The Texas Longhorns are setting out on a third attempt in less than a decade to reboot their football program. After axing coach Tom Herman on Saturday morning, the school introduced Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian as the next head coach charged with bringing the Longhorns back to prominence.
A few knee-jerk reactions to the news out of Austin:
*I’ve been of the opinion that as soon as Texas’ courting of Urban Meyer came to light, Herman had to go. The rationale for removing the head coach – i.e., Herman wasn’t cutting it – didn’t change just because Meyer declined. Waiting another season to make a move would mean ticking off the boosters who want a new coach, losing ground on the recruiting trail and risking Herman putting together a campaign in 2021 good enough to warrant keeping him on for 2022.
*Even though I think UT had to make this move, I’d argue the way it played out will be bad for business going forward.
To recap, Texas:
- Made eyes at another coach while Herman was still employed;
- Issued a statement days before the early signing period for 2021 that Herman would continue coaching the Longhorns; and
- Continued courting other coaches after clearly giving the impression that Herman would return.
Two Texas sources have confirmed the Statesman that Del Conte's statement means 2021.— Brian Davis (@BDavisAAS) December 12, 2020
Recall that UT cut the legs out from underneath its last coach by leaking to the media in the middle of Charlie Strong’s third season that he was a dead man walking. Ironically, the objective that time was to signal to Herman not to take another job without checking with the Longhorns first.
Any coach who takes a job in that environment will be sleeping with one eye open. It also probably helps explain why UT is hiring a coach with Sark’s profile and not one of the industry’s more coveted candidates.
*Regarding the hire itself, Sark’s tenure at USC, which was derailed by his issues with alcohol abuse, raises justifiable concerns about how he will manage the pressures of a job like Texas. It’s not a matter of whether or not he deserves another chance – I certainly don’t feel qualified to make that call. Honestly, I just don’t know if that is the right kind of situation for someone in his position.
That aside, not much about Sark’s previous experience as a head coach indicates he’s destined to rejuvenate Texas football. Following Tyrone Willingham’s awful stint as Washington’s head coach, Sark elevated the Huskies to not awful. His 34-29 record at UW caught the eye of USC when the Trojans were searching for a replacement for Lane Kiffin. He compiled a 12-6 record at Southern Cal before getting his walking papers in the middle of his second season. It seems worth noting that Sark’s successors – Chris Petersen at UW and Clay Helton at USC – both surpassed his achievements at the two schools.
Has Sark’s time as an assistant with Bama and the Atlanta Falcons changed anything? Guess we will see. The apples have fallen pretty far from Nick Saban’s coaching tree over the years. The Crimson Tide offense was another level of devastating this season under Sark’s management, but it’s not like Bama struggled to put points on the board with coaches such as Mike Locksley and Kiffin on the sticks.
Of course, Sark could go a long way towards ensuring his success by assembling a great coaching staff. Football Scoop is throwing out some big names who could potentially join him in Austin, including ex-UT defensive coordinator Will Muschamp and former Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood.
*Lastly, Texas will probably feel pressured to release its latest crop of recruiting signees from their letters of intent, as Bud Elliott of 247Sports is arguing. You’d think this is a fight UT wouldn’t want to have with any signees who want out. Convincing those players to stay with the program is probably at the top of Sark’s to-do list now. After that, look for him to open a line of communication with 2022 quarterback prospect Quinn Ewers, a one-time Texas commitment.