I’ll admit, I’ve been a bit perplexed by the reaction of the UH fan base to Tom Herman’s departure from Houston. If any fan base should be used to the cruel heart break of head coaching infidelity, it should certainly be the Cougars.
Have we already forgotten the Briles era in Houston? Before his name became synonymous with the darkest immorality that stains the beautiful game of college football, Art Briles resurrected the Cougars’ program from arguably its lowest point ever. Previous coach Dana Dimel guided the program to an 8-26 record under his watch, including the Cougars’ lone winless season (2001). Briles built Houston back up to relevance, reaching the postseason in three out of his four years in red and white.
After coaching the Cougars to a Conference USA championship in 2006 and a tie for first place in 2007, Briles took off to Baylor. The Bears were in a pathetic state before Briles’ arrival. If Houston fans are upset with Herman leaving to a struggling Texas program just imagine losing Briles to a program that hadn’t had a winning season in 12 seasons.
The pain wouldn’t subdue for the Coogs. Houston’s recent success gave them an opportunity to grab one of the hottest names on the coaching market in Oklahoma co-offensive coordinator Kevin Sumlin. The first African-American FBS head coach in the state of Texas, Sumlin led Houston to heights that they hadn’t seen in the modern era.
Sumlin guided the Cougars to a 10 win season in 2009 and a 13 win season in 2011. Sumlin’s star quarterback Case Keenum torched opposing defenses throughout his career, leading the Coogs to Power Five wins over Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Mississippi State, UCLA, and Penn State. Sumlin left for Texas A&M in 2011 but not before elevating the program to national prominence.
While Herman’s winning percentage (.846) is considerably higher than that of Briles (.548) or Sumlin (.673), he was able to reap the benefits of a program that had been left in a great state by those that came before him. Yes, that even includes under-appreciated previous head coach Tony Levine.
Houston fans having meltdowns over Herman’s departure are either front-running bandwagons fans or have lost all frame of recent history. The Cougars’ program has been constantly and rapidly moving forward since 2003 and Herman’s flight to Austin isn’t changing any of that. Rather, the Cougars are better prepared than ever to take a step forward to maximize their noted potential.
Briles’ success enabled Houston to hire a highly-sought after coach like Sumlin. Sumlin’s success paved the way for an average coach like Tony Levine to raise funds for a brand new on-campus stadium and to set the table for Tom Herman with bountiful recruiting success (Demarcus Ayers, Greg Ward Jr., Linnel Bonner, Tyus Bowser, Steven Dunbar, Kenneth Farrow, William Jackson III, Adrian McDonald, Elandon Roberts, to name a few).
Herman put all the pieces left behind by his predecessors together but he wasn’t able to accomplish one last goal— getting Houston into the Power Five conference they abundantly deserve. I’m not saying that Houston’s next coach will be the final puzzle piece that gets the Cougars into the ACC or the Pac 12 or the Big 12 but the trajectory is there.
There isn’t a program in college football better prepared to fill their coaching vacancy than the Cougars. Houston is ready for this. Hell, Houston is built for this. Boasting facilities that far surpass many Power Five programs, an extensive booster network that is willing to provide their next coach with a top tier salary, a highly cooperative administration, and access to one of the most lucrative talent beds in the world, Houston fans have zero reason to worry about replacing Tom Herman.
Progress zigs and zags but it always moves upwards and onward. The #HTownTakeover is a movement owned by a University and its community, not a coaching staff. And it’s not stopping.