Two of the most attractive jobs in college football were open for Tom Herman. Despite three losses in Houston’s final seven regular-season games, Herman was the coach hopping aboard the 2015-16 college football coaching carousel and could head 165 miles west to Texas or 270 miles east to LSU. Both were (and still are) elite jobs and both would give him a mid-seven-figure salary and an oppportunity to compete for playoff appearances.
“Herman was the hot guy, but my thought always was if Herman didn’t work out, I’d go with Ed,” former LSU athletics director Joe Alleva said last year. “Ed Orgeron was always the guy I really wanted to be the head coach. A lot of people here wanted to pursue the hot name, which was Herman, so we pursued him.”
Herman didn’t work at LSU; he accepted Texas’ five-year, $29-million offer, leading LSU to “go with Ed,” who in 2019 built the best team in college football history. Herman, meanwhile, hasn’t built anything close to that in four years with the Longhorns and enters this weekend’s game against Oklahoma State with a 28-17 overall record and just 19 wins in 31 conference games, seven of which came during a 10-win 2018 season, after which he was rewarded with a gaudy contract extension.
His deal was extended two years, essentially resetting the five-year deal with another $13.25 million in fully guaranteed money for 2022 and 2023. Seventeen months after signing the new deal, Herman is not on the verge of another extension. And typically in college football when you’re not on the verge of another extension, you’re on the verge of dismissal. That should be the case with Tom Herman.
Winning morer than his predecessor Charlie Strong means nothing. Decades of results suggest Texas football is not an annual national contender. History (and big financial investments) also suggest Texas football should not be a five-win program. Twenty-eight wins in 45 games is somewhere in the middle and, frankly, might be where Texas football should expect to live. However, they shouldn’t expect to live there with the 11th-highest-paid head coach in the FBS, one who’s remarkably immature and whines a lot for someone making $5.8 million per year.
Texas is among the Power Five schools projecting a high eight-figure revenue loss from the effects COVID. Furloughs, layoffs, and salary reductions are among the athletic department’s cost-cutting measures expected to save $13.1 million, though that’s roughly 6 percent of the department’s annual budget. While the football program, athletic department, and university aren’t flirting with bankruptcy, a high eight-figure loss isn’t nothing and will undoubtedly be a factor in financial decisions moving forward, including the potential buyout of Tom Herman.
We don’t know if athletics director Chris Del Conte and/or president Gregory Fenves want a coaching change. They can’t be satisfied with a 28-17 record and annual national embarrassment but maybe they like Herman. Maybe Herman is the guy, and they might be the only two people on the planet who know Herman’s job security.
But maybe they want a change. Maybe they’re tired of the embarrassment, November irrelevancy, and watching their rival Oklahoma reel off Big 12 championship and playoff appearances. If they do, is Herman’s buyout of $15,416,667 (if fired Dec. 1, 2020) too high given the department’s financial concerns?
Yes, in my opinion.
It wouldn’t be the highest known buyout in history–Notre Dame is believed to own that honor, paying Charlie Weis nearly $19 million to go away–but $15 million during a financial crisis is too much, even for a financial behemoth like the University of Texas and Texas athletics. In addition to $15 million in buyout money, Texas would presumably ink Herman’s replacement for at least $5-6 million per year.
Tom Herman deserves to be on the hot seat. And his buyout should be the only thing saving his job right now.
Andrew Doughty hosts the High Motor podcast and covers college football and college basketball for HERO Sports. A Kansas (B.S. Sport Management) and Memphis grad (M.A. Journalism), Andrew is also a Junior Writer for Sports Illustrated and has published work on SB Nation and Bleacher Report.