In past seasons, the Texas Longhorns had to earn the helmet decal under former head coach Charlie Strong.
In the lead up to 2017 spring practices, new head coach Tom Herman and his coaching soulmate, strength and conditioning coach Yancy McKnight, have taken things a step further — not only are Texas players not allowed to work out in gear with the Longhorns logo, they’re working out in gray sweats and cotton shorts.
Sports Illustrated’s Pete Thamel noted the changes in an article published on Thursday, but the sweats and t-shirt combination has been visible in videos and pictures released by the school and players over the last week or so.
So the Longhorns are setting about living up to the program’s tradition by winning their own pride — and logos.
Unsurprisingly, the decision by Herman is straight out of his Houston playbook:
Herman locked the locker room until his players earned it. He banned them from wearing UH apparel until they earned it. The workouts felt like pure grunt work, designed to weed out which players weren't mentally tough enough to play for the new coaching staff. You did up-downs until you did them perfectly, and then until you did 30 perfectly.
For Texas players used to getting the best gear that Nike has to offer, and who often come from high schools with high-quality endorsement deals, working out in cotton clothing that looks like it came straight from Wal Mart must be quite a comedown.
And, of course, that’s the whole point.
The discipline was a response to players missing three sessions with tutors and 38 meals during the start of offseason workouts.
As a result, Herman resorted to punitive measures at the first signs of non-compliance as he tries to build a higher level of accountability in the program.
“There’s no secret offense or secret defense, and they just didn’t have it,” Herman told SI. “It’s a cultural accountability, hard work issue. It’s not a talent issue. Kansas doesn’t have better players than Texas, and Kansas didn’t call better plays than Texas when they beat them last year. It’s how they played, why they play.”
In the past, that accountability didn’t always fall on the players, according to the new head coach.
“It’s been a culture where if somebody is messing up in academics, well let’s go yell at the academics guy,” Herman said. “If someone isn’t making weight, let’s go yell at the nutritionist. If a guy isn’t lifting enough, let’s go yell at the strength coach.”
Now it’s falling all on the players themselves, who may hold quite a celebration when they get their Nike-designed workout gear back and get to wear that steer logo once again.
Tradition is inherited, while pride is won, after all.