AUSTIN, Texas -- As soon as Tom Herman got settled in at Texas, he started his wish list.
One month into the job, Herman conducted a walk-through of the Longhorns’ football facility with AD Mike Perrin, senior associate AD Arthur Johnson and football chief of staff Fernando Lovo. Together, they got started on what will be an extensive (and expensive) to-do list.
Herman offered his initial judgment a few days later: “We’re behind, but not by much. Nothing a multimillion-dollar face-lift can’t fix.”
When it comes to rebuilding Texas into a powerhouse, Herman has a clear blueprint. Upgrading Texas’ football facilities is an early priority for a head coach who recognizes how far the Longhorns have fallen behind the national elites, despite their wealthy reputation.
On signing day, Herman met again with administrators and architects to discuss his needs for a modernized locker room, and the strength staff is plotting several renovations to the weight room and training room later this spring. It’s clear Herman isn’t messing around.
“We’re going to get this facility, in very short order, to the point where it’s as good if not better than any in the country,” Herman said.
Herman says anything Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Michigan have, the Longhorns better have too. He believes a college football program should have a capital project going at all times. These goals shouldn’t be new for the University of Texas, where the richest college athletic department in the country raked in nearly $188 million in revenue in 2015-16, according to USA Today.
That, however, couldn’t keep Herman from walking through the Moncrief-Neuhaus Athletic Center and determining Texas has fallen behind in college football’s facilities arms race. He hasn’t hesitated to point out what needs to change.
“I haven't been told ‘no’ yet,” Herman said.
Perrin, Texas’ second-year athletic director, told ESPN he admires Herman’s initiative and has an open mind about any improvements his new coach wants to make.
“Tom dreams big, and I like that,” Perrin said. “He’s detail-oriented and he’s pretty comprehensive in his looking at things. At age 41, he’s closer to a 17-year-old than I am. I’m not put off at all by the scrutiny he brings to all that.”
A state-of-the-art locker room is at or near the top of Herman’s wish list. Just look at what Texas’ nearby rivals have constructed in recent years. Texas A&M unveiled its brand-new locker room in 2014. Oklahoma is finishing one this offseason. Baylor got a new one when McLane Stadium opened in 2014, and TCU redid its locker room in 2012.
They make Texas look downright outdated by comparison, even though the Longhorns installed new lockers in 2011 as part of a partial renovation. Perrin understands these features must be viewed through the eyes of players and recruits. When kids walk through the building, there must be a "wow" factor.
One new Texas staffer had a bit of a "wow" moment in January when he realized the locker room had no sound system. Instead, players were blasting their music via one small Bluetooth speaker an offensive lineman brought in to share.
The Texas locker room upgrade is now looking to make the facility more technologically advanced with individual video screens and more connectivity.
Those little details will get attacked quickly under Herman, who made similar things happen in rapid fashion at Houston. UH finished a $1 million new locker room in August and will open a $20 million practice facility this August.
“We changed the University of Houston in 23 short months more than anybody thought was possible,” Herman said, “not just from a wins and losses standpoint but from an infrastructure standpoint as well. I have no doubt that with the support of President Greg Fenves and Mike Perrin, we’ll do the same here in very, very, very short time.”
How grand his plan will be at Texas is still getting worked out. Herman said in a January radio interview he’s expecting “somewhere in the range of $10 million” in renovations to facilities. Perrin says he hasn’t been presented with any plans approaching that number, and Herman knows there will be red tape in getting everything approved and underway.
“As I’m getting to know Tom,” Perrin said with a chuckle, “I suspect we may never be finished.”
His confidence in publicly throwing around a price tag like that begs the question: Does Herman essentially have a blank check when it comes to upgrading Texas? Perrin tries to answer that one carefully.
“Tom is a very pragmatic, realistic man,” he said. “He’s very ambitious and very focused, extremely well organized. I think he’s a real innovator. And I support that, I really do. But we’ve not talked in terms of unlimited budgets or that everything’s going to happen overnight or anything like that.”
The Longhorns’ new leader likes to say players and coaches win games but administrations win championships with their support. He’s going to tell Perrin and Fenves exactly what he needs to get Texas competing at a championship level again. He’s starting with his football complex because, at a place like this, there’s no excuse for not having elite facilities.
“They have to be the best at Texas,” Herman said. “They have to be.”