Tom Herman wrote an essay for Sports Illustrated on the program-building tips he learned from Urban Meyer. He says his program at Houston is structured largely on what he saw at Ohio State. But perhaps his greatest anecdote, and greatest lesson for all coaches, comes from before he and Urban even met:
When I was the offensive coordinator at Rice in 2007, there was an elite quarterback coming out of Stratford High in Houston. He made it very clear: If Texas didn't offer him a football scholarship, he was going to go to an academically minded school. So, his final three schools were Northwestern, Stanford and Rice. We were on his list for three reasons: He's from Houston; his dad was the president of MLS's Houston Dynamo; and his mom and maternal grandparents graduated from the school. Long story short, he had been on campus a couple of times, and I had always known well in advance he was coming.
Rice didn't have very nice facilities, so I knew which hallways to walk him down and where to hide him—I knew what doors to keep closed so he did not see certain things. Meanwhile, we planned any way we could to polish up the facilities. But during the spring my office phone rang and it's the quarterback's dad. I'm thinking, "Great!" I take the call, and he says, "Coach Herman, my wife and son and I are in the parking lot. Can we come up and spend some time with you?" I said, "Of course," but I'm thinking to myself, "Oh no! Oh god! What do I do?"
So, I spent the next two hours fumbling around, and the kid saw all our warts. I went home that night feeling terrible—a combination of wanting to vomit profusely and curl up in the fetal position. I knew he was getting on a flight to Palo Alto the next day to visit Stanford. I knew what they were going to show him. And I knew that we were done. We had failed. Would we have gotten him? Probably not. But we failed. We did not put our best foot forward.
That quarterback was Andrew Luck.
I've told that story every day since I arrived at Houston. Every day when I roll into the parking lot, close my car door and start walking into the football facility, I say to myself, "What if Andrew Luck shows up today?" And I walk in, pick up gum wrappers and inspect the floor. We need new paint on the walls, new pictures, all sorts of things. In the city of Houston, there's a very real chance that the next Andrew Luck could show up in our offices today. It's almost a mantra for our coaches: Your offices better stay neat. You better have a highlight tape ready, a recruitment presentation ready, all your spiels ready, because there are 10 five-star prospects living within 20 minutes of us and they can show up at any time. Before I got here this building was not seen as a recruiting tool, but as a place to house employees. We're slowly but surely changing that.