What has become increasingly expected in recent months is now reality.
The University of Texas has fired head football coach Tom Herman, parting ways with the 45-year old after the conclusion of his fourth season with the Texas Longhorns.
“With our football season coming to a close, our vice president and athletics director, Chris Del Conte, has evaluated the UT program’s strengths and weaknesses and where the program is relative to our goals,” the school announced in a statement. “While we have made measured progress during the past several years under Tom Herman’s leadership, Chris has recommended to the university president, Jay Hartzell, that UT make a coaching change to get us on track to achieving our ambitious goals. President Hartzell and the chair of our Board of Regents, Kevin Eltife, concur with this recommendation and have approved the change. We thank Coach Herman for his service and dedication to our student-athletes, our program and our university.”
Herman’s buyout is $15 million, and his assistants’ buyouts would be worth another $10 million, so the decision to cut Herman’s tenure short with so much cashed owed was because Texas has its sights firmly set on its next coach — Horns247 reports that coach will be Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian.
This decision comes just days after Texas’ dominant 55-23 Alamo Bowl win over Colorado. However, it’s what what took place weeks earlier that largely signaled the impending end of his tenure with Texas — a 23-20 loss to No. 13 Iowa State, which dropped the program to an underwhelming 5-3 overall and more significantly, 4-3 in Big 12 action to effectively eliminate the Longhorns from the Big 12 Championship picture.
The two early-season losses to TCU and Oklahoma contributed to Texas ultimately falling entirely from conference title contention on Friday, as well, but they also reignited the flame beneath Herman’s seat, prompting early calls from fans for a coaching change.
Between then and the loss to Iowa State, clamors for a changing change only intensified, event amidst Texas’ three-game winning streak, which featured a road win over No. 6 Oklahoma State.
That’s because even as the short-term outlook of the program improved as Texas clawed back from 2-2 to 5-2, the long-term outlook trended entirely in the opposite direction — namely, the Longhorns lost a potentially program-altering pledge from 2022 Southlake Carroll quarterback Quinn Ewers, the nation’s No. 2 overall prospect, who’s drawing legitimate comparisons to Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence. The day after Ewers, who ultimately committed to Ohio State, decommitted, the Longhorns also lost a pledge from four-star Lancaster receiver Phaizon Wilson. To add insult to injury, losing Ewers to Ohio State did Texas no favors with semi-local 2022 five-star receiver Caleb Burton, who appeared to be the Longhorns’ to lose before he followed in Ewers footsteps, left the state, and committed to the Buckeyes.
So, it wasn’t simply that Texas failed to capitalize on an overall average Big 12 landscape amid a season during which Herman noted that the roster had peaked, but the program’s long-term future doesn’t appear any brighter, despite Herman’s comments to the contrary following Texas’ loss to Iowa State.
“I feel like where we have the program right now compared to where it was when we took over, the future is very bright,” Herman said following the loss to Iowa State. “We’ve won a lot of big games in our time here. (Texas) didn’t win the conference championship two years ago when we made the game, played for an opportunity to go to that game today and lost in the last couple of minutes. But I feel great about the trajectory of our program and where we’re headed, and the things that are on the horizon.”
Herman’s initial remark is certainly true.
Throughout a tenure that fell just short of four full seasons in Austin, Herman led the Longhorns to four consecutive winning seasons, so he undoubtedly leaves the program in a better condition than he found it. However, those four winning campaigns were still noticeably blemished by 18 losses, four of which came during Herman’s most successful showing in Austin — a 10-4 effort in 2018. That 2018 season, which featured Texas’ first trip to the Big 12 Championship game since 2009, appeared to be the long-awaiting turning point for a once-great program, and expectations of a complete re-emergence were only solidified by then-sophomore quarterback Sam Ehlinger’s post-Sugar Bowl proclamation, “We’re back!”
But rather that a return to prominence, an injury-plagued roster in 2019 saw Texas limp to seven regular season wins before capturing another inspiring 38-10 win over No. 11 Utah in the Alamo Bowl, building momentum for what was projected to be Texas’ best chance to re-live its conference supremacy with a peaking roster in 2020.
Of course, three losses in eight games later and Texas’ ceiling is another seven-win regular season and a trip to the Texas Bowl. So, to Herman’s second point, for a program starving for championship success, the trajectory under Herman’s leadership certainly doesn’t seem capable of reaching those heights — at least on a consistent basis — and thus, Texas Athletic Director Chris Del Conte made the decision that Herman is no longer the best option to lead the Longhorns.
That duty will now reportedly belong to Steve Sarkisian.