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Longhorn Coaching Search: The Interview

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NCAA Football: Houston at Navy Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

What a difference 36 hours makes.

On Thursday night, Longhorn Nation was in the grip of TurkeyGate as reports of Tom Herman’s “imminent deal” with LSU dominated ESPN’s Bottom Line and had agitated Texas fans blowing their collective tops. Admiral McRaven, Greg Fenves and Mike Perrin - widely understood to be the Big Three helming the Longhorn coaching search - suffered accusations of bungling, incompetence and worse as the failure of Seal Team Six to deliver a blank check and contract to Herman’s doorstep midweek was seen as a de facto declaration that they’d collectively prefer that Texas go 8-4 in perpetuity.

On Saturday morning, we have this:

Did the Big Three miraculously engineer a 36-hour turnaround from this:

To this?

Or was unrest perhaps sown a tad bit prematurely?

While The Carnival has never really been in the breaking news business, we do pride ourselves on knowing who to listen to when shit’s going down. So the next time the folks whose business models are dependent on shaking the hornet’s nest run out overblown, single-sourced rumormendo to push someone’s agenda, incite panic or simply insist that Tyrone Swoopes is the unchallenged starter at QB, we urge you to hew to this simple maxim:

So here we sit. If you want to draw conclusions about Texas’ progress with Herman from LSU’s pre-emptive Orgeron announcement, I won’t stop you. The fact remains, though, that the current Houston head man will be sitting down to interview with the Longhorn top brass this weekend. And whether Texas goes one-and-done with Herman or expands their search to other candidates, it’s to the benefit of all parties to get some detailed insight into the program-building strategy of the man who’ll (hopefully) lead the Longhorns back to glory and into a bright, shiny, post-Big XII future.

(EDIT: Orrrrrr he’s already in! Welcome aboard, Tom! If you’d like to drop by the Carnival and shed some light on the questions below, you’re always welcome!)

The head coaching job at Texas takes more than just success on Saturdays to succeed, and I’ll leave the elements of politicking, booster relations and the like to those who are qualified to assess them and who give a shit about them. But even at Texas, football still comes first for the head football coach. It’s probably fair to say that at least two thirds of the Big Three don’t approach this process with a ton of detailed knowledge about the requisites for putting a sustained winner on the field. In the event that they’re casting about for some questions that can provide insight into a candidate’s strategy for building a top-tier program...I’ve got a few suggestions.

How do you see the head coach’s role in the overall recruiting process relative to your assistants and other support personnel within the program?

What is your process for identifying “Texas-good” talent, determining offer priority and maintaining roster balance?

How do you think about striking the proper balance between winning on your home recruiting turf and leveraging Texas’ potential as a national brand to pull in some elite out-of-state difference-makers? What’s your process for allocating scarce staff resources and managing relationships with Texas high school coaches when considering making plays on out-of-state talent?

What’s your vision for leveraging technology and other program resources to help keep Texas top-of-mind for highly sought-after recruits while your staff’s primary focus is on their “day jobs” in-season?

You’re heading into January, the numbers in the upcoming class are tight, and you and your staff have identified seven players on the current roster who, while giving honest effort, simply don’t appear that they’ll ever make a significant on-field contribution - how do you approach this situation?

You’re on the couch with a recruit and his family - what’s your one-minute closing pitch for why that young man should be a Longhorn?

An optimized Texas program should have a talent advantage over 80+% of its conference peers and sit at no worse than talent parity with its elite in-conference competition (read: OU) and national Playoff contenders. What offensive and defensive systems do you believe are best suited to maximize that talent advantage? Were the offense and defense at (prior stops) the right ones for Texas, or close? Are the offense and defense at (your current position) the right ones for Texas, or close?

Does the nature and style of football that’s played in the Big XII shape your thoughts on the ideal systems for Texas, and if so, how?

Of the assistant coaches you have in mind, whether they are members of your current staff or guys at other programs who you admire, why are they the right ones to implement the systems you have in mind?

What are the three most important characteristics that you look for in your assistant coaching hires?

How do you sell the opportunity to work on your staff to prospective assistant coaches? How does working on your staff prepare a coach to take the next step(s) in his career?

Establishing a defined program-building process and a program “identity” are good things, but it’s also important to ensure that ANY system doesn’t devolve into dogma and rote repetition or get lapped by innovative competitors. How do you evaluate your overall process, keep abreast of new developments and make a determination on when it’s time to evolve or adapt what you’re doing?

How do you think about the “life cycle” of a coaching staff with an eye towards sustaining the effective elements of a system while also bringing aboard fresh ideas and approaches - assuming that you’ll be dealing with positive, demand-driven turnover on your staff?

There’s a natural tension when installing offensive and defensive systems - particularly in their first year - between maximizing repetitions and providing detailed instruction. How do you manage this tradeoff? Are there best practices, learning techniques, technologies or other approaches that you employ - or would like to employ - to minimize these tradeoffs and maximize efficiency?

What is the most useful or insightful “advanced” stat or football metric that you’ve seen or employed?

What are the critical areas where the University and that Athletic Department can help your program in terms of analytics, learning processes, sports science and other key support areas? How would you help us to define and build the support systems that can help your program achieve at an elite level?

Take us through your game week from Sunday to Saturday - what’s your overall structure and how do you prioritize your involvement in all aspects of preparing your team to beat its next opponent?

How do you manage the learning, teaching and installation elements required to both hone a team’s overall identity and execute an opponent-specific game plan each week?

Got any questions that YOU’D like to ask as the Longhorns decide who’ll lead this program into the 2020’s? Let’s hear ‘em.