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The Houston Cougars head coaching search didn’t take very long, and it brought them back to a familiar face.
Dana Holgorsen, who was an offensive coordinator under Kevin Sumlin at Houston from 2008-2009, has been announced as the Cougars next head coach. A 5-year, $20M contract will make him the highest paid Group of Five coach, surpassing Mike Norvell of Memphis. Holgorsen will succeed Major Applewhite who was fired after posting a 15-11 record over two seasons, with an 0-3 bowl record.
Have confirmed with a source that Houston is finalizing a 5-year, $20 million deal to make Dana Holgorsen its next head coach, as @38Godfrey first reported. Contract could be signed as early as Tuesday. I'm told the assistant salary pool is going to be significant, as well.
— Sam Khan Jr. (@skhanjr) January 1, 2019
Waiting until New Years Day saved Houston some money, as Holgorsen’s buyout dropped from $2.5M to just $1M at midnight. West Virginia and Holgorsen had been trying to work on an extension, a raise, and a higher buyout on his contract, but the school wasn’t willing to meet his terms. Perhaps the Mountaineers thought they should have done better than 8-4 with one of the top quarterbacks in the country in Will Grier, or they just didn’t like the overall progress since their 70-33 demolition of Clemson in the 2012 Orange Bowl. Regardless, both sides seemed ready for a change.
It may seem strange that a coach who has had some success at a Power Five school would move down, but it makes a little more sense after a deeper look. Holgorsen knows Texas well, as he spent 2000-2009 at Texas Tech and Houston, so he is used to the surrounding areas. Texas is also one of the hottest recruiting states in the country, and Holgorsen never had a recruiting class ranked higher than #30 in his time at West Virginia (according to 247sports), and his average class ranking was #39. There should be more four and five-star recruits to be had at his new job, something that should only help his cause.
The argument that Houston can’t win the same high-level games that West Virginia can is not true. Only a few years ago in 2015, this team beat Florida State in the Peach Bowl, along with Oklahoma and Louisville teams led by Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson the following season. Granted, it’s unlikely Houston will make the College Football Playoff in its current format; but did West Virginia ever really contend for a playoff spot under Holgorsen either? Houston still maintains hope at becoming a Power Five university, something that a few years could help lead them to.
Holgorsen will be put to the test immediately next season, with Houston opening up the season on the road against Oklahoma. Their schedule also features games against Washington State, North Texas, as well as conference matchups against Cincinnati, Memphis, and UCF. Tough schedule or not, the AAC West division should still run through Houston in 2019, even with the loss of Ed Oliver. There is plenty of talent already, and if Holgorsen can recruit well enough to add to it, the future may look even brighter than it did after the 2015 Peach Bowl.
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