UT Austin football spirals into new future after headline-grabbing departures
The Longhorns may have won their bowl game against Colorado last week, but they lost both their coach and star QB in the days that followed.
On Saturday, January 2, University of Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte announced that UT football coach Tom Herman was out after four topsy-turvy seasons. He will be replaced by Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, who takes over as leader of the Longhorn football dynasty immediately.
Herman's axing was a bit surprising, considering Del Conte had reaffirmed UT's commitment to Herman as coach in mid-December, but in an interview with Austin American-Statesman reporter Brian Davis, the athletic director said "circumstances changed" over the past two weeks. On Twitter, Davis points to six starters opting out of the Alamo Bowl and poor recruiting numbers among those changing circumstances.
Del Conte announced his decision on Twitter, writing: "Decisions like this are very, very difficult and certainly not something I take lightly. As I’ve said before, my philosophy is to wait until the end of the season to look at all of the factors in evaluating any of our programs. After much deliberation and a great deal of thought, as I looked back at the totality of where our football program is and in discussing its future, it became apparent that it was in the best interest of the University of Texas to move in a different direction."
Though he wasn't among those who opted out of the Alamo Bowl, star quarterback and Austin native Sam Ehlinger did suffer a shoulder injury that pulled him out of the second half. Fans didn't know it at the time, but that would be Ehlinger's last time on the field in burnt orange. The QB announced in a two-minute video on January 3 that he was declaring for the NFL draft after four years at UT.
"I can say with confidence that I did my absolute best and left everything on the field," Ehlinger said. "In the same way I knew UT was the right choice for me, I now know that it is time for me to go on to the NFL."
Ehlinger was eligible for a fifth season at UT under a blanket waiver from the NCAA that allows winter student-athletes who compete during 2020-21 in Division I to receive both an additional season of competition and an additional year in which to complete it due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ehlinger is No. 10 among quarterbacks in the 2021 NFL draft class, according to ESPN.