Texas Longhorns athletic director Chris Del Conte doesn’t look like a visionary for his new head coaching hire. In fact, I think it makes him look weak.
This isn’t meant to disrespect the decision he made to fire Tom Herman, or to hire Steve Sarkisian.
It’s how he DID it that makes him look weak.
Del Conte pursued Urban Meyer. That much is clear. When Meyer opted not to join the Longhorns, Del Conte gave Herman his full support. That, of course, should have been our first hint.
Herman must have felt somewhat relieved. In fact, after the Longhorns dismantled Colorado in the Alamo Bowl, he must have felt he had bought himself one more year to get Texas headed back in the right direction. I thought the same, too.
Turns out Del Conte never stopped looking.
What, you think he watched the Rose Bowl Game on Friday afternoon and thought to himself, ‘Boy, that Sarkisian guy? I don’t think I’ve heard of him. Is he available?’
Of course not.
Del Conte obviously never wanted Herman to remain at Texas beyond 2020. After all, Herman wasn’t his hire and the Longhorns seemed stuck in place. Now, we could have a great debate about patience when it comes to Texas football, but that level of patience doesn’t exist in Austin. Heck, Job would probably be up in arms about Texas not being ‘back’ at this point. And while on Saturday, Longhorns fans were debating the merits of Steve Sarkisian, there was ol’ Mack Brown leading North Carolina into the Orange Bowl.
Here is why Del Conte, in my opinion, looks weak. If he knew, deep down, that Herman wasn’t the right guy to lead the program, then it was his responsibility to speak up and say it when he knew it. If he knew it a month ago while courting Meyer, that was the time to say it. If he knew it after the Meyer talks fell apart, he should have said it then. If he knew it after the season ended, he should have said it then.
But he didn’t. He waited until he had a replacement on the hook. Only THEN did Del Conte do what he felt was necessary all along. And that makes him look weak. Heck, it would make me think twice about working for him if I were a coach.
Del Conte didn’t want a protracted head-coaching search in public. He didn’t want the controversy. He didn’t want to be embarrassed. Again.
That means you’re operating from a position of weakness, and that’s not the position you want if you’re running one of the richest athletic programs in college sports and working for one of the most rabid group of boosters in the game. Remember — these are the guys that THOUGHT they could pry Nick Saban away from Alabama to replace Charlie Strong, just because it was Texas.
Now, I don’t feel sorry for Tom Herman, and neither should you. He had his chance and he’ll probably be the first to say he didn’t meet his own expectations in Austin. Plus, there’s all that buyout money to keep him warm at night, money that would have been better used to help keep some of the UT athletic employees that were either let go or furloughed due to COVID-19.
Del Conte did fabulous work as TCU’s athletic director. He helped position that program to compete in the Big 12 Conference, upgrading its facilities and its coaching staffs. He did it by energizing a TCUs fan base that felt left out in the cold after the Southwest Conference broke up and capitalizing on its invitation to the Power 5. Much of the infrastructure in Fort Worth is owed to him.
But Del Conte left the chip on his shoulder in Fort Worth, and that’s a problem.
The Sarkisian hire will define his time on the 40 Acres. If Sarkisian truly brings Texas ‘back,’ then how this all went down will likely evaporate.
But, if it doesn’t, then Del Conte will follow Sarkisian out the door in a few years.
After all, when you make a hire that makes you look weak, success is your only savior.
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