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Golden: Sarkisian is a risk, but the Horns are willing to gamble

Sarkisian went 46-35 in stops at Washington and Southern Cal

New Texas football coach Steve Sarkisian promises the Horns will be fast, tough and physical, similar words spoken by Tom Herman, the man who was fired after four seasons Saturday before the school announced Sarkisian's hiring.
  • Steve Sarkisian was introduced as Texas' new head football coach Saturday.
  • He replaces Tom Herman who was fired earlier in the day.

Steve Sarkisian believes he is the right man for this job.

So did Tom Herman.

And Charlie Strong before him.

At one time, Mack Brown was unquestionably the right man before he wasn’t.

So Texas will go into the 2021 season with its third head coach in eight years and Sarkisian is saying things we’ve all heard before: the Horns will be fast, physical and tough when fans watch them.

“I want them to brag to their buddies, ‘Did you see Texas play today?’” Sarkisian said in Saturday’s Zoom call with reporters.

We will be watching, that’s for sure.

The Horns are still searching for the new Mack and maybe, just maybe, Sark will be the guy. This sleeping giant thought it had arisen after the Sugar Bowl win over Georgia two years ago, but that turned out to be a sweet weekend dream and little else.

Texas head coach Tom Herman is doused with Gatorade after the Longhorns' 55-23 Alamo Bowl victory over Colorado on Tuesday night.

Athletic director Chris Del Conte thought he could improve upon Tom Herman, who won but didn’t really WIN.

Tom would have stayed if Texas was content with being a second sister in the Big  12. He would had stayed if Texas was fine with more successful programs plucking our best players from these borders to remain atop the rankings.

He would have stayed if he had earned complete buy-in from the players in his locker room and from fans, alumni and big-money boosters.

Most importantly, Herman could have stayed had he won more.

He didn’t, and that’s why Del Conte and President Jay Hartzell are moving in another direction.

But Steve Sarkisian?

I find it really hard to believe that a sentence along the lines of  “We have to go out and get Sarkisian” played a constant refrain in phone conversations and Zoom chats over the last couple of weeks.

We can say this about Herman: he was safe, but not superb.

Sarkisian is neither, at least not as a head coach. He got canned at USC in large part because he couldn’t control his drinking and beyond that, he didn’t win enough games at a traditional national power.

He went 12-6 in two-and-a-half seasons at USC and 7-5 in conference play, following five seasons at Washington where he posted a 34-29 overall mark with a 24-21 record in league play.

The 46-35 career mark doesn’t exactly point to an upward arc in the win column and makes you wonder why Del Conte went this direction, especially after he told the American-Statesman in December that Herman would be back in 2021. Add to that his telling Herman that he would reach out to UT recruits on his behalf, presumably to assure them the program was on solid ground.

Besides putting into huge question the media’s ability to trust him moving forward, Del Conte just took the biggest risk of his tenure. If anything, this hire and that chilly mid-December public statement that mentioned players and the program but not the head coach further illustrates at the very least a real professional dislike for Herman.

Worse yet, he told this publication that Herman would be back for another season. Tom won’t be back, so CDC didn’t tell us the truth there. Outside of some unforeseen explanation, let’s call it what it is. A lie.

Del Conte became a distant figure social media-wise in the second half of the season when it came to football and was eerily quiet after an upset win over then-undefeated Oklahoma State on Oct. 31 and later after blowout wins where the Horns scored 69 and 55 points, Herman's last two games at the helm.

Sarkisian just won the Broyles Award as the offensive coordinator at Alabama, but there is a huge difference being Nick Saban’s top assistant and being the head coach at Texas. Outside of a huge buyout, the Austin job comes with no parachute.

It’s a risk, but one Del Conte sees worth taking given Texas’ less than stellar standing in national recruiting and the continued success of that program in College Station. Jimbo Fisher has Texas A&M one way win away from top-four finish for the first time since the 2012 season when Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and Co. spanked Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl and only the second time since the 1956 team coached by the legendary Bear Bryant.

The record will show that Herman went 32-18 overall and 22-13 in conference with a 4-0 bowl record, but didn’t win a conference title or make the College Football Playoff. The locker room was also the subject of intense debate and criticism from some fans for its active role in speaking out on social injustice, notably demanding that "The Eyes of Texas" be removed as the school song.

Five of the team’s seven captains opted out before the conclusion of the season and the decommitment of Southlake Carroll quarterback Quinn Ewers, the No. 1 quarterback prospect in the country for the 2022 recruiting class, who switched to Ohio State was a red flag.

After Ewers passed for six touchdowns in a playoff win Saturday, he responded to the Herman news by saying, “I’m rocking with my guys at Ohio State.”

Texas is rocking with Sark and apparently the vetting process came back with a thumbs up.

Sounds risky, but it’s obvious the Texas brass had no interest in where this was going.

It should be an interesting ride.