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The choice: Better coach or better hire

by Mac Engel Fort Worth Star-Telegram | August 31, 2016 at 2:34 a.m.

When Baylor fired Art Briles, the school's lawyers originally put in two stipulations in the proposed buyout.

No. 1, per the agreement Briles was to sign, he would not coach at another Texas school.

No. 2, per the agreement Briles was to sign, he would not coach at another Big 12 school.

When Briles saw that in the fine print an already ugly divorce turned nastier. That's when he took steps toward filing a lawsuit against his employer.

Baylor, of course, backed down from those restrictions and the lawsuit was dropped. Briles, who lives in Horseshoe Bay, Texas, near Austin, has hired a powerful agent -- Jimmy Sexton -- with eyes on landing a good job for next season.

College football is underway (thank you, Lord), and we here in the great state a' Texas have the two hottest names in college coaching: Briles and Houston's Tom Herman.

Briles is the better hire to win, but Herman is the easier choice to announce. That reality will allow Herman to have the best job first, with Briles left to pick after the Coogs' latest coaching genius.

If all does not go according to plan in College Station, Austin or possibly even Lubbock, there is a better than average chance these two men will wind up coaching in one of those towns next year.

The single biggest question, of course, is, who will take the PR beating to hire Art Briles?

Everybody deserves a second chance, and there will be powerful boosters at big-time schools who will gladly take Briles' talents and warts, but this will set the Guinness World Record for Negative Hits at an Introductory Press Conference.

Even his most passionate and loyal defenders can acknowledge the obvious -- when/if a university names him its head football coach, the reaction will be four-letter ugly.

Unless an NFL team grabs him to be its offensive coordinator, or possibly head coach, the media world will rain "Win at all costs" and "What about the victims?" at his education-first employer for a long time.

The last coach this successful and this toxic was Bobby Petrino, who despite his ugly exit from Arkansas in 2012, landed back at his old school, Louisville, in 2014.

Petrino was fired from Arkansas because he hired his girlfriend to work for him as a part of the athletic department staff. That he was married was not the issue; the problem was he used his power to put her on the university payroll.

Briles will remain the face of an ugly scandal that cost the private Baptist university millions of dollars, the jobs of several high-profile employees and damaged the reputation of the school.

But before his exit, he turned an FBS joke into a nationally relevant power.

Herman, however, is the Coogs' latest pretty-boy head coach, following the path set by none other than Briles and Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin.

If Houston, which opens this week against Oklahoma, has another good season, it's assumed he's gone.

"It's a compliment to the program and the staff. This Houston program is not just Tom Herman," he said on a Monday conference call. "We are never going to talk about other jobs, other than to say we are flattered, but understand that anything that needs to be said it will be said by me and it will be the truth."

Yeah, he's gone.

But where?

Baylor will let its entire staff go the second the season is over.

Things are warm for Mr. Sumlin right now in College Station, who needs nine or 10 victories before Reveille uses that visor of his as a fire hydrant.

Texas has not had three consecutive losing seasons since the 1930s, something Charlie Strong would rather not match in his third year in Austin.

"I'm not even concerned about it," Strong said Monday when I asked him how he deals with job speculation. "I'm just trying to get this team prepared. It's never about me, and I'm never going to make it about me."

Sounds great. He may not make it about him, but his bosses will.

Both Sumlin and Strong make more than $5 million per season. Strong's buyout is a few pennies shy of $16 million, and Sumlin would be due about $15 million if he crashes.

That is obscene money but enough jock-sniffing, fat-cat boosters exist at both schools to cobble together "Go Away" checks if needed.

What we know for sure is that one Big 12 job will be vacant by season's end, with two other top-tier state jobs potentially needing a new coach, too.

The better coach is Art Briles, but the easier choice will be Tom Herman.

Sports on 08/31/2016

Print Headline: The choice: Better coach or better hire


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