If you tuned in to watch No. 6 Houston beat Cincinnati, 40-16, last Thursday night, perhaps you noticed before the game that Cougars head coach Tom Herman clasped hands with every single one of his players and gave them a hug as they made their way into the locker room.
This is not uncommon. In fact, many coaches do this before a game, especially before a big game on national television.
Most coaches, though, don’t kiss their players – and that’s exactly what Herman did. Some got the cheek, some got the neck. All got Herman’s lips and words of encouragement.
“The team last year, probably four or five of its wins came against teams that had better talent than they did,” Herman began on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “Certainly this year’s team beating Oklahoma – Oklahoma’s got better talent than we do top to bottom, and I’d argue that Cincinnati is one of the most talented teams in our league. To win games like that, what separates programs, to me, it’s been a genuine love throughout the team and it’s been a love between players and player-to-player, coach-to-coach and certainly coach-to-player. We love our guys maybe – not maybe – I would argue more than any other staff, any other program in America. We dive into their lives. We know their girlfriends, we know their parents, we know the ins and outs of their lives.”
Herman, 41, doesn’t know any other way.
“That’s just how I grew up,” he said. “I grew up kissing my uncles on the cheek and giving them a big bear hug, and to me, it speaks volumes.”
The reaction among players has been mixed.
“The first time I did it here at the University of Houston, a couple guys said, ‘Coach, that’s the first time I’ve ever been kissed by a man,’” Herman recalled. “And I thought to myself, ‘Man, what a shame that these guys haven’t had a male role model in their life that can show them that kind of affection and genuine love.’ And so I try to make a point (to do so). These guys are going out, throwing their body on the line for us every Saturday, and I want them to know the last thing before they enter that locker room to prepare to go win a game is how much I love them and appreciate them.”