UT trades in its dignity with shameless signal to Tom Herman

It’s all out in the open now, what Texas is doing to undermine football coach Charlie Strong and send out a whistle 165 miles east to Houston.

With LSU coming open, murmurs of discord at Southern Cal and Oregon and an unofficial bidding war already under way for Tom Herman, the Longhorns are going Longhorn.

Again.

What Texas did this weekend, leaking the notion to both ESPN and Sports Illustrated that Strong would not be fired during the season amid a turbulent 2-2 start, is as brazen as it gets for an athletic department whose shamelessness has never before known any boundaries.

Let’s get one thing straight: It is not a serious message about Strong’s job security. It doesn’t take a genius — or an anonymous source — to understand that another 6-6 type of season will prompt Texas to seriously consider making a change.

And perhaps that’s warranted, if that’s how the season plays out.

After another midseason coordinator change — this time on the defensive side, where Strong is going to replace Vance Bedford with himself — he is running out of people to blame and Hail Marys to throw.

If Strong continues on this trajectory, starting this weekend against Oklahoma, few will cry foul when Texas cuts a very large check and decides it simply didn’t work.

But that doesn’t absolve the transparent foolishness of Texas officials and big-money boosters, who never learn from history or see past their own checkbooks. Even in college football, there’s value to doing business with dignity, and there’s nothing dignified about what’s happening now in Austin.

It does not help Strong in any way, shape or form for Texas officials to whisper the empty promise that their first African-American coach will remain in his position until the end of the season, as though that somehow equates to fair treatment.

It does not reassure recruits, and it certainly doesn’t signal agents to back off.

In fact, it does the opposite.

The only thing Texas accomplished over the past 48 hours was sending a loud and clear message to Herman: Don’t agree to anything with LSU or anyone else until you’ve talked with us.

Though Herman will certainly protest the increased speculation about his future, preferring to keep the focus on Houston’s long-shot push toward the College Football Playoff, the reality is activity is already underway behind the scenes in the coaching search industry.

 

Even last year, Herman’s representatives were well down the road with South Carolina before he pulled back in November and ultimately decided to stay at Houston and wait for a better opportunity.

Now, he could very well hit the jackpot. LSU already decided to fire Les Miles. Texas has now shown its cards. And Southern Cal, the school not far from where he grew up, may also be in the market if the Trojans implode in the second half of the year.

It’s not Texas’ fault the timeline for the Herman sweepstakes has been expedited. But it’s practically a guarantee the Longhorns won’t make it to the finish line without stumbling over their own feet.

If they land Herman, it will be despite themselves, based purely on the allure of a brand that works as the most powerful cosmetic in college football.

Not only will Texas’ next coach walk into a situation still rife with administrative dysfunction and arrogance, but will also be signing on to work for an athletics director in Mike Perrin who is also a booster — and won’t be around for the long haul.

Make no mistake, Strong can’t be absolved of responsibility for where Texas is right now. If he had been a better manager of the program, if he had the foresight to hire the right assistants and fully advocate a vision of what Texas football should look like, we wouldn’t even be discussing his job security four games into Year 3.

But when Texas finally cuts ties with him and boosters say they did everything it could to make it work, don’t believe them.

What happened this weekend was a setup, a con and a joke. And if this ends with anything short of securing Herman’s services, the rest of us are going to be laughing for a long time to come.


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