Urban Meyer's wife, Shelley, recently visited Austin to assess the real estate situation, Austonia has learned. Does that mean it's time for coaching legend Urban to ride into Austin and take the reins from his former assistant coach Tom Herman?
After a second consecutive season of missing the Big 12 Championship, Texas fans have been clamoring for the job of fourth year Head Coach Herman. Everything is bigger in Texas, including expectations.
Tom Herman We want you out right now. I have plenty of boxes to help you pack. Signed, All Longhorn fans… https://t.co/49XqRT22Th— Trent Giesen (@Trent Giesen) 1606509372.0
Meyer in, Herman out
Herman joined the Longhorns in 2016 after taking the Houston Cougars to two bowl games, including winning the Peach Bowl in 2015. Texas fans loved Herman's pedagogy.
A former assistant to Meyer, Longhorn fans thought they finally found a coach that could pick up where former head coach Mack Brown left off. Herman had success calling plays for Ohio State and Houston, so the Texas fan base was expecting an offense that would keep them in the national conversion.
What fans did not expect was only one 10 win season four years in.
Meyer on the other hand is known for winning, and winning quickly. After winning two National Championships in five years at Florida with Heisman-winning quarterback Tim Tebow—a player Sam Ehlinger has been compared to—Urban jumped ship to coach at Ohio State.
While there, Meyer added another championship to his collection in 2014. He never won fewer than 10 games in a season with the Buckeyes, including a 4-2 Bowl Game record. This is the success that many fans expected from Herman's time at Texas.
There are some contributing factors to Herman's failure. Head Coach Lincoln Riley's rise at Oklahoma has put a boot on the necks of the rest of the conference with Oklahoma winning the conference every year since Riley has taken over. Herman is 1-4 against Oklahoma in his time at Texas.
For comparison, Meyer at Ohio State had a perfect record against rival Michigan, 7-0.
It also didn't help that Herman had to rely so heavily on quarterback Sam Ehlinger due to injuries to other key players during his time at the helm.
Meyer had to deal with a similar problem when multiple starters went down and Ohio State had to play three different starting quarterbacks. The difference is that Ohio State won a National Championship that season.
Herman is not a bad coach. He’s middle tier at this point. This is gonna be a very unpopular take after that, but i… https://t.co/IgnfoETT2g— Will Baizer (@Will Baizer) 1606511197.0
Then there was the Zack Smith controversy that ultimately cost Meyer his job at Ohio State and added confusion for Texas fans trying to figure out if and when Herman knew anything about the alleged abuse.
Herman's loss Friday adds to his track record of disappointing UT fans.
The likelihood of the replacement
Texas has a big choice ahead of them. Herman signed a two year extension after the Longhorns won 10 games and the Sugar Bowl over Georgia in 2018. The program would be stuck with a $15 million dollar bill as part of the buyout if they fired Herman after this season. While one of the richest public universities in the country could afford it, any time a program is signing a check that big it's through clenched teeth. But that might be what's necessary.
Programs like University of Southern California and Michigan, both with deep pockets of their own, are going to be hunting for a new head coach soon after both of their last hires have turned out to be duds. If Texas wants to win the race, they can't lag behind other competing schools.
Add into the equation that Meyer has been known to suffer from health conditions that have prevented him from finishing his contracts at his two previous coaching stops. At Florida, Meyer cited that he wanted to "spend more time with his family" after suffering from chest and heart issues, only a year after taking his "dream job" at Ohio State.
Meyer retired again from Ohio State in 2018 after being diagnosed with a non-life threatening cyst located on the membrane of his brain. It should be noted however, that at both coaching stops Meyer left the program dealing with some pretty large issues. At Florida, it was allegations of drug use among players and at Ohio State it was the allegations of domestic violence and assault among players and coaches alike.
This month, talk of bringing Meyer to UT's family grew, especially on social media. UT fans want Meyer over any other potential name.
FIRE HERMAN HIRE URBAN— Mike 🤘 (@Mike 🤘) 1606677189.0
UT can't make the same mistake they made in 2013 when the program moved off of Brown. The program at the time was looking for direction and tried to reel in the biggest fish in the pond: Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban.
While Saban was rumored to be looking for houses in the Austin area last year, he ultimately decided to take the raise from Alabama and won two more championships. Instead, Texas hired Head Coach Charlie Strong from Louisville which turned out to be one of the worst hires the program made with Strong finishing his time at Texas with a 16-21 record.
The thing most Longhorns fans are missing, however, is would Meyer want to leave his current job at Fox Sports where he has gained attention as being one of the best in studio analysts? Would Meyer want to recruit a state that already has political lines drawn? Where high school coaches direct their players to and away from certain schools and where other coaches like Jimbo Fisher at Texas A&M, Dabo Swinney at Clemson and Nick Saban already have connections?
The problems at Texas won't go away with a snap of the fingers. If the Longhorns want to make a change, it's going to have to be decisive and fans are going to have to give the new coach something they didn't give the old one. Patience.
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It's been a few weeks since a viral TikTok revealed poor working conditions at the Montopolis Dollar Tree in southeast Austin, and employee Maggie Lopez is still feeling its effects.
Lopez was filmed working alone at the location May 1 in a since-deleted video that saw 2.9 million views and over 450,000 likes.
In the video, stacked boxes littered the floor, shelves were left unstocked and a leaky, broken air conditioning unit welcomed customers into the understaffed storefront.
@trishmartinez32#x_bazan06#fyp#fypシ#tiktok#friends#like#comment#4upage#4u#share#viralvideo#trending#wow#4upageシ♬ original sound - Patricia Martinez
Lopez, who now works at the dollar store's Springdale location, says she was left with the aftermath of a 90-hour workweek, lost wages and a mystery illness after the store closed a few days later.
"Nobody ever told me... that there was no air conditioning. They didn't tell me there was danger of getting robbed," Lopez told Austonia. "Nobody said anything... they didn't care."
The location didn't shut its doors because of the TikTok exposure: instead, an AC unit specialist doing routine maintenance found employees working in extreme heat and said it was too hot for employees to continue working.
"To operate a business, you have to have your temperature within a certain parameter," Ikaika, the specialist who didn't disclose his full name to protect his job, told Austonia. "As soon as you walk in, you start sweating... it's not good at all."
Lopez said working in 90+ degree heat became the norm in her two months at the location as air conditioning units remained broken for months before the closure. She added some employees, including her former manager and several customers, passed out in the store due to the heat. But she said company leadership remained unresponsive.
Lopez said she sent her district manager, Veronica Oyervides, screenshots of 90+ degree temperatures inside the store. (Maggie Lopez)
Four days after the air conditioning repairman told employees they should no longer keep working at the store, Lopez said her district manager, Veronica Oyervides, was asking her to come back in to prep the location for reopening. Lopez worked May 8 in the shuttered store prepping it for a reopening, which has yet to happen. Oyervides has declined to comment.
Ever since she started working in the deteriorating Dollar Tree, Lopez said she often wakes up with nosebleeds. She said she's constantly thirsty, her hands shake, and she's experiencing headaches and mood swings—symptoms she believes are due to long-term exposure to mold.
Former assistant manager Linnea Bradley told Austonia she has been hospitalized with symptoms linked to heat and stress after working at the store.
"We are sick and corporate does not give a shit," Lopez said. "What kind of damage did these stupid units do to our bodies?"
Lopez hasn't sought care for her symptoms. She says she makes $13.50 an hour and doesn't have health insurance.
Former employees have more complaints than just the heat: Lopez said that personal safety became a concern in the understaffed store. Catherine, a former employee who wished to only reveal her first name, said she's witnessed large-scale theft and instances of mismanagement in her months as a stocker at the location.
"They have no security, no cameras... they don't want you to have anything in writing," Catherine told Austonia. "It's just complete chaos."
Catherine said that she and other hourly employees were given zero hours for weeks on end as managers, who work on salary, were left to run the store alone from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day. She said some managers became so desperate they were hiring homeless people to help stock shelves in exchange for a drink and a bite to eat.
While Catherine (top, middle) often had zero-hour weekly schedules, Martinez, who was paid on salary, worked back-to-back 90-hour workweeks. (Catherine) (Claire Partain)
"They actually did have people willing to work, they just refused to give them hours," Catherine said. "I'm not understanding whether Dollar Tree wants to go under... are they doing this as a tax break?"
Other Austin Dollar Tree locations have reported similar issues. Former manager Jonathan Martinez, who says he was supposed to work 45 hours a week, says he was racking up 90+ hour workweeks and sleeping in the store as he shouldered both the Montopolis and William Cannon locations while his newborn baby was in the ICU in March.
Martinez kept extra clothes in this office after working seven-day weeks at two Dollar Tree locations. (Claire Partain)
Martinez said he slept on boxes as he juggled the job and visiting his newborn in the ICU. (Claire Partain)
Martinez said he slept on boxes as he juggled the job and visiting his newborn in the ICU. (Claire Partain)
"As long as the store stays open, there are corporate people getting bonuses," Martinez, who quit last week after receiving a $100 annual bonus, told Austonia. "Six months ago, when corporate people had a shitload of bonuses, that's when they upped the price (of everything in the store from $1 to $1.25)."
In the six months since Dollar Tree hiked its prices to $1.25, it's gained plenty of mostly negative national attention. In February, the Food and Drug Administration shut down an Arkansas distribution plant due to a massive rodent infestation, and several lawsuits have ensued. The company has also come under fire for selling allegedly expired over-the-counter medicine and its worker shortage at locations across the country.
One employee, who still works for Dollar Tree and wished to remain anonymous, said that they've seen or heard that many area locations are near their breaking point.
"I've seen the good, the bad, the bad to worse," they said. "And it's always a rinse repeat kind of thing... How many more (stores) will go? And what about the employees?"
"Every time I would tell (Oyervides) 'I'm just going to close, I can't stand it anymore,' she would say, 'No, no, no,'" Lopez said. "And I'd be so upset because why? They have my paycheck. It's just been mortifying... the most horrible year of my life."
Dollar Tree's regional director did not respond to requests for comment from Austonia.
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A group of environmentalists and other activist groups are calling on the city to withhold permits Tesla has requested, including for a battery cathode facility by the company’s headquarters near the Colorado River.
In a letter to Mayor Steve Adler and the rest of council, the groups say the manufacturing process will require a substantial amount of water and chemicals, and that as a result, a hazardous waste stream will form.
“Where will the toxic waste end up? How will Austin ensure that it doesn’t pollute the water?” the letter asks.
The groups, which include East Austin group PODER, the Texas Anti-Poverty Project, Hornsby Bend Alliance and others, demand that the city wait on permit approval until the company makes commitments to engage the community and protect the environment.
While building its own batteries could mean a significant reduction in production costs for the automaker, the groups say materials and processes involved in battery production have dangers. They pointed to Piedmont Lithium, a supplier for the facility, saying caution should be taken with battery production products to “avoid contamination of surface, ground and sewerage waters."
Last year, PODER launched an initiative known as the Colorado River Conservancy to protect the character of the river corridor. Paul DiFiore, manager of the initiative, talked about its aims to put protections in place for the riverfront neighborhoods. "That was the goal that Tesla maybe brought that to another level of urgency," DiFiore told Austonia.
The company has faced controversy with its environmental action before. Earlier this year, the company was fined $275,000 by the Environmental Protection Agency for high priority violations of pollution regulations at its Fremont, California plant.
The letter from environmental groups comes just as Tesla was booted from the E.S.G. index, which ranks companies for how they follow environmental, social and governance principles.
Yesterday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk pushed back against the index, calling it a “clear case of wacktivism.”
Exxon is rated top ten best in world for environment, social & governance (ESG) by S&P 500, while Tesla didn\u2019t make the list!\n\nESG is a scam. It has been weaponized by phony social justice warriors.— Elon Musk (@Elon Musk) 1652890157
Along with action on the cathode facility’s permits, the groups are also calling for collaborative work to remedy inequities in water access.
The letter describes how Tesla receives service from Austin Water, though the gigafactory is outside the boundaries of the service area. That’s because the Public Utility Commission granted Tesla a release from South West Water’s service, allowing them to instead turn to Austin Water for service.
Meanwhile, others in the surrounding area, like those in the Garden Valley neighborhood, rely on Aqua Texas Inc.—which has rates more than double that of Austin Water—for retail service. The neighborhood can receive wholesale service from Austin Water, however.
The groups point to this, along with other developments at the gigafactory—clearing large swaths of trees, filling in ponds and pouring acres of concrete for the factory—as a reason to enforce standards requiring companies to operate with social and environmental responsibility.
“If we do not raise the bar for the increasing number of corporations who wish to relocate to Austin or expand their presence, we risk losing precisely that which attracts people to live here in the first place: the clean, beautiful environment that is the foundation of our collective quality of life,” the letter states.
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