Texas football: Steve Sarkisian raise, extension is way too risky

Jan 1, 2024; New Orleans, LA, USA; Texas Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian walks on the field
Jan 1, 2024; New Orleans, LA, USA; Texas Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian walks on the field / Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Being a fan of Texas football has been a roller-coaster for the past decade-plus. Ever since Mack Brown left, it has felt like a revolving door of head coach who couldn't seem to figure it out -- at least not on a consistent basis.

We've seen Texas have plenty of success, but it was just never sustained.

So when the program moved on from Tom Herman and hired Steve Sarkisian, it kind of felt like that would continue. Sarkisian had learned under Nick Saban so he wasn't exactly a bad hire, by any means, but he was a risky one. He had never won 10 games in a single season with Washington or USC and had a career record of 46-35 with the two Pac-12 programs. On top of that, he was just 31-26 in Pac-12 play.

And it's not like it's tough to win at USC or Washington. Heck, Lincoln Riley flirted with a playoff in his first year at USC in 2022 and Kalen DeBoer made a national title game in his second year at Washington. So Sarkisian's lack of sustained success was bewildering.

In his first year at Texas, he finished 5-7. He had a gap between his USC and Texas head coaching jobs to learn and better himself. He learned from the best, so maybe his career in Austin was destined to be better than his time at USC or Washington. Well, he rebounded nicely in 2022 and finished 8-5 with a 6-3 mark in the Big 12.

In 2023, he finally reached the top of the Big 12, winning the conference in Texas' last year before heading to the SEC. His Longhorns went 12-1, making the playoff, but then they finished 12-2 after losing to Washington in the Sugar Bowl. The goal of winning a national title was just out of reach.

However, just last week, the University of Texas Board of Regents approved a raise for Sarkisian, earning him over $10 million annually, and an extension through 2030.

Risky doesn't even begin to describe the move.

I get it, though. Sarkisian was the first coach to get Texas to the playoff and winning the Big 12 was a big needle-mover. But now he's headed to the SEC where he'll face the likes of Georgia, LSU, and Alabama on top of Oklahoma almost every year. The road isn't going to get easier for the head coach coming off his first double-digit win season.

Maybe he has turned a corner, however. Maybe he has figured out this whole head coaching thing and it just took him 15 years. Or maybe 2023 was an outlier.

Locking him in is important if you don't want him bolting for more money, but maybe wait until he can prove he can string two good years together and win in the SEC before making him one of the highest-paid coaches in the country and extending him through 2030.

This is a high-risk move that Texas can only hope provides a major reward.

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