Say this about Houston: they mean what they say.
A school whose president bragged about firing Tony Levine for the sin of going 8-4 was upfront from the start they wouldn’t tolerate similar results from Major Applewhite, and now they’re backing it up. The school fired Applewhite on Sunday.
“We’d like to thank Coach Applewhite and his family for their commitment to the success of the Houston Football program over the last four seasons including the last two as our head coach,” said AD Chris Pezman. “After a thorough evaluation of our Football program, it is my assessment our future opportunities for success are better addressed by making this very difficult decision now.
“While the immediate future may be challenging, our future at UH is very bright. We’ve made many sizable improvements over the past five years, and I look forward to enhancing our future success through the hiring of our next head coach. At this time we have already begun the search process for our next head coach and will not comment further until the search is concluded.”
In taking over for Tom Herman, Applewhite went 7-5 with a Hawaii Bowl loss in his 2017 debut. That led him to hire Kendal Briles as his offensive coordinator, and the move worked — Houston began the year 7-1 and scored at least 41 points in all eight games. The Coogs dropped their next two games but still entered their regular season finale at Memphis with the AAC West Division on the line. With quarterback D’Eriq King injured, Houston lost that game, 52-31, then was demolished 70-14 by Army in the Armed Forces Bowl.
At that point, Applewhite was 15-10 in his two seasons as head coach, below the program’s stated bar.
Furthermore, Briles, who had agreed to the biggest contract for a Group of 5 coordinator in history after Texas State pursued him for its vacant head coaching position, has since left to become the offensive coordinator at Florida State. Rather than rebuild under Applewhite, Houston has opted to hit the reset button.
Reports indicate Dana Holgorsen will be the top candidate to replace Applewhite. You don’t fire an Applewhite to hire, say, Neal Brown.
And if nothing else, Applewhite’s replacement will know what the bar is. Houston will have the corpses of Levine and Applewhite’s tenures as proof what they won’t tolerate.