Editor’s note: Ty Cloud is a former University of Houston offensive lineman who was part of the Cougars when Kevin Sumlin bolted for A&M. He provides his take on what it is like for a player in that situation and will be a regular contributor to Houston Sports and Stuff.
By TY CLOUD
As a diehard UH fan and former player, this week seems a little familiar… for the fourth time since 2009 the Cougars are looking for a new head coach. Tom Herman was a home run hire (understatement of the century). I have never seen a bigger culture change within a program in my time watching/playing college sports. The same UH roster that opened TDECU stadium with a 27-7 Loss to UTSA, lost to Tulane, and again underperformed in the American Conference in 2014 would go on to start 10-0 under Herman in 2015.
Now there is an indoor facility under construction, a state of the art locker room was completed in August, a football-only facility is on the way, a conference championship has been won and a Peach Bowl Trophy sits in the case. Things are much different on Cullen Boulevard than when I arrived in 2009. You left it much better than you found it, Tom. For that we thank you. Good luck in Austin.
Having been through a high profile coaching change myself as a player I thought I might share some insight:
In 2011 we started 12-0. We were the toast of the town – the Coogs were back! However, the Coogs were still a Conference USA team with no Power Five future in sight. The inevitable happened and we all had internet access, smart phones, and common sense. Everything we began to see ended with a “per source” and started with a “Kevin Sumlin.” Soon after a disappointing loss to Southern Miss in the CUSA title game, Sumlin was gone to College Station for triple the pay and an exponential increase in resources.
It hurt. It was a gut punch. I signed the dotted line – we worked so hard for this. One win from a Sugar Bowl turned into a coaching search and another bowl game in Dallas-Fort Worth for the third time in four years. It was not easy.
You aren’t supposed to commit to a coaching staff, but to a University — newsflash – the majority of Division 1 athletes commit to coaching staffs. When I was a high school senior and needed to decide where I would play, I didn’t have a single school President, professor, regent, or TA come into my living room to recruit – only coaches. The staff is a major part of the equation. Life is about relationships and a football player’s relationship with his position coach/head coach during the recruiting cycle will produce a signature on signing day. It was easy to point the finger at the coach for leaving, but can you really blame him? Bigger and better jobs exist in every industry.
“It’s just part of the business,” is what you often hear after these moves are made. That statement is 100% fact and I have zero issue with it. Still it shocks you though. It still makes you wonder, “if things would have been different, would he still be around?” There is no time for that. College Football is a business that is in operation 365 days a year.
Kevin Sumlin was going to A&M whether we went to the Sugar Bowl or not.
Tom Herman was going to Texas whether the Big 12 invited UH or not.
There is no time to sulk or feel sorry for yourself. Should players be able to pick up and leave when they feel like it just like the coaches? Probably. That is a different discussion for a different day.
Do these rumors affect the players? The numbers say yes. My opinion says… maybe. A part of me is of the belief that you are a grown man. Block out the noise and go play ball.
It is not that easy. You need everyone. One or two or three or eight of the players on a particular team could be affected by rumors and feel they have been wronged. It has an effect and there is no way to deny that.
I will never blame our loss to Southern Miss on a coach making a career decision. Some players will, and that is their prerogative. Was it a distraction? Absolutely. Distractions exist everywhere. There are a lot of stories out there about individuals overcoming distractions to reach their objective. Jamie Collins played a hell of a game that day – you guys heard of him? They had players too. We did not get the job done on Championship Saturday in 2011. Period.
As for last week? As a fan I am of the belief that the Coogs would have beaten Memphis without any of the rumors. I am a fan though, an alumnus. Riley Ferguson is a hell of a player and Mike Norvell is proving to be a hell of a coach. In a perfect world we don’t have to worry about the effect it has on the players – but in this world I’d advise you to take the points/take the dog. SOLID PLAY.
Why? Because who it truly has an effect on is that coaching staff (not the head man). The men who have to juggle getting a team ready for a game and planning on the next stop for their family – all while keeping a poker face. Players play and coaches coach. So when exterior factors get included in that, expect differing results.
Overall my point is this: As long as jobs with more resources and a better path to national prominence exist – coaches will continue to want those jobs. So how do you change that? You make a concerted effort to raise the brand, success, and image of your school. UH is in a position to continue to grow and be recognized as the “top Group of Five job” going forward.
Don’t blame Kevin Sumlin or Tom Herman for leaving. College Football is big business. It’s “what have you done for me lately” and the No. 1 indicator is dollars and cents. As a former player I feel for the 105 players in that locker room. It is a tough time – but the administration will make a great hire (track record says so) and UH will be a top contender in the American next year with some nice out of conference matchups. It’s a highly attractive job in a recruiting hotbed and comes with a Power Five salary. All will be fine on Cullen.
So when a coach makes a move “it’s just part of the business.”
Problem is… the players are not.