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Houston fires head coach Dana Holgorsen after five seasons

Holgorsen is out at Houston after compiling a 31-28 record in five seasons.

NCAA Football: Houston at Central Florida Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Cougars made the decision to part ways with head coach Dana Holgorsen on Sunday, following the team’s 27-13 loss to UCF in the season finale. The decision was first reported by Joseph Duarte of the Houston Chronicle.

Holgorsen’s 5-year tenure officially concludes after finishing with a 4-8 record in the Cougars’ inaugural season of Big 12 membership.

“Over the course of his five seasons with the Cougars, Dana made strides in our football program in many ways and laid the groundwork for our transition to the Big 12 Conference,” Houston athletic director Chris Pezman said in a statement. “Ultimately, the results on the field fell below our standards of excellence. We are grateful to Dana for his efforts and commitment to our student-athletes and we wish him the very best in his future endeavors.”

Holgorsen was a splash hire by Houston on January 1, 2019 when the university issued a 5-year, $20 million contract to the former Big 12 coach who produced five-consecutive winning seasons at West Virginia.

Holgorsen coached five seasons at Houston, faring 31-28 with three bowl appearances and two bowl victories. He spent his first four seasons coaching in the American Athletic Conference and oversaw the program’s transition to the Big 12 for the 2023 campaign. Holgorsen’s tenure was off to a rocky start after 4-8 and 3-5 seasons in 2019 and 2020, respectively, but 2021 was his most prolific season at any stop as head coach. That year, Houston compiled a 12-2 record, qualified for the AAC Championship Game, defeated Auburn in the Birmingham Bowl, and landed at No. 17 in the final AP Poll.

After the successful season, in March 2022, Holgorsen received a 6-year extension through the 2027 season, paying an average of $4.5 million per year.

The 2022 season came with lofty expectations for Holgorsen and the Cougars, which received a preseason AP Poll ranking of No. 24. While Houston didn’t finish the season ranked, the Cougars qualified for a bowl game and knocked off Louisiana in the Independence Bowl for an 8-5 record.

The 2023 season was Holgorsen’s only year coaching Houston in the Big 12. The Cougars notched a quality victory in the opener, edging UTSA as home underdogs in a rematch of a 2022 thriller. However, that momentum was quickly zapped as Houston saw its 7-game win streak to crosstown rival Rice shatter seven days later.

Houston started its 2023 campaign with an 0-2 record in Big 12 play after decisive defeats to in-state opponents TCU and Texas Tech, but the Cougars’ fortune turned on a fateful October Thursday night against Holgorsen’s former program West Virginia. Houston stunned the Mountaineers, 41-39, on a 49-yard Hail Mary as clock expired to register the program’s first-ever Big 12 win. While Houston showed promise against upcoming Big 12 Championship Game participants Texas and Oklahoma State, the only other conference victory Holgorsen claimed in 2023 was a walk-off overtime win over Baylor, where a successful 2-point conversion proved to be the deciding factor.

Houston finished the 2023 campaign 4-8, tying Holgorsen’s debut season for the program’s worst record since 2005.

Holgorsen ends his tenure ranked fifth all-time in Houston history in both games coached (59) and wins (31). He is one of three Cougar head coaches, along with Bill Yeoman (1962-86) and Tony Levine (2011-14) to record multiple bowl victories.

The Cougars have yet to name their next head coach. Tight ends coach Corby Meekins will serve as the interim until Holgorsen’s successor is named.