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Bohls: Texas' muddy search leaves Tom Herman in limbo

Texas coach Tom Herman's future with the Longhorns has been a subject of speculation for weeks. Reports that former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer is not interested in returning to coaching haven't necessarily cleared up Herman's situation.
  • So when's the press conference officially declaring Tom Herman's still in?
  • You don't have to hire a big name to succeed or a coach who came from a powerhouse.
  • Regardless, Texas has treated Herman shabbily.

So let’s simplify this.

Urban Meyer tells Texas he’s out.

So when’s the press conference officially declaring Tom Herman’s still in?

Uh, not Monday.

Maybe not Tuesday.

Never?

Just when Longhorn Nation thought the smoke had cleared after Target 1 told the Texas brass he didn’t want to risk his health with an inoperable brain cyst and take on such a huge challenge as restoring Texas football to national prominence, the door was opened to sticking with Herman. Still is.

It made sense that if this were the clear-cut option that remained, then athletic director Chris Del Conte would bust every single one of the buttons on his well-tailored shirt, proudly if insincerely brag on Tom Herman as if he were the son Del Conte never had and declare to all the world that he’s looking forward to years and years with Herman as the Longhorns' head football coach.

But he didn’t do that. Still hasn’t.

And that, of course, means he’s still looking. Looking behind Door No. 2 and Door 3 and on and on.

With considerable egg on his face. The clock’s ticking.

Former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer reportedly has let Texas know he's not interested in returning to coaching because of health issues.

But James Franklin’s mammoth $38 million buyout and Dan Mullen’s disinterest in relocating and Billy Napier’s lack of traction and the unlikelihood of luring a Kyle Shanahan or a John Harbaugh from the NFL are leaving Del Conte in a rapidly shrinking box.

If the school decides not to keep Herman — and all the mounting evidence indicates Texas apparently would still like to make a change — I’d go hard after Iowa State’s Matt Campbell and Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell, despite their big buyouts as well.

You don’t have to hire a big name to succeed or a coach who came from a powerhouse. Texas got Mack Brown from North Carolina, Fred Akers from Wyoming and Darrell Royal from Washington and Mississippi State, where he went 17-13.

Some of the best college hires were unproven, such as Bob Stoops (Florida defensive coordinator), Kirby Smart (Alabama defensive coordinator), Dabo Swinney (Clemson receivers coach), Dan Mullen (Mississippi State) and even Meyer (Bowling Green and Utah). It’s a gamble, but that’s why Del Conte makes more than $2 million a year.

Otherwise, endorse Herman and shout to the heavens that Herman has had four winning seasons in a row as opposed to Charlie Strong’s three consecutive losing seasons, is 3-0 in bowls for UT and 4-0 overall, has shown he can beat top teams like Oklahoma (OK, once) and (complacent) Georgia and (mentally broken) Utah, and he can assemble talent (with three top-10 recruiting classes, albeit with a lot of recent snubs from Quinn Ewers, the Brockermeyer boys and others).

Herman is not a bad coach. Not even close.

He’s a good coach who supported his players through social unrest and the coronavirus (but didn’t handle “The Eyes” controversy all that well). But he’s made a litany of off-the-field mistakes such as flipping the bird and securing the bag.

And he’s a Keaontay Ingram fumble and a Sam Ehlinger two-point conversion in regulation away from being 8-1 right now and maybe one more Ehlinger completion for a makeable field goal away from beating Iowa State in overtime and being 9-0.

Yeah, maybe that’s what losers say. 

Or maybe Texas could be on the cusp of something big. Or maybe Herman wasn’t quite ready for the big stage and needs to do more to be humble and win friends and games.

Regardless, Texas has treated Herman shabbily.

He deserves better.

It’s incumbent upon Texas to clarify Herman’s muddy situation sooner than later and announce it’s keeping him, warts and all, or say it is firing Herman and moving forward with a coaching search that gets stranger all the time.

Herman deserves more dignity and consideration than this. This poor guy has to show up for these agonizing press conferences time and again without receiving any endorsement or vote of confidence from his bosses. It’s poor form to search high and low for a replacement for a position that isn’t even open yet.

One high-ranking UT official said this episode is “totally” messed up. And it has been.

I can only imagine how strained the relationship between Herman and Del Conte is these days. Herman told us on the Big 12 conference call Monday that he speaks almost daily and sometimes multiple times a day with his boss. Here’s probably how it goes:

Del Conte: Hey, Tom, how’s it going?

Herman: You tell me, Chris.

Del Conte: Just plugging along. Did you read your horoscope today?

Herman: Yeah, it said I might want to look for another job.

Del Conte: Good one. I hear you’re pretty good at Words With Friends.

Herman: Is that it? I’d better get back to work.

Click.

Yeah, they talk often. I’m sure about the weather and COVID-19 and Christmas shopping.

There’s been way too much talking and not enough doing.

Do one or the other, Chris. That way you have something tangible to talk about with your top employee.