AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Tom Herman now gets his chance for a Texas takeover.
Herman, who coached Houston to national prominence the last two seasons, was announced as the new Texas coach Saturday, replacing Charlie Strong, who was fired in the morning after three consecutive losing seasons.
“Longhorn football has been – and always will be – a national power, winning and playing for national championships with great pride and passion, supported by an unbelievable fan base,” Herman said in statement released by Texas.
Contract details were not immediately released, and must still be approved by Texas’ Board of Regents. Texas still owes Strong nearly $11 million on his original five-year guaranteed contract.
Texas acted quickly to snag Herman, who has only two years of 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’s brief stint at Houston galvanized the Cougars program. The coach coined the phrase “H-Town Takeover” in a bid to energize the local fan base and keep Houston-area recruits at home.
The 41-year-old Herman now gets a chance to do the same at one of college football’s blue-blood programs, stocked with money, prestige, its own television network and a feverish fan base.
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 .
Herman was regularly mentioned as a possible candidate at several schools, notably LSU . But most of the attention focused on Texas, where Strong was in his third losing season in a row.
“Tom was the hottest young head coach in the country the past two seasons, and I am thrilled we are able to get him back to UT to lead Texas football,” Texas President Greg Fenves said.
Houston Vice President for Athletics Hunter Yurachek said the university was grateful to Herman for his two years. Defensive coordinator Todd Orlando will be Houston’s interim head coach for its upcoming bowl game.
“In his short time in Houston, Tom Herman elevated the Houston Football program to new heights, and we are grateful for his contributions to our program. The entire University of Houston community wishes he and his family continued success in this new chapter in their lives,” Yurachek said.
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 two Big 12 championships, 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 takes 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. One of Herman’s first jobs may be sitting down with junior running back D’Onta Foreman, who rushed for more than 2,000 yards this season, to gauge whether Foreman plans to turn pro.
Herman said he met with Fenves and Texas athletic director Mike Perrin well in the pre-dawn hours Saturday to reach an agreement.
“I came away very impressed with their unified vision and commitment to football, and I’m excited to be the head coach at the flagship university of the greatest state in the union. I am eager to get to Austin as soon as possible, to spend time with our student-athletes and to get to work,” Herman said.
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.
“It’s a very difficult day for me, my family and all of the people affected by this decision,” Strong said. “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.”
AP College Football Writer Ralph D. Russo contributed to this report.
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