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Tom Herman remains patient as Texas aims to establish a championship culture

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“We weren’t here to just have a really good season in year two. We were here to rebuild a program that’s capable of sustaining success and we feel like we’re on our way there.”

NCAA Football: Big 12 Media Days Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

As he nears his third season on the Forty Acres, Texas Longhorns head coach Tom Herman has often remained adamant about the necessity to develop a championship culture in Austin.

But building a truly sustainable culture that’s capable of competing at a high level for an extended period of time often takes time — lots of it, in some cases. For a fan base such as the burnt orange nation, patience isn’t exactly found in bulk.

At Texas, as is typically the case with a blue blood program, you’re supposed to win and win now.

Luckily, the Longhorns have done exactly that, piecing together back-to-back winning seasons, including a 10-win showing in 2018. But Texas isn’t exactly Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, or Oklahoma just yet. Those perennial powers have established a winning culture over the years, and the jury remains out as to whether Texas is finally ready to rejoin college football’s elite echelon.

There’s evidence to suggest that Texas is well on its way back to the top tier, but as Herman detailed on Tuesday, actually returning to that championship level will require an element of patience.

“I’ve been blessed with an unbelievable administration, and I really do believe that games are won or lost by players and coaches. Championships are won by administrations. We have a championship administration in Chris Del Conte, our athletic director, and Greg Fenves as president,” Herman said on Tuesday. “I think both of them understood where this program was when we took it over. We’re probably a bit ahead of schedule, to be honest with you, in terms of getting us back to consistently being where we expect Texas to be. But I do think there is an element of patience.”

In the meantime, all Herman and his Horns can do is continue to work towards establishing a lasting culture. The key — and challenge — to that end may very well mean prioritizing that culture over the modern obsession of winning and winning now, as long-time Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy detailed on Monday at Big 12 Media Days.

“I wasn’t smart enough to realize how difficult it was to develop a culture and I never worried about winning now. I had great confidence in Coach [Mike] Holder, and in the people that were supporting me that if we did things the right way it would work out. I’ve said this many times before as I look back, if I would have realized how difficult it was to get to the position that we are today, I don’t know if I would have been able to make some of the decisions that we feel like helped to establish a culture at Oklahoma State that’s benefited us for a number of years.

“The win at all costs theory has never crossed my mind,” Gundy added. “That’s not something personally I believe in.”

That recipe certainly worked wonders for Gundy throughout his 14 years as Oklahoma State’s head man.

An Oklahoma State program that had experienced only three 10-win seasons throughout its entire history prior to the Gundy era has since enjoyed four such campaigns, including three straight from 2015-17. Last season, however, the Pokes regressed from those results, slogging to a 7-6 finish.

The reason for the multiple-game regression? As Gundy notes, he and his staff failed to always reinforce the cultural values that allowed OSU to emerge as a power in the Big 12 in recent years.

“I let little things slide in practice and in meetings and just the overall concept and as the head coach my responsibility is to make sure we do everything perfect all the time,” Gundy said. “I didn’t do a good job of that. The players at times became undisciplined. As coaches, we became undisciplined so we were an undisciplined organization and that’s why we played the way we did at times last year. I don’t think anybody would question that there was a chance we could have had double-digit wins last year.”

Texas, on the other hand, did enjoy double-digit wins last year — a feat admittedly reached sooner than Herman may have expected — and the often-deafening hype that has since surrounded the program will have you believe that Texas is already back.

But Texas won’t be what it once was until each season — not just 2019 behind the program’s best season since 2009 — begins and ends with championship conversations.

Those conversations begin with a championship culture, and even for the nation’s premier programs, it takes time to implement and reap the benefits of that culture.

“I lean on Coach [Dabo] Swinney at Clemson quite a bit. I think it took him, what, seven years, something like that to win his first national championship,” Herman said. “Coach [Mack] Brown at Texas was the same. I’m not saying we’re setting the bar at seven years, but what I’m sayin’ is we want to win championships and we want to win ‘em now. But we were brought here to rebuild a program and that takes time.”

“We weren’t here to just have a really good season in year two,” Herman added. “We were here to rebuild a program that’s capable of sustaining success and we feel like we’re on our way there.”