The inevitable became reality for Charlie Strong on Saturday as the University of Texas fired the third-year head coach in the aftermath of another disappointing season. And the program reportedly wasted no time in hiring a replacement: The Longhorns will hire Houston coach Tom Herman, according to multiple reports. A person familiar with the talks told The Associated Press that Herman has told UH he is leaving for Texas, and Sports Illustrated reported the same. His hiring at Texas was first reported by ESPN.
Texas finished the season with a 31-9 loss against Texas Christian on Friday. Earlier this week, facing reports of his dismissal, Strong emphasized the importance of the TCU game because the Longhorns’ bowl eligibility hinged on it.
In three seasons, Strong compiled a record of 16-21. At a tradition-rich program like Texas, and with a salary in excess of $5 million per year, expectations for Strong were naturally high. His record of success at Louisville, where his team went 12-1 in 2013 before he was hired by UT, fueled hope of a quick turnaround for the Longhorns, as well.
“It’s a very difficult day for me, my family and all of the people affected by this decision,” Strong said in a statement. “I’m most disappointed for these kids and our staff who have poured so much of their lives into this program for the last three years. I do understand that it comes down to wins and losses, and we have not done our job in that area yet. I accept full responsibility for that, but know in my heart that we accomplished our primary goal, which is the development of young men.”
“Decisions like this are tough to make,” Texas AD Mike Perrin said in a statement. “The responsibility is not taken lightly. I became friends with Charlie Strong before becoming Athletics Director. I have the utmost personal respect for him. His impact on college athletics and student-athletes should be celebrated. Coach Strong represented The University of Texas with class and dignity, and he demanded our student-athletes do the same by adhering to his system of core values.”
Herman’s two-year run of success at Houston made him an obvious target for coaching searches at bigger schools. The Cougars were 13-1 in 2015, Herman’s first year there, with a win over Florida State in the Peach Bowl. This season, UH is 9-3 with wins over the only two Power Five conference opponents on its schedule: Oklahoma and Louisville.
Reports swirled Thursday about potential interest from both Texas and LSU in Herman, including a report that Herman met with LSU officials Thursday. LSU released a statement during a 54-39 win over Texas A&M which said that no decision had been made, and Fox Sports reported Friday that a meeting between Herman and LSU did not occur.
Prior to reviving the program at Houston, Herman was the offensive coordinator at Ohio State, where he helped the Buckeyes to a national championship following the 2014 season.
NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein said Herman’s recruiting prowess in the state of Texas will be of great benefit in taking on the Longhorns job.
“I know that Herman is a little bit limited in terms of his head coaching experience, but let’s remember that he’s coached at seven different schools in the state of Texas and he knows the high school coaches in this state. Coach Herman also brought a five-star prospect, Ed Oliver, into the university of Houston and that guy is already one of the top defensive tackles in the nation as a true freshman,” Zierlein said. “He’s been a double digit underdog three times in two years at Houston and has won all three of those games outright (twice over Louisville and once over Oklahoma). He can recruit, he gets his guys up for the big game and he knows how to put together a great staff. He should be able to build on what Charlie Strong has started to put together at University of Texas.
Texas decided to dismiss Strong after the Longhorns suffered an embarrassing loss to Kansas last week, 24-21 in overtime, according to the Austin American-Statesman. A day later at his weekly news conference, Strong said he didn’t believe that decision had been made, citing assurances from the Texas administration that he would not be evaluated until the end of the regular season. If the school did indeed wait until after the TCU game, the evaluation was a quick one.
Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter @ChaseGoodbread.