The 2020 college football coaching carousel is starting to turn, and a handful of major Power 5 programs might be involved at the next turn.
Today, Sporting News looks at Texas. The Longhorns are 5-3 in Tom Herman’s fourth season with the program, and a series of close losses have added kindling to the hot-seat rumors.
Those rumors have focused on Urban Meyer, who won three national championships through stints at Florida and Ohio State.
How hot is Herman’s seat? Is Meyer a possibility? What other options might Texas explore? SN breaks down the Texas coaching job:
Why is Tom Herman on the hot seat?
Herman replaced Charlie Strong at Texas in 2017, and the former Houston coach was the can’t-miss-candidate in that cycle.
Herman is 30-18, but that includes a 21-13 record in Big 12 play.
The Longhorns appeared on the right track in his second season. Texas finished 10-4, split two meetings with Oklahoma and beat Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. The Longhorns are 13-8 in the last two seasons, and Herman dropped to 15-15 in games decided by 10 points or less with a 23-20 loss to Iowa State on Nov. 27.
The Sooners have won the last five Big 12 championships and could make it six in a row this season, and Texas A&M is 6-1 this season in the SEC. Herman was asked about his future Monday.
“Any answer I give you right now is going to come across as an excuse,” Herman said via Longhorns Wire. “So, I am going to focus on Kansas State and an opportunity to go 1-0. We will evaluate the things that we did poorly and go back to work to fix those things in the offseason.”
That has been a running theme in Austin for more than a decade now. Texas has not won the Big 12 championship since 2009, and even the current players know that.
Texas QB Sam Ehlinger on whether the Horns inability to play to their talent level is on the coaching:
“It’s never fully on the coaching staff… That’s the million dollar question that everyone’s been trying to figure out for the last 10 years.”
— Jake García (@Jake_M_Garcia) November 27, 2020
What is Tom Herman’s contract situation?
Herman is scheduled to make $6 million in 2020, according to the USA Today coaches salary database. Herman is the 11th highest-paid FBS coach.
Does Texas recruit well enough under Tom Herman?
Any Texas talk must revolve around recruiting, given the depth of high-school talent in the football-crazy state. This is Herman’s fourth full recruiting cycle with the program, and he has done well. Here is a look at how his classes ranked, according to 247Sports.com.
When it comes to in-state five-star recruits, Herman has competition. Here is a look at where the Texas five-star recruits have committed from 2018-21:
What has put some of the pressure on Herman is Ohio State landed commitments from two Texas five-star recruits for the class of 2022. Quarterback Quinn Ewers (Southlake Carroll) decommitted from Texas, and wide receiver Caleb Valle (Del Valle) followed the quarterback to Ohio State.
Who could fix that problem? The answer is obvious.
Would Urban Meyer entertain Texas?
If Texas were to part ways with Herman, then the Urban Meyer rumors would be off the charts. For the foreseeable future, Meyer would be the top candidate for most major programs, much like Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden used to be in the NFL.
Meyer, 56, is 187-32 as a coach. He was 83-9 at Ohio State from 2012-18. Meyer retired after the 2018 season, in which he was suspended three games for mishandling domestic abuse allegations involving former Ohio State assistant Zach Smith. Herman was Meyer’s offensive coordinator with the Buckeyes during their national championship run in 2014. There is a lot to unpack there.
Meyer has served as a studio analyst for Fox’s “Big Noon Kickoff” show the last two seasons. He’s good at that, too. There is no doubt Meyer could be successful at Texas given his track record at the last two major programs.
Meyer also is great in rivalry games. He had an 11-1 combined record at Florida against Georgia, and he was 7-0 against Michigan at Ohio State.
Hiring Meyer would be the ultimate splash, and it would get the attention of Oklahoma, Texas A&M, and yes, Ohio State.
What other candidates would emerge?
If Meyer were to turn down Texas, then Iowa State’s Matt Campbell could emerge as a candidate. Campbell has beaten Texas the last two seasons and has the Cyclones on the cusp of their first Big 12 championship game appearance. Campbell also could generate interest from other major programs.
Campbell has been at Iowa State since 2016 — one year before Herman arrived at Texas.
From there, it is a short list of candidates who would fit Texas. At this point, the best candidates are Meyer and Campbell.
What will happen at Texas?
Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte is in that uncomfortable spot that comes with a scenario like this. The Longhorns can stick with Herman, whose 2018 and 2019 recruiting classes will be upperclassmen the next two seasons and see if there is improvement.
Meyer, however, must be interested in the job. If that is not the case, then Texas should stick with Herman.
The Longhorns finish the regular season against Kansas State and Kansas, and Herman is 3-0 in bowl games. An 8-3 finish would take off some heat, but it’s bound to return in 2021.
Texas is faced with an interesting decision this offseason either way. The next few weeks should be interesting.