Texas football had a choice. In hiring Tom Herman, they chose victories over morals.
The hiring of Herman doesn’t mean he’s going to be the next Art Briles (or to a much lesser extent, Bob Stoops) and have absolute disregard for his players assaulting women by keeping them on the team. This is more about the firing of Charlie Strong.
Does Texas want to win now? Of course. Will Tom Herman bring those wins now? We’ll find out in 2017. However, hiring a coach who lost to SMU and Memphis wouldn’t exactly excite me as a fan. I get it. Houston humiliated Oklahoma. The Sooners are Texas’ biggest rival. Houston then went on to humiliate Louisville, but Louisville then lost to a subpar Kentucky team. Don’t let the record fool you. The SEC is having one of its worst years in a long time. When Vanderbilt and Kentucky are bowl eligible, you know the SEC is down.
Tom Herman is the hot hand. Charlie Strong did not get the results he needed, but he also did not receive the time necessary to build a program. Strong brought in a boatload of talent to the Longhorns. He is leaving the program with a cupboard filled with talent. Herman could easily become a Texas version of Larry Coker. Texas will be a national championship contender in 2017. After Butch Davis left Miami (FL), Larry Coker won each of his first 24 games as head coach of the Hurricanes. Once the talent graduated, the Hurricanes slowly faded away into a team that could not make it to a bowl. This could easily happen to Herman.
Charlie Strong really wasn’t a recruiter. He was simply an honest man. Covering the team’s recruiting beat from August 2015-September 2016, it was amazing how recruits would change their minds in the final month. Strong had some rules about recruiting. First off, it was extremely rare for a recruit to receive an offer during their junior season. Texas would evaluate several players in the spring, offer a few, then send out more offers in the senior year of those players.
When I spoke with recruits, their main gripe about Texas was the “lack of love” the coaching staff provided them. They would offer and then drop off the map for a little bit. What I learned is that, many coaches will sell recruits on a program. Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin has the “Swagcopter”. While covering Texas Tech in years past, I spoke to a state championship winning wide receiver who ended up signing with Texas. Kingsbury took a super sweet RV to greet him at his high school. The recruit was overjoyed as I spoke to him on the phone after Kingsbury made his visit. Strong refused to be a salesman. He knew that players who waited throughout the process would find out some coaches aren’t all they are cracked up to be. Strong, showing recruits exactly who he is from the beginning, knew that recruits who had their heart broken would crawl to the coach who was there for them the entire time.
Herman, of course, was also a salesman. He sold recruits on the same idea that made Howard Schnellenberger successful at Miami (FL). He created the #HTownTakeover, making it his goal to win the best recruits in Houston. In doing so, he won prized defensive lineman Ed Oliver out of Westfield. Part of that may have been connecting the pipeline from Houston to Spring Westfield by hiring former Westfield coach Corby Meekins. Corby’s brother Matt Meekins became the head coach for Oliver’s senior season. It was a natural fit. Additionally. he garnered the signing of D’Eriq King out of Manvel and flipped the commit of Katy defensive back Collin Wilder from Texas Tech. If Houston is able to retain the talent Herman brought in, they should win the next three American Athletic Conference Championships easily.
Strong had the best selling point of all coaches though: honesty. My conversations with recruits were consistent. When they took a visit to Texas, whether official or unofficial, there was hardly talk about football. Sure, they were shown the facilities. However, any conversation with Strong and his staff featured little about football and more about life. Strong is a teacher. He wants his players to be successful on the field, but placed even more emphasis on success off the field. His goal was to mold boys into men.
Strong knew he didn’t need to be sexy to win at recruiting. When another coach would rescind an offer or show their true colors, they would run to Texas and jump into Strong’s arms. Houston Westside defensive lineman Jordan Elliott did this twice. He committed to Baylor, Houston and Michigan during his process. At one point, he silently committed to Texas, which he denied in December 2015 after committing to Michigan. Still, he wound up signing with Texas.
Four-star recruit Jean Delance signed with Texas after decommiting from Oklahoma due to video of racist chants from a fraternity. Strong, being an African-American, was waiting for Delance with open arms. Jeffrey McCulloch was leaning towards Texas A&M despite being a lifetime Texas fan. As Kevin Sumlin’s seat started feeling an intense inferno, McCulloch sided with Texas. Shortly after signing with the Longhorns, news was released regarding a group of people on Texas A&M’s campus chanting racial slurs to prospective black students. McCulloch made it well known through Twitter he was proud to sign with the Aggies’ rival. Of course, there was also the firing of Art Briles which sent four signed recruits to Texas in June. Of the five recruits who requested an unconditional release, only Port Arthur Memorial running back Kameron Martin, who had a Baylor tattoo on his bicep, would go to Auburn instead of Texas.
Strong was straight up and honest with his recruits. He never beat the bush with them or tried to sell the program. The recruits who signed with Texas during his era wanted to be more than just football players. The discipline problems seen under Mack Brown vanished under Charlie Strong. In 2015, the football team scored its highest APR rating ever. The players at Texas now are going to be successful in life.
Meanwhile, Tom Herman has not been the most honest man in the world. He’s called multiple media members dishonest, and told many to not believe rumors he was leaving. This continued into his final game at Houston. Le’s face it. It didn’t seem like he really even cared to win after the Big 12 Conference announced it would not expand. He had a clause in his contract to renegotiate with if Houston were to be added to a Power Five Conference. It was no secret Herman would be leaving. Herman certainly wants to be at Texas. The question now is, will Texas players continue their off-field progress? Or will winning football games be the only thing that is taught to Texas football players?