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Texas announces Steve Sarkisian as new HC

The coaching search for the Longhorns was a brief one.

NCAA Football: Auburn at Alabama The Montgomery Advertiser-USA TODAY Sports

After conflicting reports in the hours since the Texas Longhorns fired head coach Tom Herman on Saturday morning, athletics director Chris Del Conte is expected to announce Alabama Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian as the program’s next head coach during a team meeting.

According to another report, Alabama head coach Nick Saban has already confirmed the news to his team, but Sarkisian will remain with the Crimson Tide for the national championship game against the Buckeyes.

And, indeed, at 3:37 p.m. Central, Texas announced Sarkisian as the program’s new head coach.

“On Jan. 4, 2006, I was the USC quarterback coach when we played Texas in that famed national championship game. There has always been something special about Longhorn football, its history and traditions — not just on that day — and I could never have imagined that 15 years later, I would join the Longhorns as their head coach,” Sarkisian said in a statement released by the school. “This is a unique and compelling opportunity to lead this storied program to the next level, competing once again amongst the best in college football.”

The announcement of Sarkisian as the new head coach ended a brief coaching search spearheaded by athletics director Chris Del Conte in the most high-profile decision of his three years on the Forty Acres.

“Steve Sarkisian is one of the top offensive minds in the game of football, which he has proved over and over during his time with USC, Atlanta, and most recently, Alabama,” Del Conte said. “We are confident our players and coaches will thrive under his leadership and in response to his energy and passion for the game.”

As Del Conte made the decision to move on from Herman and hire Sarkisian, he received support from Kevin Eltife, the chairman of the Texas Board of Regents, and new president Jay Hartzell, who officially had his interim label removed in September.

“We are excited to have Steve Sarkisian join us and lead the next chapter of our football program,” Eltife said. “University of Texas football has a long and proud history of competing at the highest levels within our conference and nationally, and he brings with him the coaching caliber and championship experience needed to restore this kind of excellence to our program.”

“Hiring Steve Sarkisian represents a critical investment in our football program’s future, not just for our student-athletes, but for all of Longhorn Nation,” Hartzell added. “Our entire community benefits from a healthy and successful athletics program, and naming Steve as our coach infuses our football program with the necessary guidance and expertise to drive further success.”

Sarkisian emerged as the top candidate for the Longhorns in the immediate aftermath of Herman’s firing after legendary head coach Urban Meyer previously turned down overtures from Texas.

The Alabama offensive coordinator will return to the head coaching spotlight for the first time in nearly six years after previous Pac-12 stints with Washington from 2009-2013 and USC from 2014-15.

Sarkisian officially began his head coaching career in 2009 with the Huskies, taking over a program that was winless (0-12) the previous season. He capped his debut campaign with five wins before guiding Washington to three straight winning seasons at 7-6, including three bowl appearances and five wins over ranked opponents before improving again to 9-4 during his final stand with Washington in 2013. Sarkisian remained on the West Coast for his next head coaching stint with the Trojans, matching his most recent win total with a 9-4 effort at USC in 2014 capped with a bowl win over Nebraska.

However, Sarkisian’s second season in Southern California, and ultimately his tenure as a whole, was cut short, as he was placed on an indefinite leave of absence on Oct. 11, 2015, after reportedly arriving to practice intoxicated. The following day, Sarkisian was officially fired from USC. After his termination by the Trojans, Sarkisian entered rehab for alcohol abuse.

In the years since then, Sarkisian was hired as an analyst at Alabama in 2016, and promoted to offensive coordinator the following January, though he remained in that role for only a month after being hired as the offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons in February of 2017. Sarkisian’s time among the NFL ranks was relatively short lived, as he was fired after two seasons that saw his Falcons offense average 22.1 points and 25.9 points in 2017 and 2018, respectively.

During the 2020 season with the Crimson Tide, Sarkisian helmed the nation’s top offense, led by three Heisman contenders in quarterback Mac Jones, running back Najee Harris, and wide receiver Devonta Smith. On Friday, Alabama beat Notre Dame, 31-14, to advance to the national championship game.