By Steve Lansdale
AUSTIN, Texas — What a difference a few hours makes.
Saturday began at the University of Texas with the news that many expected for some time, that football head coach Charlie Strong had been fired after three years on the sideline. But a day that began with that deflating news ended on an emotional high for the program with the announcement of another piece of news that many have predicted for weeks, when the university officially hired former University of Houston coach Tom Herman to take over the program next season.
The UT alum who has spent the last two seasons as leading the Cougars in the American Athletic Conference, winning the conference’s title last season, was named the 30th head coach in UT history, men’s athletic director Mike Perrin announced Saturday. Herman will be introduced at a press conference Sunday. His contract is pending approval by the UT System Board of Regents, after which details will be released.
Herman said that he is eager to get to Austin and begin working with his new team. UH defensive coordinator Todd Orlando will take over coaching the Cougars on an interim basis.
“The opportunity to come back to Texas is a dream come true for me and my family, and I can’t thank President (Gregory L.) Fenves and Mike Perrin enough for providing me with this incredible opportunity,” Herman said. “Longhorn football has been — and always will be — a national power, winning and playing for national championships with great pride and passion, supported by an unbelievable fan base.
“When President Fenves, Mike and I met late last night and into the morning, I came away very impressed with their unified vision and commitment to football, and I’m excited to be the head coach at the flagship university of the greatest state in the union. I am eager to get to Austin as soon as possible, to spend time with our student-athletes and to get to work.”
Perrin said the accomplishments of Herman’s ability as a teacher on the field mirror’s the impact he has on student-athletes outside of football.
"I’m thrilled to have Tom Herman joining us as our head football coach,” Perrin said. “I am impressed with his insights on college sports, football and academic success, and his philosophy of developing the student-athlete into the complete person. He clearly has a passion and respect for the game of football, and also, a passion for teaching young men the game and the life lessons that come with that.”
Fenves said hiring Herman to lead the Longhorns represents a homecoming of sorts for Herman, who was a graduate assistant at UT from 1999-2000.
“In Tom Herman, Longhorn football is getting a proven competitor, terrific recruiter, and committed mentor of student-athletes who has shown his ability to succeed at all levels,” Fenves said. “Tom was the hottest young head coach in the country the past two seasons, and I am thrilled we are able to get him back to UT to lead Texas football.”
Herman said it was those two seasons as a GA in Austin that laid the foundation for his coaching career.
“While working as a graduate assistant coach at UT and earning my master’s degree, I learned so much about college football from mentors like Mack Brown and Greg Davis,” Herman said. “I had been a Division III college football player with my only coaching experience at Texas Lutheran when I was hired and UT thrust me into major college football and helped build the foundation for my career.”
With Herman at the helm, the Cougars posted a record of 22-4 over the past two seasons, the fourth-best mark in FBS over that time. After the 2015 season, he was nominated for the Eddie Robinson and Bear Bryant Coach of the Year awards. He also was named First-Year Coach of the Year by the Football Writers Association of America and was named the AAC’s Co-Coach of the Year.
Prior to his two years at UH, Herman spent 10 years as an offensive coordinator, the last three of which he spent as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Ohio State, where he won the 2014 Frank Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant coach and helped the Buckeyes win the national championship at the end of the 2014 season despite playing with three different quarterbacks.