Texas coughs up millions of dollars in buyouts, but has it all been worth it?

Kaitlyn Harmon, Sports Reporter

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared as part of the October 1 Double Coverage flipbook.

Texas’ pockets run deep. In the past 23 years, only four men have been given the keys to the Longhorns football  program. Since January 2014, the University of Texas has spent nearly $54 million on the hirings and firings of three head coaches, not including current head coach Steve Sarkisian.

According to a Business Insider report published in November 2016, the University of Texas — at the time headed by former athletic director Steve Patterson and interim athletic director Mike Perrin — spent approximately $26.5 million in buyouts. With Sarkisian in the mix five years later, Texas has now spent $50.5 million in buyouts and UT coughed up $24 million to kick Herman and his coaching staff out of Austin.

Texas isn’t the only program that has danced with the struggle of hiring a head coach and then quickly regretting it. Since 1998, when Mack Brown took over as Longhorns head coach, USC has hired and fired six head coaches — including current Texas head coach Sarkisian.

It is to no surprise that USC’s toggling between head coaches has only earned the Trojans two national championships within the past 23 years, one of which was dismissed by the NCAA due to infractions. It is also no surprise that the Pac-12, a regularly underwhelming and underproducing conference, has produced only two national championships in the past 23 years, both courtesy of USC. At the conclusion of the 2019-2020 season, only two of 12 teams produced 10-win seasons. When programs consistently miss out on national championships, fanbases and athletic directors come for the head of the man in charge: the head coach.

According to a Mercury News report published in April 2020, the Pac-12 spent over $100 million in coaching buyouts, not even including numbers from Stanford and USC — who are exempt from Public Records Requests due to their private school status. Texas, a singular program, has spent half the amount the Pac-12, an entire conference, has dished out in coaching buyouts.

After Texas’ heartbreaking loss to Arkansas, Longhorns fans find themselves feeling déjà vu. Sarkisian was supposed to be the answer, the solution to a recurring problem.Now, some members of Longhorn nation are questioning the totaled $50.5 million of buyouts among four head coaches, wondering if it was all really worth it. After all, eight figures should be worth at least one additional national championship or at least a close game to an unranked Arkansas team, no?

In the four years former head coach Herman spent at Texas, he capped off his time at the helm with a 32–18 record. Texas fired Herman’s predecessor, Charlie Strong, after a 16–21 record. And with the only head coach to give Texas a national championship in the 21st century, Mack Brown completed his time at Texas with a 158–48 record.

Both Herman and Strong produced Texas coaching careers consisting below 70% winning percentages, Herman with 64% and Strong with 43%.

On Sept. 13, USC fired sixth-year head coach Clay Helton. Helton concluded his time as a Trojan 46-24 with a 65% winning percentage. For USC, Helton was simply not enough.

Expectations within the realm of college football and national championships are changing. With three powerhouse college football programs — Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State — consistently finding their way into the College Football Playoff contention each year, programs are yearning for change. Programs expect national championships, and nothing short of them.

Texas is no different and will seemingly do anything it takes to get its name thrown into the national championship ring — even dish out millions of dollars