The University of Houston Cougars have a new head coach. As reported by various outlets this morning, former offensive coordinator Major Applewhite has been promoted to head coach following the departure of Tom Herman to the University of Texas. Applewhite got the nod over reported finalists Lane Kiffin, Les Miles, and UH defensive coordinator Todd Orlando.
BREAKING: University of Houston has hired offensive coordinator Major Applewhite as its next head football coach pic.twitter.com/KQjeClz2Jw— Joseph Duarte (@Joseph_Duarte) December 9, 2016
UH was seeking a coach that was willing to stick around for the long haul and Applewhite appears to be that guy. Rumors of a massive buyout amount on the school’s next head coach’s contract likely turned several candidates cold to the job. Applewhite’s hire presents Houston with an opportunity to retain a coach for longer than five years for the first time since Kim Helton (1993-1999).
Applewhite’s first challenge as head coach will be retaining defensive coordinator Todd Orlando. The highly vaunted defensive coordinator was serving as Houston’s interim coach and will likely be receiving numerous job offers in the coming hours and days. Money likely won’t be the issue as Houston has the cash to meet Orlando’s demands but he might feel soured after being passed up for the head coaching job by a younger and less experienced coach. In fact, Orlando may join Tom Herman at Texas now that he’s out of the running for a head coaching position.
Major Applewhite is best known for his massive success as a quarterback at the University of Texas from 1998 to 2001. Applewhite still holds the Longhorns’ record for passing yards in a game, consecutive passes without an interception, longest scoring play, and consecutive 200 yard games, among others.
While Applewhite was raised in Baton Rogue, Louisiana, his time at UT and coaching at Rice and UH have given him a ton of experience in recruiting the state of Texas. Applewhite remains a folk hero in the state of Texas and will be able to woo high school coaches and parents alike who still remember his impressive play and leadership qualities at the collegiate level.
As with any hire, Applewhite’s success will be determined by his ability to hire a fantastic staff. Applewhite will have a long ways to go after Herman took the majority of the previous UH staff up to Austin with him. Given Houston’s impressive facilities and war chest of funding, salary offers should be competitive for coaches that are willing to take a chance on a first year head coach. Applewhite will get his first crack as a head coach during the Cougars’ bowl game against San Diego State on December 17th in Las Vegas.