It’s Kansas week, and since nobody ever really wants to talk about Kansas, the spotlight always falls on the head football coach at Texas.
Tom Herman has no doubt heard the swirling rumors about his job status after a rocky 2-2 start this season. It’s hurt the Longhorns in recruiting, costing them the nation’s top-ranked quarterback in the class of 2022. That gossip still persists despite a three-game winning streak that’s shown a path to the Big 12 championship game.
Asked directly on Monday about speculation that Urban Meyer would soon take over at Texas, Herman started fighting back.
The fourth-year coach launched into an almost five-minute monologue, took dead aim at his detractors, be they real or perceived, and laid down a marker that he’s got full support from UT administrators, who oddly have gone quiet themselves.
“No, not at all,” Herman said. “I’m concerned about our players. I’m concerned about this program. I’m concerned about beating Kansas.
“The biggest mitigating factor in this is there’s a section of people — which is our program, our coaches, the people intimately involved in the day-to-day operations of our enterprise, if you will — that know the truth,” he continued. “And then there’s rumors. And there’s unnamed sources. There’s Internet reporters with agendas that claim their own opinion as fact and hide behind unnamed sources and things of that nature.
“So, the player part is really easy, almost comical, to the point where sometimes a kid will come up to me and say, ‘Coach, you’ll never guess what lunacy just came across my (social media) feed. This is crazy, right?’” Herman said. “The recruiting part’s a different story.”
Recruiting has always been its own animal. Herman said opposing coaches show all the negative articles about Texas to recruits and their parents. Here’s guessing it works the other way around, too.
“You press print,” Herman said. “And you say, ‘Look, this is true. It must be true, It’s on so-and-so orangefans.com, right? It must be true.’”
Herman said “it gets exhausting more than anything, to have to extinguish all of these unfounded, baseless claims that are hidden behind unnamed sources and agendas. And I don’t know why it’s more here at Texas than other places. But it is and it’s something that we deal with on a daily basis.”
College coaches have spent decades dealing with Internet message-board gossip. All coaches and administrators read it, too. Never be convinced otherwise. But Herman believes he’s got Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte’s full support and that of new school president Jay Hartzell. In four seasons, Herman is 30-17 at Texas and has played for only one Big 12 title (2018).
“We understand the difference between vocal minorities and people who make decisions and their beliefs,” Herman said. “I couldn’t be more aligned with our athletic director — my boss, again — who we meet with constantly who has assured me of his support and the support of university leadership, and has even commended me and staff in a program for or how we have handled the craziest year in college football history.”
Del Conte has repeatedly praised Herman, and all UT coaches, for how they’ve handled the pandemic. The football program has had minimal infections since the season began and has played every game as scheduled in this jumbled season.
Del Conte is all over social media. However, it was noticeable that he did not tweet any sort of congratulatory message after the last three football victories. This is the same AD who tweets out winning messages after volleyball and soccer matches.
Del Conte has commended the football team in each of his weekly Tuesday newsletters that are posted on UT’s athletic department website. So yes, he does publicly acknowledge Herman’s and the Longhorns’ successes. After watching the Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma” with his daughter, Del Conte said he’s taken a step back from social media.
Asked if he was concerned, Herman said, “No, because I know what the truth is. I don’t care what the public love is or how many tweets football gets in comparison to volleyball. By the way, congrats to (coach) Jerritt (Elliott) and his crew for winning the Big 12. What a great accomplishment. I think they’re No. 1 in the country and definitely deserve our congratulations and praise.
“But I’m not going to worry about a grown man’s tweet count,” Herman added. “I’m not. I mean, maybe you guys do and that’s your job. But I know what is said to me, eye-to-eye, man-to-man, in offices, in meetings and all of that. So no, there is no stock whatsoever placed in a tweet count of a 50-year-old man.”
In multiple interviews with the American-Statesman, Del Conte consistently has refused to discuss any coach’s job status, regardless of sport. He prefers to wait until the end of the season. There’s no reason to think he would change course now.
Herman said Del Conte has even offered to speak to recruits directly. It’s unclear what, if anything, could convince Southlake Carroll quarterback Quinn Ewers to once again pledge to UT. The nation’s No. 2-overall prospect and top-rated quarterback for 2022 backed out of his Texas commitment in late October.
Ewers’ decision caused a seismic shift in the recruiting world. For some recruits and parents, if the athlete who grew up wanting to come to UT suddenly has serious doubts, what does that say about the program and its leadership?
“You just have to have constant communication, constant hard conversations with these recruits and put them in touch with our players,” Herman said. “You put them in touch with with our administration, you put them in touch with the people who actually do know the truth. At some point, like anything in life, the truth will prevail.”
No. 22 Texas (5-2, 4-2 Big 12) faces winless Kansas (0-7, 0-6) on Saturday. It’s the first of a three-game stretch where, should UT run the table, the Longhorns would earn a spot in the Big 12 title game.
Should that happen, all of the above is moot.
Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email email@example.com.