AUSTIN, Texas — Texas fired Tom Herman because it was tired of waiting for him to deliver a Big 12 title and turn the Longhorns back into national championship contenders.
Next up: Steve Sarkisian, the architect of the Alabama Crimson Tide’s offense and its tsunami of points this season.
Texas fired Herman on Saturday after four seasons, then hours later announced it was giving the job to the Alabama offensive coordinator.
It’s a quick move Texas expects will deliver quick results. The Longhorns are not known to be a patience bunch.
Sarkisian leads a Crimson Tide offense that has pummeled opponents and produced two Heisman Trophy finalists in quarterback Mac Jones and receiver DeVonta Smith heading into the Jan. 11 College Football Playoff championship game against Ohio State. He recently won the Broyles Award given to college football’s top assistant coach.
He’s also been around. At 46, Sarkisian has previous head coaching stints at Washington and Southern California. He’s been Alabama’s offensive coordinator under Nick Saban since 2019, and has experience as an NFL assistant.
Sarkisian is expected to remain with Alabama for the championship game.
“This is a unique and compelling opportunity to lead this storied program to the next level, competing once again amongst the best in college football,” Sarkisian said in a statement released by Texas.
Texas wants him to not just win — Herman did that with a 32-18 record — but to knock rival Oklahoma off the top of the Big 12 while also making sure recruiting in their home state doesn’t get swamped by Texas A&M’s rise in the Southheastern Conference.
He will be Texas’ fourth head coach since the program’s last Big 12 championship in 2009. Since then, Texas has fired Mack Brown — the only coach to lead the program to a national championship (2005) in 50 years — Charlie Strong and Herman. Of note, Sarkisian was a USC assistant when Texas beat the Trojans in the epic 2006 Rose Bowl for the national championship.
Sarkisian was 46-35 overall at Washington and USC, but was fired midway through his second season with the Trojans 2015 and went into alcohol rehabilitation treatment. He later lost a $30 million breach of contract and disability discrimination lawsuit against USC that alleged the school fired him instead of allowing him to seek treatment.
Contract terms for Sarkisian were not immediately released.
Herman won all four of his bowl games and still had three years left on a guaranteed contract set to pay him more than $6 million per year. Texas is the hook for more than $20 million in buyouts for Herman and his staff
Texas fired him just three weeks after athletic director Chris Del Conte said he would remain the coach. In a new statement Saturday, Del Conte said he’d since decided it was time for a change.
“After much deliberation and a great deal of thought, as I looked back at the totality of where our football program is and in discussing its future, it became apparent that it was in the best interest of the University of Texas to move in a different direction,” Del Conte said.
Herman’s best season was 2018, the only time he got the Longhorns to the Big 12 title game. They finished that season with a dominating win over Georgia in the Sugar Bowl that prompted quarterback Sam Ehlinger’s now-infamous “We’re ba-aack!” statement to a national television audience.
Texas instead sunk back to the middle of the pack in the Big 12. The Longhorns reached as high as No. 8 early in the pandemic-stricken 2020 season before quickly fading. They were, in effect, eliminated from the Big 12 title game with a 23-20 home loss to Iowa State with two games left.
Frustrated by the stagnation, Texas also saw ominous signs in recruiting. Several of the state’s top players signed elsewhere or backed off commitments last month.
Herman, 45, seemed to be the sure-fire candidate to return Texas to glory when he was hired after two successful seasons at Houston. Yet there were moments that suggested he just wasn’t ready for the spotlight of the Texas job and struggled to grow into it.
He taunted the Missouri quarterback in the waning minutes of a Texas Bowl win in 2017. He had a fiery confrontation with Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy after a tough road loss. In 2019, he head-butted his own players before a game, then flipped a double-barreled obscene hand gesture toward television cameras during live broadcast of national signing day.
And 2020 challenged him in ways that had nothing to do with football.
When protests erupted nationally erupted after the death of George Floyd, Herman joined his players in a march from campus to the state Capitol in a demonstration against police brutality and and racial injustice.
Herman then faced intense criticism from fans, and pressure from the administration, when the players didn’t join the traditional postgame singing of “The Eyes of Texas” school song for several games in protest over racist elements of the song’s past.