Taylor Estes - HornsDigest.com


In this week's HD ONLY, HD's premium insider notes package released every Wednesday night, CHIP BROWN takes you behind the scenes of Tom Herman's warpath to change the face of Texas football ... the latest on the Bev Kearney lawsuit ... Chancellor McRaven's retreat from Houston ... and Shaka's 0-for-the-road season. Plus, TAYLOR ESTES tells you why Texas' Junior Day was a success ...


On Tuesday of next week, spring football at Texas will begin, and as new defensive coordinator Todd Orlando said, “The final piece of the buy-in will take place when they have to carry their pads.”


“When I ask a guy to run into another player as hard as he can, that’s the final piece of the buy-in,” Orlando said.

The theme of winter conditioning was to “create stress and duress” because, as strength and conditioning coach Yancy McKnight said, “Stress and duress reveal character.”


Under Tom Herman, that means a “basic training” approach that makes everything as hard mentally as it is physically.


“The first two weeks were intense,” Orlando said. “For the players, I’m sure it’s like an electric fence. You’re waiting to see how far you go before getting shocked. And it’s intense, because you only get that first chance to make an impression.”


By now Texas fans know everything about winter conditioning has been competition with the victors getting the spoils - nice, hot, indoor breakfasts with the losers serving them ice cold Gatorade before retreating to their warmed over gruel outdoors while drinking from a hose.


It’s become somewhat apparent on the reborn “@TexasFootball” Twitter account who some of the winter workout stars have been.


It’s hard to miss when S P.J. Locke III and #TeamLOCKEdown is calling out LB Malik Jefferson over conditioning competition.




Talk to those close to Tom Herman and they say he likes this Texas team.


He’d never say it out loud. Not yet. Not right now. There’s still too much stress and duress to create. And, as I’ve said before, Herman is the crazy-eyed drill sergeant serving as a “bad cop” for this group of players.


Some have been quicker to warm to the discipline and attention to detail that Herman demands. But I’m hearing  even those who were reluctant to buy in at first are realizing it’s time to get on board.


“It’s gotten better the past two weeks,” Orlando said. “Like anything, it takes getting used to. They’ve seen what we were able to do at Houston against other top programs.”


A quick refresher: Houston was 5-0 against Power Five programs and 6-0 against AP Top 25 teams in two years under Herman.


Four-star 2018 WR Leon O’Neal told HD’s Taylor Estes Herman’s record against other Power Five programs “is kind of scary.”


Herman told some recruits at Junior Day they need to commit and get on board now and start recruiting other great players to Texas in the 2018 class.


That message was certainly relayed to Houston Lamar CBs Anthony Cook and D’Shawn Jamison as well as Houston Lamar WR Al’Vonte Woodard and DT Joshua Landry as well as Houston Westfield’s Keondre Coburn, the No. 1 DT in the state for 2018.


After UT’s Junior Day, you heard the Lamar contingent talking about all  possibly going to the same school and wrecking shop.


I wouldn’t be surprised to see Texas with 8-10 commitments by the end of spring football. I wouldn’t be surprised to see B.J. Foster of Angleton pull the trigger soon.


And keep an eye on 2018 dual-threat QB Casey Thompson, who seems to fit what Herman wants to do on offense and latched onto Shane Buechele over the weekend. Thompson and Buechele share family ties to Oklahoma and also seem to share a willingness to go their own way.


Bill Belichick as the speaker at Texas’ high school coaches’ clinic did three big things for Tom Herman and the Longhorns:


#1 … Most high school coaches who were thinking of going to watch one of his former players in the spring games at Texas A&M, OU or TCU that weekend, now is almost certainly making plans to be in Austin.


#2 … Restored the luster to a coaching clinic that had fallen off the priority list for a bunch of high school coaches the past few years.


#3 … Keeps the buzz around the Texas program going - not only to the high school coaches who feel Herman is showing his commitment to them with such a get, but also to recruits who think it’s badass Herman has the stick to bring in the five-time Super Bowl champion head coach fresh off of his fifth ring in the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history.


If there’s one thing we’ve learned about Tom Herman it’s that he knows how to create messaging and branding that connects with his core audience - 17-year-old recruits.


At Houston, it was his savvy #HTOWNTAKEOVER patterned after the Miami Hurricanes of the early 1980s (winning big with local kids) … and now it’s #REVOLUTION18  at Texas and all the images we’ve seen already from new graphics designer Matt Lange, who came to UT from Alabama.


I’m told Herman has added seven new staffers to the UT payroll whose jobs didn’t exist previously.


The latest is new UT director of student services Brett Wohlers, who came to Texas from Ohio State and will oversee football academics.


Apparently, Wohlers’ presentation to recruits during Junior Day was so polished and featured so many visual references to successful, prominent UT alums in various business fields that recruits walked out all but feeling like they’d have a job waiting for them through those connections if football didn’t work out.


And why wouldn’t the head of the UT football program reference that UT alum and billionaire Robert Rowling owns Gold’s Gym and Omni Hotels? Or that Jeffery Hildebrand, founder and CEO of Houston-based Hilcorp Energy Co., gave each of his employees - all 1,400 - a $100,000 bonus for making their five-year goal in 2015? Or that UT alum Bill Duval presides over Lincoln Properties, one of the largest real estate companies in the world?


That’s just smart. Attention to detail. 


“Tom Herman’s OCD nature about everything he has ideas about is just what Texas needed,” said one, long-time employee connected to the UT athletic department. “His staff’s approach to social media, to all the messaging, to redoing the locker room and weight room. He’s already said he has big ideas about enhancing the game-day atmosphere.


“And he’s not really taking no for an answer. He knows he’s never going to have more leverage than he has right now, and if things aren’t moving fast enough to get things done, he keeps going up the food chain until he knows it’s going to get done.”


One area that frustrated former football coach Charlie Strong was having to get approval from women’s athletic director Chris Plonsky, who also oversees athletic licensing and marketing, before sending out imaging to recruits.


During the Rio Olympics last summer, Strong wanted to send out some imaging that featured Kevin Durant prominently among several Longhorns’ who were having success at the Olympics. Plonsky indicated to Strong that a female Longhorn Olympian should be displayed as prominently as Durant before the imaging went out, sources said. Unable to agree on how the imaging should be presented, Strong became exasperated and gave up, I’m told. 


After Texas’ win over previously unbeaten and then-No. 8 Baylor last season, Strong wanted to send out some imaging to recruits the next day talking about the Longhorns’ win over a Top 10 team. 


But when someone from the football office contacted Plonsky’s marketing staff to create the imaging, football was told no one was working in that area on Sunday but would be able to help on Monday. Sensing the momentum for such imaging would be lost by Monday, nothing was ever sent out, sources said.


Herman, I’m told, blew up that protocol and the athletic department has now empowered his director of operations, Fernando Lovo, to get done whatever imaging needs to get done, so that it’s delivered exactly as the football staff wants (to connect with 17-year-old recruits) and is delivered on the football staff’s schedule.


“In the past, the process was so cumbersome and inconsistent, all the energy and creativity of coming up with branding and messaging that connected with recruits - the lifeblood of any program - would get trampled,” said one source close to the situation.


“Tom Herman has basically come in and shaken everyone into consciousness about how quickly things need to change and move - especially in terms of messaging and branding for recruits - or Texas will continue to fall further and further behind.”


I’m told the virtual reality video of what UT’s new locker room will look like - shown to recruits during Junior Day - was all done in-house by football.


Gauging by recruits’ reactions, the video made them feel as if they had already been inside the new locker room - which won’t be finished until this summer.


Herman’s 100 mph work ethic, unrelenting vision and attention to detail reminds me of an Andre Agassi Nike commercial that ended, “That oughta wake up the country club.”







Tom Herman's much anticipated first Junior Day at Texas went off without a hitch. After talking with dozens (and I'm talking upwards of 30) prospects coming out of the weekend, it is very clear the weekend was a success for the Longhorns.


It is pretty common for prospects to sing high praises of programs fresh off of an on-campus visit. Because of this, I typically tend to take a lot of the comments with a grain of salt. 


But Junior Day weekend felt different.


The amount of positive comments from recruits regarding parts of the visit aside from football itself was eye-opening. 


Dozens of prospects talked very highly of the academic portion of the visit, with a lot of mentions about how well the University of Texas sets up its student athlete's after graduation and/or the end of their football careers.


Whether it was the academic presentations, the number of former and current players talking very highly of Herman and his plans for Texas, the time spent with the staff or even a virtual tour of locker room renovations, something on the visit resonated with the recruits in a way I have not personally seen in my time covering Texas.


It's safe to say Junior Day weekend 2017 was a success for Herman and his staff.







After Wednesday night’s loss at Texas Tech, Shaka Smart's Longhorns (10-20) finished the regular season 0-14 in games away from Austin. (UT’s last regular-season game is Saturday at the Erwin Center against Baylor.) 

Never - in 110 previous years of Texas basketball - have the Longhorns gone a season without winning a single road game.

Well, actually there was one season in which UT did not win at least ONE game away from home (either road or neutral-site game). 

That was in 1908-09. But the Longhorns did NOT play a road or neutral-site game that season. All nine games (6-3 record) were played in Austin.

In the 1982-83 season, Texas went 1-12 in road/neutral-site games with the lone win a 60-49 win vs Charlotte in a neutral-site game in Santa Clara. 

The Horns went 0-12 in true road games that season.

In the 1957-58 season, Texas went 1-11 in road/neutral-site games. The lone win was a neutral-site, 61-59 victory vs Baylor in the SWC Tournament in Houston. The Horns were 0-9 in true road games that season.

Texas will need a win one game at the Big 12 Tournament to match the 1982-83 team and 1957-58 team with at least one win away from home in a season. Or this year's Horns will sit alone as the first in school history to go 0-for-the-road.






Any momentum toward a third-party settlement of a discrimination/wrongful termination lawsuit filed against UT by former Texas women's track coach Bev Kearney disappeared when former Texas football assistant coach Major Applewhite was named head coach at Houston.

Sources told HD a settlement of the lawsuit would've been imminent if Applewhite didn't get the UH job and would've followed Tom Herman from UH to UT. That's because Kearney's lawsuit says she was discriminated against and wrongfully terminated, because Applewhite had a sexual affair with a UT graduate student trainer for football but was allowed to keep his job.

Meanwhile, Kearney says she was told she was being terminated in 2012 for having a two-year sexual relationship with one of her female track student-athletes 10 years earlier. 

Attorneys for the University of Texas on Feb. 21 filed a brief with the Texas Supreme Court seeking to dismiss Kearney's wrongful termination/discrimination lawsuit filed against the school in 2013.

UT lawyers say the university's sovereign immunity as a state institution should not have been waived, because "Kearney's petition cites no other like employees who were disparately treated by UT.

"Kearney offers vague allegations against an assistant coach, law school and undergraduate professors, school administrators, and a head coach who left UT in 2000. These allegations are insufficient. ... Kearney must allege facts demonstrating that a fellow head coach engaged in a sexual relationship with a student-athlete, while coaching that student-athlete and was not terminated."

Kearney's attorneys must file their response with the Texas Supreme Court on March 13, and then UT will be afforded a reply brief that must be filed on March 28.




Chancellor McRaven ends plan for UT project in Houston

AUSTIN – University of Texas System Chancellor William H. McRaven announced today that he is ceasing any additional efforts to launch a UT project on land it purchased in Houston last year. 

McRaven’s decision was based on his concerns that the project was overshadowing the extraordinary work under way on the 14 campuses of the UT System and he did not wish to do anything that could detract from the advancement of UT institutions and their presidents’ visions.

Consequently he advised the Board of Regents that any further efforts on the Houston project would be stopped immediately.  

“I accept full responsibility for the lack of progress on this initiative. I am grateful to the Regents, my System staff and the university presidents for their engagement over the last year,” McRaven said in a memo to Regents’ Chairman Paul Foster.

“I also offer my deepest apology to those members of the Houston Task Force who selflessly dedicated countless hours to develop a bold vision for the future of UT’s investment in Houston. 

"I am incredibly appreciative for their support and friendship throughout this process. While we will not implement this plan in Houston, I am confident that some of the great ideas that emerged from the Task Force will be worth considering on other UT campuses,” McRaven added.

McRaven also recommended to the Board of Regents that the UT System real estate office develop a plan to divest the System of the land. Noting that it will take time, McRaven emphasized that the plan will be executed in a manner that protects the System’s investment in the property.

McRaven thanked the regents for their support and expressed his enthusiasm for working with them on many opportunities ahead.



Finally, following a resolution filed by state Rep. Roland Gutierrez of San Antonio, the Department of Public Safety’s Texas Rangers are investigating Baylor’s handling of the school’s rape scandal.

Being able to muscle those who work under you, or dictate terms to a law firm paid by the school to do a review or to reach quick financial settlements are one thing. Having to answer to authorities conducting a criminal investigation is something completely different.

If I'm BU VP Reagan Ramsower or former regents chair Richard Willis, I'm very, very concerned right now.

Sadly, subpoena power, the threat of perjury and potential jail time are what have been needed from the moment we learned BU’s regents asked the Pepper Hamilton law firm not to provide any written reports about what it found in investigating why BU didn’t have a Title IX coordinator from 2011-14 - in violation of federal law.

I'm almost expecting criminal negligence charges to be filed in this case.

In my nearly 30 years as a reporter - 10 of them covering news for The Associated Press in this state - I’ve had great respect for the work the Rangers do.

This won't be going through the motions.

On Feb. 8, I wrote Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick needed to send the Rangers to Waco instead of to Houston to look for Tom Brady’s SB51 jersey.


This has been long overdue.





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