5-figure price tag means Texas does not have hurt lockers

University of Texas

There’s a saying in the Lone Star State: “All hat, no cattle.” Translation: A poseur who wears a Stetson without any steers. New Texas coach Tom Herman is opening his program to similar ridicule: “All lockers, no titles.”

You might have heard that the Longhorns are making over their locker room and will be installing new lockers that will cost $10,500. These will be state-of-the-art units … until Sam Allen and his company is asked to take their work to the next level.

About a decade ago, the former Marine started Longhorn Lockers based in Venus, Texas. Other than growing up a UT fan and liking the alliterative sound of the name, there’s no Austin connection to his business name. After a few years of selling other company’s inventory – lockers he considered to be sub-standard – Allen decided to start making custom lockers.

When TCU renovated Amon Carter Stadium in 2012, it selected Longhorn Lockers. Word of mouth and quality of work quickly made Allen’s company the go-to provider for schools who re-doing their team’s home. Alabama, Clemson, LSU, Pitt and Oklahoma along with the Dallas Cowboys new practice facility – The Star in Frisco, Texas – are now equipped with Longhorn Lockers.

The success of Allen’s company can be summed up in two words that many corporations and businesses ignore: Customer service.

“We get asked about the warranty or the guarantee – we don’t need one because we will fix and maintain anything that goes wrong at any time,” Allen said in a telephone interview with FanRag Sports. “If I have to, I’ll get on a plane and come to the school to make sure the job is done right.

“I was raised that my name is on the product and that your name and work means something.”

Allen sealed the deal at Clemson when he referenced “Tommy Boy” and Chris Farley’s speech about guarantees and quality products. “They knew my company was going to take care of them.”

Herman is famously tough and challenging with his players. That also goes for a company for hire. During the spring game, Herman was interviewed by the Longhorn Network and talked about his desire for the lockers to have lighted doors. The way Herman told it, the response was that light-up doors had never been done and Herman responded, “You want our business or not?”

Well, not quite. Allen’s company has a patent pending for light-up doors. Those one of three patented items the Longhorns’ lockers will feature.

Instead of name plates, the lockers will feature 43-inch video screens that will show a loop of the player’s highlights above his name.

“Each locker is unique to what the school wants; Clemson’s lockers are like thrones,” Allen said. “But Texas is at the top. It’s the most expensive locker we’ve ever done.”

Longhorn Lockers was one of two companies to bid. Allen received the specifications from the architect – based on Herman’s ideas – and then went rogue. Longhorn Lockers built the mock up based on what Allen believed was the better/best design.

“That’s where we won the job,” he said. “We wowed the coach with the mock up. We took what they wanted and made it reality. We did four different mock ups over a five-week period and mostly it involved getting the doors to light up.”

Two weeks ago, Herman and his team took sledgehammers to the out-of-date wooden lockers to make way for the modern locker room that is currently under construction. Herman says his goal is to create a “bright, vivacious” locker room that the players “are excited to come into every day.”

There is some sweet irony in the fact that Herman is building a program where the players exhaust all of their physical and mental energy in practice and preparation – in other words, tougher than new rope. But when it comes to the new lockers, it’s 5-star hotel luxury. All that’s missing is a personal masseuse plus manis and pedis.

Bruce Feldman of FoxSports.com asked Herman about the perception of the luxury lockers: “We’re not gonna be soft here. You need good players. The finest facilities in the country attract really good players. Soft isn’t anything about what they get and the gear they get. Yeah, they have a Kevin Durant backpack instead of the standard Nike backpack. So? That’s mind-blowing to me that people would say that because you have nice things, you’re soft. No, you’re soft because your culture is soft.”

Texas athletic director Mike Perrin, interviewed during the spring game, was asked about the new lockers. He acknowledged what is and has been evident – competing at the highest levels in college football includes a facilities “arms race.” To paraphrase Ricky Bobby, “If you’re not best, you’re last.”

Herman is getting what he asked for when he took the job – a blank check(s). Texas is spending $10 million on current upgrades to the Moncrief-Neuhaus athletic complex (the football offices, meeting and locker rooms located in the south end of Darrell K. Royal/Memorial Stadium). The bill for the 126 lockers will come in at just over $1.3 million.

“I understand the atmosphere and optics,” UT president Greg Fenves said. “We’ve got one of the best young coaches in the country … and we promised we would give him the tools to be successful.”

The Locker War has spilled into the Red River Rivalry. Oklahoma’s new locker room features lockers made by Allen’s company. It’s easy to understand why Herman approved the one-upmanship that will be in place for his players.

“Administrations win championships,” Herman said. “I’ve been told yes for everything I’ve asked for, from the renovations to this building that we’re in, from anywhere to graphics to locker rooms to the weight room to the support staff.

“To our administration’s credit, they’ve said, ‘Coach, what do you need?’ Obviously, the first thing we needed was an updated locker room. So, again, if we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it as big and better than anybody in the country.”

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