A lot of factors go into a hiring a football coach, some more random than others.
Here’s one to consider: If LSU eventually lands Houston’s Tom Herman to lead the program forward, perhaps the Tigers should send a case of boudin to University of Oklahoma President David Boren.
Since June 2015, Boren has been seen as the prime mover behind the Big 12 Conference’s push to expand, for the 10-team league to live up to its numerical nomenclature with 12 or possibly even 14 members like the Southeastern Conference or the Big Ten.
Boren’s reasoning seemed sound: The Big 12 is “psychologically disadvantaged” because it has fewer members and has been barred from playing a conference championship game. The psychological part refers to those rating the conference we assume, such as members of the College Football Playoff committee, and not to an inherent inferiority complex at Texas or Baylor or Iowa State.
Well, maybe Iowa State.
This desire to expand the Big 12’s membership left schools aflutter all over the country, from BYU to UCF to Cincinnati to Tulane to Houston. The latter, once upon a time, was a peer of Big 12 members like Texas, Baylor and TCU in the old Southwest Conference, a predecessor of the Big 12.
Houston, naturally, wants a seat at the Big 12 table in the worst way, seeing it as a way back into the world of big- (or at least bigger-) time college athletics. A lot of college fans probably forget that Houston has had a Heisman winner in Andre Ware and was once a national power in basketball in the days of Elvin Hayes and Hakeem Olajuwon’s Phi Slamma Jamma teams.
Here’s where Herman comes in. If Houston joins the Big 12 (or it must be said another Power Five conference), Herman gets a cool $5 million. Or, perhaps, the ice rink at The Galleria, whichever he prefers.
Lately though, Boren has been a flip-flopper. With about three weeks to go until a Big 12 presidents meeting on Oct. 17, Boren sounds like he’s cooling on the whole expansion idea, the idea he stoked the fires of personally.
“I’m not saying there won’t be expansion,” Boren reportedly said at an Oklahoma Board of Regents meeting. “I’m not saying it can be automatically assumed there will be expansion.”
Boren’s reputation in Big 12 circles as a publicity hungry loose cannon is neither here nor there as far as LSU is concerned. The upshot for LSU is that Herman, a sterling 17-1 as a head coach going into Houston’s home game Thursday night against Connecticut, gets no $5 million bonus if Houston doesn’t get the Big 12 invite.
Now, Houston is in Texas, home of many schools with many deep-pocketed alumni. And Herman gives UH a rare chance to be a major player, so the school could throw $5 million his way Big 12 or no. He currently makes $3 million per year with a reported $2.5 million buyout, and undoubtedly UH will counter handsomely if LSU comes with a lucrative contract offer.
Does Herman want LSU is, of course, a big question. A story on the respected coaching search website FootballScoop.com Thursday said Herman isn’t necessarily falling all over himself to accept the LSU job. But if he’s as ambitious, as most coaches are, he’ll be looking to move on at some point. A career of playing in front of UH's 40,000-seat stadium won't cut it. It will be of utmost interest to see if timing and circumstances will pair LSU and Herman after this season.
And if it does, and Houston doesn’t get a chance to join the Big 12, Boren may deserve a bizarre bit of thanks.