The Rise and Fall of Tom Herman at Texas

Photo courtesy of USATSI

Texas is known for two things: Fantastic BBQ and their love for football.

Unfortunately, the University of Texas will not be able to improve their record this weekend against the powerhouse of Big 12 football that is Kansas University due to COVID. These kinds of games can help cushion a coach’s job. For Tom Herman, however, it may have already been too late.

The head coach of the Texas Longhorns faces some of the steepest expectations in the country, on par with those given to Alabama’s Nick Saban or Ohio State’s Ryan Day.

Sitting at 6-3 this season, Texas alums, boosters, and fans are calling for Herman’s job. The question some are asking though; are these feelings warranted?

From the outside looking in, it may seem like Herman has done a great job at Texas with 3 bowl appearances (3-0 in those games) and an overall record of 31-18. Most schools would be happy with the kind of production, but, most schools are not the University of Texas. Let’s take a deeper look into how the seasons have changed under Herman.

2017

In his first season at Texas after the departure of Charlie Strong, Herman brought home a 7-6 record (5-4 conference). His team ranked 53rd of 130 in ppg (points per game) and 29th of 130 in opponents ppg. Going into the season, Texas  ranked 23rd in the AP Top 25 poll. They quickly fell out of the Top 25 after dropping their opener 51-41 to Maryland. They would never find their way back into the Top 25. In that season, Texas lost to two other Texas schools (TCU and TTU) and two Oklahoma schools (OU and OSU). The big bad Texas Longhorns didn’t seem so tough anymore. They were able to cap off the season on a high note with a 33-16 win over Drew Lock and the Missouri Tigers, but after just one season, the Texas fanbase was already questioning the hire.

2018

The 2018 season was a statement year by Herman’s Longhorns. They finished with a 10-4 record (7-3 conference) and another bowl win. They ranked 47th of 130 in ppg and 57th of 130 in opponents ppg. They started the season with a hefty dose of deja vu, losing to Maryland as the #23 team in the country. Besides a loss to unranked Oklahoma State,Texas had a productive season. They beat their rival Oklahoma (7) in a 48-45 thriller, and managed another pair of ranked wins in USC (22) and TCU (17). Herman beat four ranked opponents that year, yet it still wasn’t enough for fans. They made it to the Big 12 Championship but lost the rematch with Oklahoma, allowing the Sooners to advance to their second appearance in the College Football Playoff. Texas ended up playing Georgia(6) in the Sugar Bowl. In what many would call Hermans statement win, Texas pulled off the upset with a 28-21 victory. After that game Texas QB Sam Ehlinger infamously told fans “We’re baaaaaaaack”. Many would have to believe that was the first mistake in a series of many over the coming seasons.

2019

Coming off the momentum filled season, Texas came into 2019 ranked 10th and surrounded by preseason hype. They would end up finishing a disappointing 8-5 with 4 of those losses coming in conference play. The Longhorns returned to normalcy with a loss to Oklahoma, also dropping games to unranked TCU and Iowa State teams. After coming in at #10, Texas would finish the season unranked. They did, however, find themselves able to win their Alamo Bowl bid against Utah (12)  38-10. This disappointing season heightened the talk amongst fans calling for Hermans job. Well, it seems like the athletic director at Texas thought differently. Herman would sign a two-year extension keeping him under contract as head coach through 2023.

2020

Texas is currently sitting at a 6-3 record this year. The offense has been productive, ranked 11th of 127 in ppg while the defense has taken a hit at 65th of 127 in opponents ppg. They came into the year ranked at #14 and got up to #9 until suffering back to back losses to unranked TCU and Oklahoma. Herman was able to get another signature win this year as they beat Oklahoma State (6) 41-34. Who knows if that win will be enough to buy him more time in Austin.

With Herman as the head coach, his team has lost six times to unranked teams while being ranked in the AP poll. They are 1-4 against rival Oklahoma, getting outscored 203-178 in those games. When trailing in the 4th quarter, they are 1-11. TCU has beaten Herman three times. Only one of those times TCU was ranked in the Top 25. The last time Texas won the Big 12 was way back in 2009, and you have to go back to 2005 in order to find the most recent National Championship.

At the University of Texas, national championships and Big 12 championships are expected year in and year out. Since the firing of Mack Brown, Texas has had two coaches. Charlie Strong, who lasted three seasons and now Tom Herman who is on his fourth season. Why has he made it this long? Perhaps it’s due to the three bowl wins and the hope that the next bowl win will be a national championship. Maybe it’s due to the incredible and tenacious play of senior QB Sam Ehlinger who has thrown for over 11,000 yards and 93 TDs in his four years. Or maybe it’s because the buyout for Herman’s contract would be north of $30 million.

The days of Texas being a serious threat in the Big 12 are slowly fading away. It’s time they break the bank and spend money on a well known and effective coach. With Urban Meyer announcing he will not return to football, Steve Sarkisian is a name that should be seriously considered by Texas brass. The ice that Herman stands on seems primed to crack, and the 2021 season could be the difference between being rescued or going for a swim.

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