How FAU & Tom Herman Came Together at the Right Time 

By Ron Johnson

Turn The Page: FAU and Tom Herman

A new addition of the Gridiron Grind series, we take a moment to take an in-depth look at one of the many coaches vying for success this upcoming season. In today’s installment, we look at Florida Atlantic University’s newest head coach, Tom Herman. Now if his name sounds familiar, it should. This is because greatness tends to follow Herman no matter where he goes.

In a recent interview he did on ESPN’s College GameDay Podcast, Tom Herman said, “I think having reset my priorities and you know, maintaining a better work life balance just aside from the actual job, I think I’d become much, much better at organizing those priorities. And then I think just man, I just wanted to fight the man and you never win. When you fight the man, you know, the man always wins.” (Kosko, 2023)

Tom Herman

Now as much as ‘sticking it to the man’ may feel in the moment, it does not produce winners or champions for that matter. Herman’s coaching style has produced positive results in his six years of coaching. Between the University of Houston and University of Texas, Tom Herman amassed a 54-22 regular season record (Ironically, a .711 win percentage) which included a Sugar Bowl win as head coach at Texas as well as a 5-1 (.833 win percentage) bowl record with the only loss of his postseason career came in the form of a 34-10 loss to San Diego State in 2016. 

Now despite Herman’s success at Texas, the Longhorns seem to have the same feeling that most Dallas Cowboys fans have in that state. What I mean by that is just from researching the program specifically, it seemed that Texas was not just satisfied with Herman rebuilding the program back to winning consistently.

From the reading it appears that they spent more time comparing legendary coach Mack Brown to…every other coach since Brown. This is the equivalent of comparing Hall of Famer Troy Aikman to every other quarterback to don the blue star since Aikman. 

Meaning you cannot keep trying to replay the past. But according to the Longhorns, “The difference between Brown and Herman was their record against the inferior teams from a talent perspective. Over the four years, Texas had eight losses to unranked teams. Those losses stunted the development of the program, building frustration in Austin.” (McVeigh, 2021) 

But after reading the piece, I feel I can make a heavily educated guess (and again, this is just this writer’s opinion): Texas needs to do what most fans outside of the university as well as Dallas have done: Move on and stop living in the past. Texas had shown that they can compete with the SEC last season, barely losing to Alabama. But let’s be real: Texas should get used to playing second best when they become officially SEC in 2024. 

But this isn’t about Texas; this is about Tom Herman and the Florida Atlantic Owls

The Owls are all about turning the page as proven with their latest move from Conference USA to the American Athletic Conference starting this season. So between the change of conferences and a new head coach, it is clear that FAU is looking to turn the page from Lane Kiffin’s success as well as Willie Taggart’s failures. But remember how I said with Herman comes great success? 

Well Tom Herman does not have to embark on this journey alone as his old quarterback Casey Thompson arrives to join a relatively unknown Owls program. Now, keep this in mind: I say unknown because one that focuses solely on the Power 5 Conferences would look at FAU as nothing more than a fluffer for bigger schools looking to pad their stats to the Committee prior to Selection Saturday/Sunday. 

But they might want to realize something about Tom Herman and Casey Thompson for that matter: They may not be solely focused on sticking it to the man, but a successful season in which they finish atop that AAC with the conference title as well as a bowl berth and win could be huge for them…especially considering the NFL would not be the only pro league checking out the college ranks this year.

Yes, even the USFL and XFL tend to admire the prospect of finding that diamond in the rough or as Dwayne Johnson and Dany Garcia have called it, ‘Player 54.’

During Thompson’s one starting season at Texas, he managed to eclipse the 2,000-yard threshold to go with 24 touchdowns, nine interceptions and eight yards per attempt. In his one starting year at Nebraska prior to joining the Owls, he logged 2400 yards to go with 17 touchdowns, 10 picks and a little more than eight yards per attempt. Consistency seems to run wild with Thompson under center, so could you imagine what this college version of Batman and Robin can do?

In any event, this looks to be a fresh start for both coach and quarterback. For Tom Herman, this is not just about tacking on to an already impressive legacy: 

Tom Herman

But being able to, for lack of better words, turn boys to men. For Thompson, it is an opportunity to have a legitimate stake in Heisman conversations or improve his draft stocks in all three major pro leagues (in the US at least) and possibly turn a few heads while he’s at it. But both men do have the drive and desire to bring forth those winning ways that Kiffin brought during his brief stint with them and erase that stigma left by Taggart at the same time.

Whether Tom Herman and Thompson find success at FAU remains to be seen. But what does seem to be evident is that if you were to ask both Herman as well as FAU if how serious they were about this opportunity, they will tell you bluntly. 

AD Brian White said that Tom Herman not only their top target after Taggert’s dismissal, but he also was the only target they wanted. If you were to ask Herman, he firmly believes that FAU is indeed a program on the rise and that White was one of the main reasons this was going to be Herman’s destination.

Even with the fact of being fashionably late to his the press conference announcing him as the new coach of FAU, Herman apologized and joked that it had been a whirlwind between meeting the football family on Thursday and meeting up with his own family on Friday morning.

You do not meet many college or pro coaches for that matter with this much humility while validating the success they have had. So this does not seem like just a fresh start for Casey Thompson and Tom Herman…this seems like a fresh start for FAU as a whole.

Either way, I look forward to watching the FAU Owls turn the page and get back to winning.

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