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Whenever Texas names a new head football coach, it is normally a day of celebration that extolls the new individual selected to lead the Longhorns.
Being named the head coach of Texas is no small achievement. Not only does the position hold weight and prestige within the college football community, but also within the state. Whoever holds the role typically has one of the highest salaries of a public employee of the state of Texas.
The achievement of being named the 31st head coach of Texas is not lost on Steve Sarkisian. He explained he was “honored and humbled” to hold “one of the marquee jobs in America,” but he knows the work that led him to this point does not end on January 12.
“This isn’t a destination day for me,” Sarkisian said. “This is a stop on the road to say, ‘this is where I am now.’ But the same mindset is not going to change for me. We’ve got to keep going to work. That’s why I use the adage ‘all gas, no brakes.’ We’ve got to keep going.”
Sarkisian has every reason to view Tuesday as a destination day in his career. After a well-documented fall from grace at USC, he worked to refresh and reclaim his personal and football reputation with both the Atlanta Falcons and the Alabama Crimson Tide. He succeeded at both stops, coordinating the star-studded Alabama offense to a national championship the night before his UT introduction.
There is reason to celebrate, but Sarkisian has no reason to rest. Whenever he walks into work every morning, he will see a consistent reminder to keep his foot down on the pedal and continue to do what led him to Austin.
Texas has a famous sign that reads ‘The University of Texas winning tradition will not be entrusted to the timid or the weak.’ Right away, during his first-ever visit to the city of Austin, Sarkisian knew his vision and the program’s vision were aligned once he saw that sign.
“I’ve had a lot of highs in this profession,” Sarkisian said. “I’ve had a lot of self-searching in this profession. I had to climb my way back in this profession, and none of that would have happened if I was timid or weak. That caught my attention because I do think it speaks to me, and I think who I am and what I am will be someone, as people get to know me, as an authentic human.”
If Sarkisian is to succeed at Texas, it will be without timidity and weakness. Those attributes do not translate to leading an organization with the size and expectations of the Longhorn football program, nor to success in calling plays on Saturdays, nor to success on the daily grind of the recruiting trail.
Timidity and weakness are sure-fire attributes that will find trouble at Texas, not trophies.
For Texas fans who have waited 12 seasons for a conference championship, they should be happy to know Sarkisian took to heart the message he saw on that simple burnt orange and white sign.
“We’re here to chase greatness and win championships,” Sarkisian said. “That’s why I’m here. That’s what’s going to drive us every single day. That won’t be the hope that we will. That is putting in the work to develop the confidence that we will.”
More succinctly from Sarkisian: “This work will be all gas and no brakes.”
Sarkisian will need to keep on the gas as a full-time head coach for the first time since October of 2015.
After working his way back into high-level coaching, and still showing many of the attributes that led Al Davis to offer him the head coaching position of the Oakland Raiders at age 31, Sarkisian was a popular candidate for several notable programs.
A number of schools couldn’t draw his interest.
“I had to take a step back and say if I’m going to do this again, I want it to be right,” Sarkisian said. “I want it to be the right situation at the right university with the right people. There was a lot of nos. When Texas called, it was like wait a minute, that one’s a yes. This is a yes. This is what I want to go do.”
That was not the only program in the state of Alabama with reported interest in Sarkisian. Fox Sports’ Joel Klatt recently claimed Sarkisian had an agreement to succeed Nick Saban as head coach of the Crimson Tide.
Sarkisian did not confirm that claim during his introductory press conference, saying it would have been “something to think about” it the opportunity presented itself. He quickly pivoted back to Texas, saying once again he was “fired up” about his new role on the Forty Acres, the role that he actually chose.
“At the end of the day, to put on the burnt orange and white and represent this great university and the great state of Texas is one I don’t take lightly, and we will go for it to the highest level,” Sarkisian said.
Cover Photo courtesy of Texas Longhorns/Youtube