Kirk Bohls

American-Statesman Staff

Column

Bohls: Tom Herman, Chris Del Conte are firm on head coach’s ability to fix Texas

Posted November 25th, 2019

Advertisement
Story highlights
  • The logo has been tarnished since 2009 because the Longhorns have lost at least four football games every year since, have not won a Big 12 championship since and have lost seven games or more four times in the last 10 years. So there’s no quick fix.
  • When asked Monday if he is shaken and if he thinks he’s still the right man for the Texas job, a very composed Herman said, “I'm not shaken. Obviously in big-time evaluation mode of everything throughout our program. I'm not going to bury my head in the sand. It's my job to make sure that we play to the level that is expected at the University of Texas."
  • The fairest answer about Herman’s capacity to handle the rigors of this job and return Texas to prominence after this program’s long, steady decline is it may be too soon to tell. 

Tom Herman can’t go an entire press conference these days without saying he understands he and his staff have to coach to the Texas standard and their players have to play to the Texas standard.

And he’s right.

But what all have to come to grips with during the late stages of a dismal 6-5 regular season that concludes with a home game Friday against lowly Texas Tech is the following:

Advertisement

Texas is playing to its standard.

Its new standard.

The logo has been tarnished since 2009 because the Longhorns have lost at least four games every year since, haven’t won a Big 12 championship since and have lost seven games or more four times in the last 10 years. So there’s no quick fix. Texas hasn’t been Texas since Mack Brown’s first dozen years.

Texas head coach Tom Herman speaks with quarterback Sam Ehlinger in a timeout in the second half of an NCAA college football game at Royal-Memorial Stadium, Saturday, Oct., 19, 2019. [Stephen Spillman for Statesman]
So the question arises is this: Is Herman, who is struggling to right the ship, the right man for the job?

Herman thinks so. Obviously.

And said as much.

His boss, Chris Del Conte, thinks so. Obviously.

And said as much as well.

When asked Monday if he is shaken and if he thinks he’s still the right man for the job, a very composed Herman said, “I’m not shaken. Obviously (I’m) in big-time evaluation mode of everything throughout our program. I’m not going to bury my head in the sand. It’s my job to make sure that we play to the level that is expected at the University of Texas.


“Am I the right man to do it? I believe I am, yeah. You’re asking me, I don’t know — did you expect me to say no, I’m not and walk off and drop the mic or something?”

No, I did not expect him to do that. But I wanted to gauge Herman’s temperature after losing for the fourth time in six games and dropping the Longhorns’ third consecutive road game.

Herman kept his cool Monday. 

Now he may have wanted to head-butt some reporters, but he kept his emotions in check and said all the right things, at least better than his offensive linemen did in the lopsided 24-10 loss in Waco on Saturday. Personally, I thought his head-butting theatrics in the pregame huddle came off as very artificial and theatrical. Didn’t exactly help.

Coach Head-butt already has enough issues on his plate without adding migraines to the list.

The fairest answer about Herman’s capacity to handle the rigors of this job and return Texas to prominence after this program’s long, steady decline is it may be too soon to tell. 

But he must acknowledge the severe problems that have befallen this program because this team has not improved since September and has taken a very large step backward since starting 4-1 and playing toe-to-toe with LSU, which now is ranked No. 1. Is this a one-year aberration or a trend that is likely to continue? Who knows for certain?

Texas head coach Tom Herman exits the field after falling 39-27 to Oklahoma during the Big 12 Conference Championship NCAA football game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018. [Stephen Spillman for Statesman]
Charlie Strong got only three years, but he didn’t have a winning record to show for it at 16-21, lost his only bowl game and lost to Kansas. 

Herman’s wrapping up his third season with a disturbing 23-16 record. 

But Del Conte reminds that he has won back-to-back bowl games for Texas for the first time since 2011-12, including a New Year’s Six bowl, that he led Texas to a Big 12 title game, has beaten Kansas all three times, has recruited tremendously well, and seems prepared to make meaningful changes to his coaching staff. All true.

He’s just not very warm or embraceable. So he needs to win big.

Del Conte firmly remains in Herman’s corner, and it’s hard to blame him since he was the one who mistakenly extended the coach’s contract by two years after last season’s Sugar Bowl victory. 

Del Conte craves continuity and said Monday from his hospital bed after surgery for a torn labrum, bicep and rotator cuff, “We’ve got to create some stability, and we are. We’ve got work to do, and that’s what we’re doing. You have to trust the plan. We have to work our way out of this. Darrell Royal is not walking through that door.”

His may not be a blind leap of faith because Herman did go 10-4 in his second year, whip Georgia up and down the Superdome and split two games with Big 12 owner Oklahoma. The second season offered tremendous hope for 2019, but instead we’ve gotten a pedestrian offense, a wildly erratic and too often poor defense, and no momentum at all the second half of the season.

The fans are angry, and Del Conte should want them angry so long as they aren’t detached. This isn’t Herman’s first rodeo, but it’s his first major trouble after going 22-4 at Houston and now winning all three of his bowl games there and at Texas. He has to prove he can overcome this, but he’s never gone through anything quite like this, has he?

“The first year here?” Herman posed rhetorically. “That was pretty tough. Pretty tough.”

But he was still acclimating in 2017 when he went 7-6. The honeymoon’s over. Now Herman’s hoping he’s still married to Texas for the long haul.

Comments