AUSTIN (KXAN) – Tom Herman has been fired after four seasons as head coach of the Texas Longhorns, Texas Athletics Director Chris Del Conte announced in a statement on Saturday.
Del Conte said he recommended a coaching change “to get us on track to achieving our ambitious goals.”
“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,” a statement from the University of Texas at Austin reads.
The 2020 season was seen as a make or break year for the Longhorns with Herman’s recruiting classes fully immersed within the program. Senior quarterback Sam Ehlinger returned for his fourth season and new offensive and defensive coordinators were expected to get the most out of an experienced roster.
The expected success never materialized. The Longhorns dropped back-to-back games to TCU and Oklahoma, falling to .500 with a 2-2 record just a month into the regular season. Texas reentered the conference championship conversation with three straight wins but couldn’t beat Iowa State at home in a pivotal Black Friday showdown.
Del Conte released his own statement on the decision to fire Herman through social media:
“Decisions like this are very, very difficult and certainly not something I take lightly. As I’ve said before, my philosophy is to wait until the end of the season to look at all of the factors in evaluating any of our programs. After much deliberation and a great deal of thought, as I looked back at the totality of where out football program is and in discussing its future, it became apparent that it was in the best of the University of Texas to move in a different direction.”
“I’m grateful for all Coach Herman has done and the hard work and dedication he and his staff have put in on behalf of our program and student-athletes. I thank him for all of his efforts and his service to our institution, and I wish him the best in the future.”
Texas missed the Big 12 championship game for the third time in four years after its 23-20 loss to Iowa State at home during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. A blowout win in the Alamo Bowl and at Kansas State in the regular season finale didn’t do enough to sway university leaders to keep the fourth-year head coach. Herman ends his Texas head coaching tenure with a 32-18 overall record and a 22-13 conference record.
Every conference game went down to the wire for the Longhorns in 2020. Texas played in three overtime games and its average margin of victory was 7.25 points. The Longhorns’ biggest Big 12 win was a 27-16 victory at home against Baylor in October. Close games became a staple during Herman’s time at Texas with 27 games decided by one score or less. The Longhorns went 14-13 in those close contests.
When the Longhorns hired Herman in November 2016, he was seen as a can’t-miss coaching name, quickly rising up the ranks after successful stints as the head coach at the University of Houston and the offensive coordinator for Ohio State’s 2014 national championship team. Herman called Texas his “dream job” after working as a graduate assistant with the Longhorns under former head coach Mack Brown.
Herman led Houston to a New Year’s Six Peach Bowl victory over Florida State in his first season as a head coach, finishing the year as the No. 8 team in the Associated Press poll. In 2016, Herman’s final season with the Cougars, Houston started the season ranked in the top 10.
It appeared Herman’s tactics were well on their way to working with the Longhorns after the 2018 season ended with a surprising Sugar Bowl upset of Georgia. Texas (10-4) finished with a 10-win season for the first time since 2009. The Longhorns finished No. 9 in the final AP poll.
However, Texas never reached that level of success again going 15-8 in Herman’s final two seasons.
In a difficult financial year, with athletic department layoffs and furloughs, UT leadership decided to forge forward spending more money for a coaching change.
The Longhorns athletics department is self-sustainable and relies heavily on donations, so if the donations are drying up because of the football program’s failures then the question is could UT afford to not to make a change at head coach.
Herman will be owed somewhere in the neighborhood of $15 million and then another $9+ million for the assistant coaches contracts, if Sarkisian doesn’t keep any of the current staff.