Football

The honeymoon always ends

Mike Perrin and Greg Fenves introduce Tom Herman (Will Gallagher/IT)
Mike Perrin and Greg Fenves introduce Tom Herman (Will Gallagher/IT)

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The football coaching storyline at the University of Texas hasn’t been demonstrably altered for more than 50 years now.

Ed Price is out in 1956, and Darrell Royal is in. Excitement is high, mixed with a general feeling of reasonable expectations. “Give him time to make his own way,” we say when a new, fresh-faced leader is named.

“Reasonable” expectations grow quickly into unreasonable, at which time the new coach either reaches them… or not. And if he does reach them, he never – ever – reaches them forever. Never ever. The honeymoon always ends. Always.

Once it is determined that a particular coach isn’t reaching those expectations sufficiently, the end comes in various forms. For Royal – still a young man at 52 after the 1976 season – the end came when he simply walked away.

Fred Akers? Excitement, followed by flirtations with a national championship. Followed by perceived under-achievement (after all, he only won about 80 percent of his games). Followed by: goodbye.

David McWilliams? Excitement, and goodness gracious, he reminded people of Royal. “Shock the World” was quickly followed by embarrassing losses (hello, Hurricanes) and – have you heard this before? – a failure to reach expectations. Goodbye.

John Mackovic? Roll left. Route 66. Goodbye.

Mack Brown? Excitement: he sure could recruit. Royal loved him. National championship won. Two appearances in the national championship game. Long streak of 10-win seasons. Strong relationships with Texas high school coaches. What have you done for me lately? Not enough. Goodbye.

Hello, Charlie Strong! Excitement: finally, the defense will be fixed. No more entitlement, country club memberships revoked! Embarrassing losses. A quick goodbye.

And now, Tom Herman. Certainly there is excitement. He’s young, assertive and wins on the field and behind the podium. He’s still in the “wait and see” part of his UT coaching career.

Unfortunately, the time table for all new coaches has changed since Royal started in the 1950s, though the general particulars have not. The white-hot scrutiny subjected to Herman is more intense for the 41-year-old than it was for Royal.

Herman’s “winning” of the press conferences, and his clarity in communicating his vision, has projected a certain “big-time football coach” presence. He’s sure of himself, he is the smartest person in most rooms he steps into, and he evidently has a “process” that will – he hopes – result in winning big in Austin.

Here’s hoping also that he will be able to avoid falling victim to what has been inevitable for every head coach at Texas for the last 50-plus years: short honeymoons and uncomfortable goodbyes.

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