhorns head coach Tom Herman’s first interview since sparking controversy with the hire of staffer Casey Horny, Herman explained the hiring process and for the first time revealed that Horny expressed contrition behind the scenes for his support of former Baylor Bears head coach Art Briles.

Friday’s interview with 104.9 The Horn also provided insight into how Herman thinks about Horny and how he perceives the negative pushback from fans.

Herman and Horny first formed a relationship when they were graduate assistants at Texas many years ago, which formed the basis for the former Baylor staffer returning to his alma mater.

"He's a wonderful husband,” Herman said. “He's a fantastic father to his lovely daughters and a fantastic football mind, a great football coach.”

There’s no particular reason to believe that Horny isn’t all of those things — the problem is that people often made the same remarks about the disgraced Briles.

“How could Briles enable sexual assault when he was seemingly so kind to those around him?”

So whether Horny is a good husband and father is immaterial to his vocal support of Briles while he was a Baylor, which ultimately resulted in Horny deleting a number of tweets that were favorable to his former employer, some even sent after Briles was fired.

Horny could be a good husband and a good father to those around him, all while undermining those traits with his actions in regards to football — Herman’s argumentative tact here doesn’t have much value.

The good news in this is that Herman said Horny recognizes his mistakes.

"He had some uninformed and regrettable tweets that he's apologized for, and I'm fully confident that he is in alignment with what our vision is at the University of Texas and will prove to be a very valuable member to our staff. And we've moved on,” Herman said.

The fact that Horny apologized for his tweets is a new revelation — when athletic director Mike Perrin released a statement about Horny’s hire this week, he didn’t say that Horny expressed any remorse for his vocal and public support of Briles.

“Like others, I question coach Horny supporting some commentary on social media. After further discussion with Coach Horny, he understands such actions will not be tolerated at Texas.”

The statement from Perrin sort of missed the point here — the concern isn’t whether Horny is going to poorly represent Texas on social media, it’s whether he understands that he represented himself in a negative manner by becoming an apologist for Briles.

Absent a statement of apology from Horny himself, Herman acknowledging that there is some regret on Horny’s part is a positive development.

However, there were several other comments from Herman that deserve further inspection and perhaps even clarification.

One of them occurred when he discussed the vetting process before hiring Horny.

"He was vetted very rigorously through the athletic department and also myself and my relationship with him," Herman said. "Of course, I knew that the vetting process would come up; was nothing that would deter us from hiring him.”

While it’s possible that Herman unintentionally misspoke a little bit or conveyed the wrong impression during the interview since this was something of a broken thought, it sounds like he’s saying that he started the vetting process with the belief that he wouldn’t find anything disqualifying about Horny’s time at Baylor.

Without knowing the specifics of the vetting process and what happened in Waco, it’s impossible to say whether there was anything that should have kept Texas from hiring Horny.

But Herman is seemingly suggesting that he went into the vetting process with an existing set of beliefs — that’s not a true vetting process. That’s simply going through the motions to gain a measure of plausible deniability in order to hire an old friend.

And that’s exactly the type of thing that got Briles in trouble in Waco, especially in taking transfers like Sam Ukwuachu and Shawn Oakman.

“Baylor did not consistently conduct due diligence with respect to potential transfers,” said the Pepper Hamilton Findings of Fact. “In at least one identified instance, the process reflected a failure to conduct appropriate due diligence and assessment of risk...”

So we’re now left to hope that Herman did actually perform his due diligence despite the seeming suggestion in his comment that he did not.

As the counterpoint, Herman did argue later in the interview that Baylor coaches should get further opportunities “if you’ve been forthright in everything that you’ve seen and done.”

The Texas head coach concluded by saying that “Casey has certainly passed all of those tests with flying colors.”

In the interview process, that may be true, assuming that Herman did his due diligence, but it certainly was not apparent to the public whether Horny “passed all of those tests” after he went back and deleted those tweets and the school was slow to respond to requests for comment.

In other words, if Horny did impress during the interview process in addition to expressing contrition for his tweets, it was hardly immediately apparent to the public.

The other notable comment from Herman was in response to a general question about the intense interest in the program from the Texas fan base that also included multiple references to the Casey Horny hire (emphasis added).

“It’s a bit foreign to me to have that vested of an interest,” Herman said. “It’s almost like it’s a reality TV show that these people derive their entertainment even in the offseason and off the field through the following of our program and often times, because of it, create your own narrative to create drama in that reality TV show. So that’s foreign to me. I don’t think it surprises me. It seems a bit odd.”

Where Herman is absolutely and completely wrong in this instance is that concerned fans didn’t create the drama surrounding the Horny hire — Herman created it by hiring Horny and not realizing that people would actually care enough to hold the school accountable.

There are elements of the Longhorns fan base and resulting behaviors that are odd, especially in the offseason. Asking the university to live up to its stated values and reject apologies for men like Art Briles is not odd.

It’s principled, and those principles have helped put Texas in the forefront of universities addressing sexual assault.

Those are values that Herman should stand up for, but instead he’s implying that this whole episode was an act of manufactured outrage to avoid boredom during the offseason, while expressing confusion that he could be held accountable for low-level staffing decisions.

That’s what it sounded like at least — precision and clarity in situations like this are important and it’s not yet clear that Herman fully understands the need for that in controversial situations.

Any conflation of Horny hire and Texas fans being dramatic is not a good look.

To Herman’s credit, he wasn’t adversarial at all in the conversation and didn’t adopt a defensive tone or manner in providing some of the needed insight into how the hire went down.

However, the Horny hire and how it was handled by the administration, along with Herman’s comments on Friday, reveals that the new head coach still has a bit of a learning curve at Texas.