AUSTIN, TX (AP) —Tom Herman, who has coached Houston into national prominence during the last two seasons, is headed to Texas.
A person with direct knowledge of the discussions said Saturday that Herman has told Houston he is leaving the Cougars to coach the Longhorns. He’ll replace Charlie Strong, who was fired Saturday after three consecutive losing seasons. The person confirmed Herman’s move to Texas on condition of anonymity because neither school had publicly announced the decision.
Texas acted quickly to snag Herman, who has only two years’ experience as a head coach but is 22-4 with the Cougars, with a 9-3 mark this season after Friday’s loss to Memphis . Herman’s name had emerged as a top target for Texas officials as Strong’s final season started 2-0 but faded to a 5-7 finish.
Herman was offensive coordinator at Ohio State when the Buckeyes won the 2014 season national championship. He spent a season at Texas as a graduate assistant early in his career under former Longhorns coach Mack Brown.
Herman’s record at Houston and big wins over top programs such as Florida State and Oklahoma had pushed the Cougars into early-season College Football Playoff contenders as well as candidates for a move to the Big 12. Neither scenario happened, however, as the Cougars dropped midseason games against Navy and SMU and the Big 12 chose not to expand .
That didn’t cool Herman’s name as one of the hottest in the college football market. Herman had surfaced as a possible candidate at other schools as well, notably LSU . But most of the attention focused on Texas, where Strong was in his third losing season in a row.
Texas is desperate for a return to the nation’s elite. The Longhorns had a decade-long run of 10-win seasons under Mack Brown from 2000-2009, a span that included one national championship and playing for another.
But Texas hasn’t won a Big 12 title since 2009 and Strong was just 16-21 overall, ending with a 31-9 loss to TCU on Friday.
Herman will take over a program that most see as loaded with talent that just hasn’t been able to win. Strong’s recruiting classes were ranked among the best in the country the Longhorns’ two-deep roster is stocked mostly with sophomores and freshmen.
Strong was the first black head football coach in Texas history and many of his players had pleaded this week for him to be allowed to return. Despite swirling reports that he would be fired, school administrators had pledged no decision would be made until after the final game.
Texas still owes Strong nearly $11 million on his original five-year guaranteed contract.