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On Tom Herman, lockers, and the pathways to Texas success

Are new lockers really how to end entitlement and beat Oklahoma?

Texas athletics

In the wake of the social media frenzy following the viral public debut of the $10,000-apiece lockers currently being installed by the Texas Longhorns football program, questions still remain about the gaudy, expensive, custom-built upgrades.

Before getting into any of those questions, however, know this — head coach Tom Herman doesn’t care about any of it, past the impressions of his players and recruits.

“The only reaction I care about to be honest is our players and our recruits,” Herman told FOX Sports last week. “I don’t care about Twitter’s reaction or whatever social media’s reaction is. Our players and the recruits absolutely loved it. The recruits, especially those that have been a lot of places around the country, have said, ‘Coach, there’s nothing even close to it around the country.’

“So, mission accomplished on that one.”

There are questions about entitlement. Questions about whether this will help the Longhorns beat the Sooners in the Cotton Bowl. Questions about spending $10,000 on lockers when the players are unpaid. Questions about whether it will actually help in recruiting.

For the record, Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports, who visited Austin to speak with Herman on Tuesday, believes that the lockers and overall facility upgrades will help in recruiting, though colleague Stewart Mandel wasn’t as convinced.

Feldman’s belief was grounded at least in part on what senior defensive tackle Poona Ford told him about those types of things potentially being the difference in a recruit’s choice of schools — “everything matters,” he said, sounding like his head coach.

For Feldman, however, the lockers are a danger, possibly creating the same type of entitlement that existed at Texas under Mack Brown.

“I’d rather us be soft with really good players than soft with really bad players.” Herman responded, according to Feldman. “And, by the way, we’re not going to be soft.”

For Herman, it’s about getting the best players, because being soft doesn’t have anything to do with the gear that they get, it’s a result of a soft culture.

For Mandel, Herman’s educational experience learning about lockers isn’t a sign that the Texas is headed in the right direction.

“I’ve learned a lot about lockers,” Herman told Feldman. “We’d just redone the locker room at Houston one year ago. Obviously, we didn’t have solid-surface doors there. We learned a little bit about what A&M had and what Penn State had and what Oregon had. I knew that was the cleanest, sleekest, sturdiest way to go was a solid-surfaced door.

“We needed something to make ours look different from those programs when the doors were shut, and not just look different, but better. The glowing doors with the television, with the color-changing Bevo head at the bottom, and the stainless steel, have set this locker apart from anything that’s ever been built.”

Feldman’s response to Mandel focused immediately on the facility arms race going on across the country, but it’s actually about more than that.

To bring up what is becoming a tired cliche already, this is about alignment. Not just staff alignment, but alignment in the entire program — that’s why paying attention to every detail matters.

It’s about going 1-0 and saying that you did everything you possibly could to help the program when you put your head down on the pillow at night.

That means empowering the strength and conditioning and nutrition staffs, hiring a larger personnel staff, caring about social media, improving the facilities, and demanding excellence and a high level of effort whenever players set foot in a classroom, tutoring room, position room, weight room, or enter the practice field.

Put it all together, and it should make a difference.

Individually, each little detail? Perhaps not much of a difference when each is taken separately, but that’s not the point.