MURRELL COLUMN: Coaching carousel never ceases to spin

Published 4:30 pm Thursday, December 1, 2016

Look, it wasn’t far-fetched that Ray Woodard was going to be ousted as Lamar’s head football coach, or that Tom Herman would leave Houston for Texas. (Or is it Houston for Austin?)

Herman is an outer-worldly exceptional football coach. There is no question about it.

His coaching accomplishments have made Bill Yeoman smile. His ability to keep local talent in the nation’s fourth-largest city was a thing of beauty, and he’ll find a way to draw high-quality recruits to Texas.

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(Here are some selling lines: “Come to a place where you can help us recapture our past glory, because unless you’re Jalen Hurts, Alabama might not come calling. Remember watching us win a national championship when you were a kid? Texas A&M hasn’t.”)

Herman’s Cougars beat Woodard’s Cardinals 42-0 on Sept. 10, to no surprise. But in the game of connecting with the public, Woodard won hands-down last week.

Woodard called his own press conference to announce his firing. Not a resignation, not a season wrap-up, but a firing.

I’ve seen coaches speak after their firings at conferences (the most classic example is Tommy West’s rant against Memphis in 2009). But for Woodard to willingly face the media while he faced the music with his usual candor and class is nothing short of exceptional.

Herman, obviously more visible than Woodard, did not face the music. He only heard the choir preach.

I’m OK with Herman choosing to simply focus on Memphis the day after he was linked to the LSU opening. (But I must ask, how did that work out for him?) I’m actually OK with him not attending the postgame press conference, although it would’ve accommodated the throng of media waiting to see if he’ll just utter the word “Texas.” He could’ve at least issued a release through Houston’s media relations.

Very few blame Herman for making the logical step up, although I actually feel bad for the UH players. Coaches can up and leave at no unbearable cost to them (or their next employers), but players who transfer must wait a year before playing at another FBS school unless they graduate.

If a coach doesn’t go through four full regular seasons before he accepts another offer and is not fired or forced to resign, he should sit out a year. But such ideas can be examined at another time.

In the meantime, Texas can hire Herman for a pretty penny — Houston will receive $2.5 million from Austin to cover Herman’s buyout from his UH deal while paying off Charlie Strong’s contract at a reported $10 million to $11 million and not very long after hiring a baseball coach to replace the great Augie Garrido.

Being burnt orange is worth a lot of money. But the only security Herman will enjoy is millions of dollars if he doesn’t turn around the Longhorns. Just ask Charlie.

Any conceivable pool of candidates to succeed Woodard, who is owed $100,000, is probably busy coaching in the NCAA Division I playoffs or enjoying success as a non-coordinator assistant at a reputable FBS program.

Conceivably, that pool also could include guys who’ve been let go from FBS helms or want to try their hands at another FCS program such as Lamar. Don’t hold your breath for Strong to visit Beaumont, but it wouldn’t be far-fetched for someone like Fort Worth native Turner Gill, the former Nebraska quarterback and Kansas coach who’s been at Liberty University in Virginia the past five seasons and shared four of the past five Big South Conference championships, to give Lamar athletic director Jason Henderson a call.

Maybe Florida director of player personnel Kevin Barbay, a former Warren head coach and former Lamar assistant, is the answer. Whoever it is, the next head coach at Lamar has to be able to sell tickets.

Isn’t the coaching carousel just a world of fun?

I.C. Murrell can be reached at 721-2435 or On Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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