After initially saying Tom Herman would remain coach of the Texas football program in mid-December, the Longhorns on Saturday pulled an about face and fired Herman after four seasons with the team. To replace him, Texas announced that Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian will lead the program.
"I was the USC quarterback coach when we played Texas in that famed national championship game. There has always been something special about Longhorn football, its history and traditions -- not just on that day -- and I could never have imagined that 15 years later, I would join the Longhorns as their head coach," Sarkisian said. "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."
The decision to move on from Herman was made after evaluating the program's strengths and weaknesses, according to a statement released by Texas. It comes just four days after UT blew out Colorado 55-23 in the Alamo Bowl with many young players shining during the game.
"Hiring Steve Sarkisian represents a critical investment in our football program's future, not just for our student-athletes, but for all of Longhorn Nation," Texas president Jay Hartzell said in a statement. "Our entire community benefits from a healthy and successful athletics program, and naming Steve as our coach infuses our football program with the necessary guidance and expertise to drive further success."
Sarkisian, on the heels of No. 1 Alabama's 31-14 Rose Bowl victory over No. 4 Notre Dame, confirmed Saturday that he will stay with the Crimson Tide for the College Football Playoff National Championship on Jan. 11.
Though Sarkisian has served successfully as an offensive coordinator for the last four seasons at Alabama and with the Atlanta Falcons, he spent seven seasons as a head coach in the Pac-12, first at Washington (2009-13) and then USC (2014-15). Sarkisian went 34-29 (24-21 Pac-12) with the Huskies, leading the program to four bowl games in five seasons and setting stage for the success it found under Chris Petersen.
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Sarkisian went 9-4 (6-3 Pac-12) with a bowl win in his first season at USC but was fired five games into the 2015 campaign after first taking a leave of absence amid a battle with alcoholism. He reflected on that portion of his coaching journey during an introductory press conference Saturday afternoon.
"I'm proud of the work that I've done," Sarkisian said. "But I will say, when you battle what I battle, you have to work on it every day."
After completing a rehab stint, Sarkisian joined the Crimson Tide as an offensive analyst and was elevated into the offensive coordinator role, similarly ahead of a CFP National Championship game when Lane Kiffin left the program to take the coaching job at FAU.
Herman is owed a $15 million buyout with his assistants tallying an additional $10 million in buyouts for a total expenditure of nearly $25 million just to remove the football staff.
Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte also released a separate statement on Twitter, calling Herman's firing a "very, very difficult" decision requiring "much deliberation and a great deal of thought."
Herman was 32-18 in four seasons at Texas, appearing in the Big 12 Championship Game only once in 2018; the Longhorns lost 39-27 to rival Oklahoma. Texas posted a 6-3 mark in the 2020 regular season, missing the Big 12 title game and falling below preseason expectations. Herman had one 10-win season at Texas otherwise averaging eight wins per year.
The unmet expectations resulted in rumors that Texas was pursuing former Ohio State and Florida coach Urban Meyer to be its next coach. Those rumors never ended up materializing, and Del Conte released a statement on Dec. 12 reiterating that Herman was the program's coach.
Sarkisian will be Texas' third coach in the last eight seasons as the Longhorns have struggled to find a replacement for Mack Brown. The program quickly moved on from Charlie Strong (2014-16) and Herman (2017-20) after Brown spent 16 years leading the 'Horns.
Texas and Alabama will begin a home-and-home football series in 2022.