There were big names thrown out throughout the process. Megabooster and Board of Regents chair Tillman Fertitta made the University of Houston coaching search a national story.
In the end, it became a local one.
UH offensive coordinator Major Applewhite was named head coach on Friday. Applewhite, the former University of Texas quarterback, got the job over a host of big names that included former LSU coach Les Miles and Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin.
Oddly, the Cougars other coordinator, Todd Orlando, had been named the interim coach for the Cougars bowl game, but Applewhite will now run the show.
Applewhite has been OC the past two seasons. He also had stints in that role at Rice and Alabama and also worked under Mack Brown in Austin. He has strong ties to the state and is regarded as a very good recruiter. He passed on some lesser head coaching jobs last season to stay at UH.
How will he fare as a head coach? That remains to be seen. With coordinators, you never really know. But Applewhite has the pedigree and experience to be a good head coach. The next step will be finding a strong defensive coordinator, assuming Orlando bails for Texas, and rebuilding a staff that was crippled when Tom Herman left for the Longhorns.
UH president Dr. Renu Khator had high praise for Applewhite. “It’s no coincidence that the success UH football has achieved over the past two seasons happened with Major Applewhite running our offense,” she said. ” His energy and creativity are responsible for one of the most explosive passing games in college football and I am confident that as our head coach he will continue our upward trajectory.”
Meanwhile, Fertitta, whose honesty throughout the process made for a high-profile search, said, “Major Applewhite is a huge reason we’ve won 22 games in the last two seasons and I’m excited that he’s our head coach. He has demonstrated success on the field and on the sideline throughout his career. He knows we are positioned to compete for championships and I’m confident we’ll continue our success under his leadership.”
The search is over. Did UH get it right? We won’t know that for a couple years. But rather than bring in someone else’s flashy coordinator, why not keep your own? The unknown of a first-time coach is always bolder than bringing in a retread. Applewhite has the personality and background to keep UH rolling. It might not work out, but I like the hire more than any of the names that were on the final list. The Lane Kiffin reports turned out to be false, which is a good thing. (USA Today won’t give up on the fact that it was wrong about the story). Kiffin could have easily been a disaster. I have been pretty steadfast in my objection to that move, so it is hard not to be pleased with this one. Applewhite is a well-regarded coach in his own right and has earned the chance to prove he can do it as the top dog.
Of course, Applewhite might be a disaster, too, but it seems unlikely. His hiring might also stem the exodus of recruits and current players. All in all, it feels like the right move.
Give UH credit; they looked all over the country for a new coach.
And found him right down the hall.