It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Tom Herman “shocked” the world Saturday as he finally accepted the inevitably vacant head coaching spot at the University of Texas. In what appears to be another thread in a pattern of young coaches with short-term success signing onto high-profile programs, Herman takes on the heavy burden of repairing a broken Longhorn’s football team.
Little did we know that a young and ambitious head coach from Houston would pack up and move a couple hundred miles west to coach at possibly the most featured college football program in the nation (let’s all be honest here, this shouldn’t be a surprise.) I’m so not bothered by this that it’s somewhat unnerving how OK I am with this move. It makes total sense! Who wouldn’t take that job?? (*cough cough* Nick Saban *cough*) One must admit that this has been in the works for quite some time now. Tom Herman has always had aspirations to be a head coach at a Power Five school. Ever since his days of offensive genius as OC at THE Ohio State University, Coach Herman has been searching for his own little magnum opus…. fast forward two years and voila, here we are. What’s even more of a surprise is the anger stemming from those who once championed him as the savior of Houston Coog’s football. So, for fans of UH and critics in general to attempt to tear down his character and loyalty is not only uncalled for, but utterly ridiculous. Herman did what he set out to do at Houston and that was to leave the program in a better than shape than when he got there. The culture change and prominence of Houston is all do in part to him. Herman took what was a sub-par American Conference team one year, to a team that went 6-0 against top 25 ranked teams in the last two years. The last time UH had hype like this was almost certainly during Andre Ware’s Heisman campaign in the late 80’s. Sure, the Keenum/Sumlin era was exciting, but the quality of wins and overall success pales in comparison to what Herman has done, especially when considering his Coog’s beat teams like the ’15 Seminoles and a mind-boggling dominant performance this season over once #6 ranked Oklahoma. For that and many other reasons, we should all tip our hat to Coach Herman for his efforts to make Houston absolutely relevant again.
So, what happens next? I have an answer. Kinda. Sorta. Not really… but enjoy.
Now that Herman is out of the picture, the hunt for his replacement is under way and several candidates have been named already in the race for the head coaching vacancy. Many are Art Briles (free agent??) and Mike Leach (Wash St.) disciples such as HC Phillip Montgomery (Tulsa), HC Dana Holgorsen (WVU), HC Sonny Dykes (Cal) and OC Lincoln Riley (OU). Other candidates mentioned are HC Dan Mullen (Miss. St.), OC/QB coach Major Applewhite (UH) and interim HC/DC Todd Orlando (UH). Briles and Leach are also in contention for the head coaching spot and according to the Houston Chronicle, a “small faction” of the university’s board and benefactors will push for Briles to be considered heavily. The only problem with Dykes-to-Houston is that he has already been considered rather heavily the last two times a head coaching spot was open at UH. Why wasn’t he chosen the first two times?
Let’s say Dykes really is ahead of all the other possible choices at this point. Would he even accept the job? College coaches tend to be egotistical as it is and to be considered three different times for the same exact school may leave a bad taste in his mouth. Then again, the recruiting possibilities at this point for Houston are not only indispensable, they are untouchable; Herman truly did create a ‘State of Houston’ in his short coaching career, recruiting right from his backyard of Houston/East Texas. Any reasonable coach who has even an iota of intelligence can recognize the value of real estate like that. With recruiting season just around the corner, there’s not much time to dabble in the waters and wait to hire a new coach. With that being said, it appears that the job is Dykes’ to lose. Larry Fedora, head coach at UNC, has also had his name thrown around the mill, but with the success he’s had in Chapel Hill, it’s hard to see him leaving a gig like that for a Group of Five coaching job.
The most aggravating thing about this whole ordeal is quite simple: power. Had the Big 12 voted to accept UH into their conference, it’s guaranteed that elite, yes I said elite, head coaches would be clamoring for a chance to coach for the Coog’s. Houston is a great city and on top of that, a hot bed for recruits. But fate chose otherwise and chose the Texas powerhouses to be located in Austin and College Station, with the latter having absolutely nothing to offer, but Santa’s Wonderland (which technically isn’t even in C-Stat, but we’ll let ‘em have this one thing.) It really is a shame though that Houston hasn’t had the chance to be a large metropolitan city that wields a team with a rich, winning history like Miami or Los Angeles with UCLA and USC.
If Houston president Renu Khator and her associates do this correctly, we should anticipate a hire within the week following the Cougar’s bowl game. As much as Todd Orlando would love to be promoted to full-time head coach, it appears his tenure as interim HC will be his 15 minutes of fame with the Coog’s. Applewhite will most likely follow Herman to Texas. Coach Montgomery just got hired at Tulsa and is killing it up there. Mullen and Holgorsen are expected to sign extensions and Riley has plenty left to learn before leaving Stoops in Norman, and might be headed to the other OU in Oregon. As for Briles and Leach? Both are crazy, which is good. Both love the spread, which is even better. But, Briles is still in football purgatory and Leach, as crazy as it sounds, has made Washington State relevant again and because of his huge ego, he won’t leave until he’s forced out which may not be any time soon either.
Simply put, change is the only constant in life and Herman leaving for Texas was just as certain as death and taxes. Leaving the program in wonderful shape, Houston has the chance to continue what is now a tradition of winning and be even better than before—hopefully.