Houston Names Major Applewhite Head Football Coach
The University of Houston announced Friday that it has decided to promote offensive coordinator Major Applewhite to head football coach.
Details of the deal were not made public, but Sam Khan Jr. of ESPN says the school gave Applewhite a five-year contract. The move will be officially announced at a news conference on Monday afternoon.
Who were the candidates for the job?
Houston’s decision to go with Applewhite is a bit of a surprise considering some of the big names that were reportedly in the running for the job. Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, former LSU head coach Les Miles and U of H defensive coordinator Todd Orlando were each interviewed.
Kiffin was considered to be the favorite. He has revamped his reputation since joining Nick Saban’s staff in 2014 following tumultuous stints as the head coach of the Oakland Raiders, Tennessee and the University of Southern California. He helped Alabama to a national championship last season, and the Tide are considered heavy favorites to repeat again this year.
Who is Major Applewhite?
Applewhite has bounced all over the country in various assistant coaching roles after a successful run as a quarterback at the University of Texas. He started as a graduate assistant at his alma mater before leaving to become quarterbacks coach at Syracuse in ‘05.
Applewhite returned to the state of Texas after just one season with Syracuse in order to join the Rice staff as offensive coordinator. Since then, he has held that same position at Alabama and Texas before being named Houston’s OC in January of 2015.
Houston gained national prominence over the last couple of seasons under head coach Tom Herman. Herman was hired by the Cougars in December of 2014 after a successful run as the offensive coordinator at Ohio State.
Herman immediately took a program that had been treading water and made them relevant. The Cougars went 13-1 in his first season at the helm and concluded the year with a resounding 38-24 win over Florida State in the Peach Bowl.
He led Houston to an impressive 5-0 start this season, but the team stumbled a bit down the stretch, losing three of their final seven games.
Still, Herman’s 22-4 overall record as head coach was impressive enough to get the attention of Texas, who officially hired him to replace Charlie Strong on November 26th.
This will be Applewhite’s first head coaching opportunity. Houston’s offense has thrived under his watch over the last couple of seasons. This year, the Coogs ranked 21st in the nation in scoring (38 points per game) and 15th in passing offense (301.9 passing yards per game). They also averaged more than 157 rushing yards per game. The team also gained over 500 yards of offense 11 times over the last two years.
Houston’s athletic director, Hunter Yuracheck, issued a statement regarding the appointment of Applewhite as head coach (via ESPN):
“When we set out on our search for the new leader of our football program, we wanted a coach with great integrity who believed in our mission and truly believed in our student-athlete experience. We had our sights set on a focused competitor who has demonstrated success and possesses a deep connection to college and high school football in the great state of Texas.”
“As this process was completed, it was clearly evident the only individual to offer our position to was Major Applewhite and he was indeed the right man to lead our program.”
What’s ahead for Houston?
Orlando had been named as the team’s interim coach when Herman left for Texas. He will return to his normal post as defensive coordinator, while Applewhite will assume the role of head coach immediately. Applewhite will coach the team in the Las Vegas Bowl against San Diego State on December 17th.
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