Coaching at the best-known college in a football-crazy state can be a thankless task. Just ask Tom Herman, who is 27-14 in his last 41 games with the Texas Longhorns and finds himself under attack following the 23-20 loss to Iowa State. The fact that every media outlet in the state is trying to pin down rumors that the school is in talks with Urban Meyer suggests that Herman is a goner.
With his reported $15 million buyout, Herman wouldn’t qualify as the biggest loser if university officials do make the more to replace him with Meyer. Instead, a Big Ten school should be worried.
Tom Herman’s problems began with the loss to Oklahoma
As a graduate of the University of Texas and coming off a 22-4 stint as head coach at the University of Houston, Tom Herman enjoyed widespread support when he arrived to coach the Longhorns. Some of that eroded during a 7-6 season in 2017. But fixing the damage after three straight losing years under Charlie Strong required time.
Herman’s Longhorns went 10-4 in his second season, but a 2-4 stretch midway through last season started the rumblings. Beating Utah in the Alamo Bowl to finish 8-5 didn’t do much to slow the anti-Herman chatter.
According to an exhaustive 3,200-word report by 247Sports, a 53-45 loss to Oklahoma two months ago shapes up as the setback from which there can be no recovery for the fourth-year coach. Piecing together details obtained through the Texas Public Information Act, the website reported administrators were swamped with hundreds of emails in the aftermath of the loss.
Many of the comments came from donors to the school, some in the seven-figure range. Aside from an ongoing controversy – much more sensitive than most outsiders understand — over players boycotting the playing of “The Eyes of Texas,” a common thread was that athletic director Chris Del Conte, who arrived from TCU during Herman’s first season, should fire the coach and aim big – someone like Urban Meyer.
The Urban Meyer watch is on in Texas
Urban Meyer, 56, has won – and won big – everywhere he has coached. He was 17-6 at Bowling Green, 22-2 at Utah, 65-15 at Florida, and 83-9 at Ohio State. When he left the Buckeyes after the 2018 season, his record stood at 187-32 with three national championships. A legion of former Meyer assistants dots the FBS landscape as head coaches and coordinators.
In short, he’s the biggest name in coaching who currently is not coaching. He works for Fox Sports as an analyst on college football studio shows, the type of position that keeps a man on the radar of fan bases dreaming of making an upgrade.
Meyer is now the subject of a manhunt by reporters from traditional media outlets as well as bloggers. There have purportedly been sightings of him checking out properties within driving distance of Austin; others have been trying to verify rumors of Longhorns athletic department officials or higher-ups meeting with Meyer in California or Ohio.
Texas Longhorns fans are already speculating on the staff that Meyer might assemble given his far-reaching coaching tree. And that’s where the line of reasoning suggesting that Tom Herman won’t be the biggest loser in a potential regime change.
Urban Meyer could do major damage to Ohio State
The state of Texas is fertile recruiting ground for Ohio State. The perennial Big Ten power has eight Texans on its roster and will be adding to the list during the early signing period this month. Quarterback Quinn Ewers and receiver Caleb Burton are five-star prospects who have committed to Ohio State, The Athletic reports.
The line of thinking among Longhorns fans is that an announcement (or even just the speculation) that Urban Meyer will be arriving as the new Texas head coach might cause those prospects and others to reconsider. There would presumably be an even greater effect on subsequent recruiting classes because Meyer is a persuasive personality.
The quarterback coach at Ohio State, and the primary recruiter for Ewers, is Corey Dennis, who just happens to be Meyers’ son-in-law. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to project Dennis coming to work for Meyer. That presumably could sway the coveted quarterback.
The Ohio State staff has other holdovers from the Meyers era, including Larry Johnson, the defensive line coach and associate head coach. Greg Mattison and Kerry Coombs, co-defensive coordinators for the Buckeyes, would seemingly be other candidates to leave. Mattison worked for Meyers at Florida, and Coombs was on his Ohio State staff.
In a recruiting cycle already thrown into flux by the pandemic, multiple defections by assistants and de-commitments by recruits would be a blow to the Buckeyes and accelerate Texas’ rebuilding.