There will be no spring football for Texas football this year, but head coach Tom Herman says the Longhorns will handle it the best they can: With virtual meetings. (Ralph Barrera/American-Statesman)

Kirk Bohls

American-Statesman Staff

Column

Bohls: Crisis spawns a new, more relaxed, compassionate Tom Herman

Posted March 30th, 2020

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Story highlights
  • A new, more engaged, more relaxed, more community-minded Tom Herman is refreshing. He was all of those things Monday and during this crisis.
  • He and wife Michelle were more than generous when they donated $60,000  to six local non-profit groups like the Central Texas Food Bank, Meals on Wheels and SAFE Alliance, charities that can help others immediately.
  • We all should take this opportunity to hit a reset button and treat everyone a little more humanely and a little more compassionately. The Hermans set a good example.

In his first conference call with the media since the coronavirus pandemic struck, Tom Herman shed a lot of light on life in the Texas football program moving forward with new rules, new staff schedules, new online classes and electronic visits with his players and, yes, a whole lot of ambiguity.

Heck, he doesn’t even know IF there’s going to be a football season come fall.

“Today is the first day of the new normal for us,” the Longhorns head coach said in an hour-long call with reporters on Monday afternoon.

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But we may also be seeing a new Tom Herman.

And that would be a positive thing.

Texas coach Tom Herman held his first teleconference with reporters on Monday since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. He recently announced a $60,000 donation to various community relief groups. (Chuck Burton/The Associated Press)

Not saying the previous Tom Herman wasn’t good. Just polarizing, but we all know that’s got a lot to do with wins and losses.

During three erratic seasons, the head coach hasn’t always been all that embraceable by fans or the media in his sometimes frosty interactions. Now friendliness and likability, of course, are not an official part of his job requirements and nowhere to be found in the small print of his contract at Texas. 

But a new, more engaged, more relaxed, more community-minded Herman is refreshing. He was all of those things Monday and during this crisis.

Good for him if this suggests a different Tom Herman. He gets big points here.

Texas head coach Tom Herman will meet with his players via web chats twice a week during the spring. There will be no spring football because of the coronavirus pandemic. (Stephen Spillman/For Statesman)

For sure, he’s had his moments the last three years.

There were the antics like his infamous double-bird salute for the Longhorn Network television cameras and his lack of accountability at times after flat performances against Iowa State and Baylor. His lashing out at some reporters after perfectly understandable football questions.

And we haven’t even mentioned Maryland.

In a long interview last week with our own Brian Davis, he spoke of the clear opportunity to spend valuable time with his family, giving everyone a peek behind the curtain at his personal life. He and wife Michelle were more than generous when they donated $60,000  to six local non-profit groups like the Central Texas Food Bank, Meals on Wheels and SAFE Alliance, charities that can help others immediately.

I don’t want to hear any grousing about his back account and ability to contribute. Lots of folks have the means to do likewise and don’t. The Hermans should be commended for giving from the heart to those who can do the most to help victims in our community.

Herman made it a point to ask each and every reporter who asked a question Monday about the well being of their families and even told one Houston writer if he needed a pitching machine for his 5-year-old son, he’s got one in his backyard. Safe to say he’s never done that before.

Coaches and players on all levels can make the media and anyone who questions their programs and their performances the enemy and treat them as such. Because of new access rules and a lot of paranoia, reporters aren’t allowed to speak to them in casual conversation outside formal press conferences. That can breed a lot of distrust.

Maybe he’s growing into the job. Perhaps he realizes no one’s out to get him. The two camps do not have to work at cross-purposes.

I think every football coach who sets foot in Austin would love to be the next Darrell Royal. Mack Brown came the closest and was by far the most approachable and grounded coach, but he had his issues with beating Oklahoma and recruiting top quarterbacks and offensive linemen. For the first five years, Brown was a media godsend, a fountain of fascinating stories and sound bites. But he, too, grew sensitive and began to shut out the media and thought everyone was out to get him.

Ultimately, as always, it’s just about winning, and being professional in dealings with the press and fans can take a coach a long way. You lose too much, and you’re out, whether you’re Charlie Strong or Rick Barnes or Augie Garrido. You lose too much, and you’re not well-liked, and you may be gone even sooner.

If Herman wins big, that rising tide will float a lot of boats. His own but also the media’s and UT Co-Op’s and the Longhorn Foundation and Pluckers and T-shirt salesman and vendors, you name ‘em.

What this global-wide crisis has done for everyone is to give us all pause and a wonderful chance for better perspective and allow us all to be kinder and more caring and compassionate. Herman’s clearly done that and comes across as authentic, likable and self-aware.

“There are times in America when we may think we’re the only country out there, but you realize how small we really are compared to the world’s population,” he said. “Perspective is a good thing. When life gets back to normal, we wonder how I can steal some of this time back. It’s so good and precious to figure out how in a normal day to get an hour or night of this.”

Again, a new, kinder Herman.

We all should take this opportunity to hit a reset button and treat everyone a little more humanely and a little more compassionately. The Hermans set a good example.

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