How Texas football pulled off a quick coaching search to land Alabama's Steve Sarkisian

Cecil Hurt
The Tuscaloosa News

The University of Texas, not necessarily famous for smooth coaching transitions, executed one of the most efficient searches in recent college history on Saturday, firing football coach Tom Herman and announcing Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian as his replacement in barely more time than it took for Alabama to beat Notre Dame the night before. 

While Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte had not had direct contact with Sarkisian in the weeks leading up to the hire, sources close to the UA program confirmed Saturday that individuals associated with the Texas program had reached out to representatives of Sarkisian within the last two weeks to gauge his interest in the job. The possibility of an opening at Texas precluded participation in other postseason coaching searches to which Sarkisian’s name had been connected.

Nov 28, 2020; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA;  Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, acting as head coach during head coach Nick Saban's COVID-19 quarantine, walks the field as the team arrives at Bryant-Denny Stadium for the Iron Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Mickey Welsh/The Montgomery Advertiser via USA TODAY Sports

While Sarkisian was in Arlington, Texas, with the Alabama team for the Rose Bowl College Football Playoff semifinal that was played Friday, it is unclear whether he met with Texas officials in person. Alabama arrived Thursday and departed after the game.

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According to numerous reports, Del Conte had reached out to Urban Meyer, the former Florida and Ohio State coach now with Fox Sports. Meyer declined to pursue the job, and it seemed that Herman might return for 2021, even receiving a vote of confidence prior to National Signing Day. 

However, even the Longhorns’ 55-23 win over Colorado in the Alamo Bowl on Tuesday did not resolve all doubt, and UT decision-makers opted to make a change rather than have a long year of speculation about Herman’s future in 2021.

Sarkisian’s stock as a potential head coach rose throughout the 2020 season as the Alabama offense scored points in record numbers. He also served one game as interim head coach, leading Alabama to a victory over Auburn while Nick Saban was sidelined by a COVID-19 related quarantine

Sarkisian had received a raise prior to the 2020 level at a pay level that made him the nation's highest-paid coordinator. While that likely forestalled offers from some schools, Texas has almost unlimited resources, and one estimate from Yahoo Sports put the total combined package to buy out Herman and hire Sarkisian at approximately $40 million.

Sarkisian confirmed on a Zoom call Saturday that he will coach Alabama in the Jan. 11 College Football Championship. Saban is certain to concentrate his efforts on that game and is unlikely to address any candidates in the upcoming week.

Reach Cecil Hurt at cecil@tidesports.com or via Twitter @cecilhurt