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Texas’ Tom Herman: ‘Any answer I give you right now is going to come across as an excuse’

As Herman prepares for Kansas State, Texas officials unsure whether they can land Urban Meyer, sources said

  • “Every conversation Chris and I have are great,” Herman said. “We’ve got a great relationship. We have great conversations.”
  • Two university sources have told the American-Statesman that Texas officials aren’t sure whether they could land Urban Meyer as a possible replacement.

Texas coach Tom Herman stood at the lectern Monday and faced an onslaught of questions about his job status, the same as his predecessor did in 2016 and the coach before that did in 2013.

Texas enters the weekend as a 29.5-point favorite over Kansas.

It’s excruciating for all involved. But this is how it goes when the Longhorns fail to meet even baseline expectations.

Herman himself is the one who stated upon his arrival that Texas should compete for championships. This year’s team was built on a senior quarterback and three straight top-10 recruiting classes. But it’s a program stuck in fourth place just spinning its wheels.

This was supposed to be the Longhorns’ year, even those in Moncrief believed so. Instead, Texas (5-3, 4-3 Big 12) was eliminated from Big 12 title contention with two regular season games left.

“I think any answer I give you right now is going to come across as an excuse,” Herman said on a Zoom call with reporters. “So I’m going to focus on Kansas State and an opportunity to go 1-0.

“We’ll evaluate the things we did poorly and go back to work to fix those things in the offseason,” he added. “But right now, that wouldn’t be fair to our players if I were continually looking in the rearview mirror as to why certain things happened the way that they happened, rather than prepared to beat Kansas State. And that’s what we plan on doing.”

The 2018 squad is the only one of Herman’s four teams to even reach the Big 12 title game. Herman is 30-18 overall at Texas. No matter what happens Saturday at Kansas State or Dec. 12 at Kansas, is the die already cast for a coaching change?

“Again, I’m extremely focused on beating Kansas State, not worried about winning my way out of anything, not worried about dies being cast or anything like that,” Herman said.

Herman said he spoke with UT athletic director Chris Del Conte “a couple different times over the weekend.”

“Every conversation Chris and I have are great,” Herman said. “We’ve got a great relationship. We have great conversations.”

Del Conte has refused to answer questions about Herman’s job status. To be clear, he never talks about a coach’s job status publicly, or at least not with reporters. Fans are left to parse every morsel from Del Conte’s Twitter account or weekly newsletter. There’s no gold to pan there, either.

Asked if he had any clarity about next season, Herman said, “I am absolutely and completely focused on getting our team ready to beat Kansas State and not worried about anything other than that.”

Asked why he wouldn’t talk about it, Herman said, “I know the noise can be deafening, and I don’t think that would be fair to our players to take any attention away from the focus that needs to be on the preparation to have an opportunity to go win a game in Manhattan.”

How is Herman handling all this? “How do I cope? Self-reflection,” he said. “I lean on my wife and my family. They’re my biggest cheerleaders, and I love ’em to death. My wife is probably the most honest person in my life.”

Two university sources have told the American-Statesman that Texas officials aren’t sure whether they could land Urban Meyer as a possible replacement.

The allure of TV work may be too great; Meyer may not want to risk endangering his long-term health. Headaches from an enlarged congenital arachnoid cyst on his brain was partly the reason he left Ohio State in 2018.

The uncertainty about Meyer could be a major snag in the process.

In 2016 when it was clear coach Charlie Strong was on his way out, Texas officials didn’t hesitate. Hours after the regular-season finale against TCU, then-school President Gregory L. Fenves and athletic director Mike Perrin drove straight to Bastrop. They met Herman at the Hampton Inn in clandestine fashion.

Before lunch the next day, Strong was out and Herman was in. The whole coaching search took less than 24 hours.

That’s a far cry from what happened in 2013. Then-coach Mack Brown delayed the inevitable by flying off to Tampa, Fla., to say he was recruiting just as news broke that he would be fired. The whole saga lasted a week. Then, athletic director Steve Patterson didn’t hire Strong until early January.

Texas doesn’t have the luxury of waiting around this year. Thanks to the pandemic, the entire recruiting calendar has been rearranged. The early signing day is Dec. 16. The Horns need to either commit to Herman or make a change before then so recruits have an idea what’s happening.

Texas’ 2021 recruiting class currently has 19 commitments. The class ranks 17th nationally, according to 247Sports’ composite rankings.

“We’re doing well in the ’21 class. We’ve still got a few spots to fill,” Herman said. “I’m excited about the 2021 class we have committed.”

Herman said finishing with a .700 winning percentage is still a critical goal. That will be tougher now that starting left tackle Samuel Cosmi has opted out to start preparing for the NFL Draft. Herman said center Derek Kerstetter is also questionable this week with an ankle sprain.

That means Texas could be without two season-long starters in the offensive line against K-State (4-5, 4-4). Also, cornerback Jalen Green (doubtful) and running back Keaontay Ingram (questionable) are also battling ankle injuries.

Herman said he does not expect any other senior to opt out. He also does not plan on starting another quarterback over senior Sam Ehlinger even though the focus has shifted to 2021.

“This is Sam’s team. He’s a three-year captain, and he deserves to play his final season,” Herman said. “We’re going to give him every opportunity to do that.”

Will the Texas administration give Herman every opportunity to coach another season? That’s something far more unclear.

“We are full steam ahead in preparation mode to try to win a conference game,” Herman said, “and give the seniors a fourth straight winning season here at the University of Texas.”