In the aftermath of a closer-than-expected 28-21 win over the Tulsa Golden Hurricane late Saturday evening, Texas Longhorns head coach Tom Herman sang the “Eyes of Texas” with his players.
In an image captured by Getty, Herman appears to have the thousand-yard stare of a person trying to figure out what just happened and how he was going to attempt to explain it to his two increasingly skeptical audiences — the media and, more importantly, a restless fan base fed up with losing.
The last factor is the most important part, because after only 15 games, the most vocal segment of the Longhorns fan base already seems ready to move on from Herman despite the fact the young head coach still has more than three years left on his initial contract.
So, after nearly a decade of struggling to regain the form that made Mack Brown one of the most successful coaches in school history, and as Texas is still technically paying Charlie Strong, some are already convinced that firing yet another head coach is the answer.
In some ways, it’s understandable — continuing to emotionally invest in the Texas football program has been a losing proposition for some time. For those on Twitter, the relentless trolling by opposing fan bases grates on the nerves. For everyone else, the water-cooler conversations on Monday loom as a dreaded moment that sucks the life out of Sundays.
Seeing new Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher go head-to-head against national power Dabo Swinney on national television Saturday evening and nearly come out with a victory doesn’t help, either. After two games in College Station, the progress there is apparent.
There’s a problem with all of that, though.
Less than two years ago, ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit infamously called the environment in Austin a “cesspool.”
“Well, I think if you’re Charlie Strong, you have to have peace of mind, just because if they ask you to leave, you’re going to get paid well and you’re going to get released. When I say released, you’re going to get released from the cesspool of being in Austin, Texas and the attitude that comes with being the head coach at Texas,” Herbstreit said in a segment of College Gameday.
“To me, you chase away Mack Brown after nine years of double-digit wins and you’re going to chase away Charlie Strong and whoever the next guy is, you’re going to chase away that guy. Who would want the job in Texas to be the head coach? Dealing with the boosters, the president, the AD, the insensitive attitude and the way they react to chat rooms and talk shows...”
The words seem almost prophetic now as Longhorns fans prepare to chase away another head coach.
The administration is in much better shape with president Greg Fenves and athletics director Chris Del Conte providing steady leadership and the boosters have remained in the shadows, only stepping forward privately to invest in the major projects planned by Del Conte.
The fans, though? Context and nuance are completely lost. Reactions come swiftly and filled with emotion, with no willingness to step back and evaluate. Patience is non-existent. Coaches might as well be employed on game-to-game contracts.
Program building? No time for that.
There seems to be little doubt that if fans are willing to start calling for the firing of Herman only 15 games into his tenure, that fits the definition of a cesspool.
Coming out of the worst three-year stretch in school history, Herman’s team competed last season, then lost the core of his defense and one of the best punters in college football history to the NFL Draft.
He replaced those players with the nation’s No. 3 recruiting class. The 2019 class features numerous high-level out-of-state prospects, some of whom will likely be early contributors, just like players like running back Keaontay Ingram and safeties Caden Sterns and BJ Foster are already contributing this season.
But in a world of instant gratification, where social media and dating apps allow one person to be easily discarded for another, the kneejerk reaction from Texas fans is the same as it has been since the demise of the Mack Brown era — fire an assistant, bench the starting quarterback, fire the head coach.
There doesn’t need to be much adversity before a vocal segment of the fan base becomes the cesspool.
If Texas fans are ready to run Tom Herman out of town without even letting his first full recruiting class play an entire season, then Herbstreit was right. The environment surrounding the Longhorns program is a cesspool.
Who would want to coach in that environment? Who would see the abuse that Herman is taking right now and sign up for it?
Be better. At least give him a chance to finish two seasons.