Return to Houston for former coach Holgorsen the desired next step

Applewhite officially out; Holgorsen is UH's target

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"We'll fire coaches at 8-4."

The words said by Renu Khator, chancellor and president of the University of Houston, seemed to be an exaggerated and lighthearted threat two years ago shortly after the University of Houston hired Major Applewhite.

Those words are became reality on Sunday.

SB Nation's Steven Godfrey and The Athletics' Bruce Feldman reported Saturday change is on the horizon for Houston's football program. Football Scoop reports West Virginia's Dana Holgorsen is a desired candidate for the impending opening.

On Sunday, UH made it official, saying they were "separating" from Applewhite.

Fertitta Factor

Tilman Fertitta, the chairman of the UH System Board of Regents and super-booster for Houston, had to be a huge factor in this decision. He spearheaded the hiring of Applewhite two years ago, opting for him over the rumors of Lane Kiffin after his success at Alabama as offensive coordinator.

Two years ago he admitted there was initially desire for "name-brand" coach but the whole picture led him and the search committee to settle on Tom Herman's offensive coordinator. Two seasons later his mind has changed and Houston is chasing one of the most eclectic brands in college football.

Red Bulls and Visors

Dana Holgorsen is 61-41 in eight seasons as the head man of the Mountaineers. He is due almost $12 million over the next three seasons and currently has a buyout of $2.5 million. The buyout, according to the above reports, drops to $1 million in 2019. The money is the initial chief concern, but that's why and how Fertitta is here. The school has plenty of football resources and he can easily help with the financial aspects of luring Holgorsen.

Why would Holgorsen depart from West Virginia and the Big 12 for Houston and it's American Athletic Conference home? Well, the answers could be as complicated as Holgorsen himself. The majority of his career has been spent in the south, especially in Texas or nearby like when he worked at Oklahoma State. He's familiar with Houston's strong ties to the state and his time there recruiting to a much-less impressive program would only be strengthened. He reportedly had the itch to return to Texas Tech where he spent a portion of his career coaching under Mike Leach. Something isn't right in West Virginia and there is a real possibility he's pushed the Mountaineers as far as they can go.

Tony Levine 2.0

As for Applewhite, he didn't clear the incredibly high bar set for him. Not all by his own fault though. This season ruined his chance to stick around. His defensive coordinator wasn't even average and the Cougars defense was extremely leaky. His offensive staff, bolstered by the addition of Kendall Briles, was fantastic turning in a little over a half season of excellence.

November saw the team begin to unravel. A road loss to SMU ended their one week of being ranked. The following week a battered Temple team handed the Cougars their third loss. A victory over Tulane came with a dark shadow over it. Stud quarterback D'Eriq King was lost for the year to injury and Applewhite had a dust-up with highly touted but injured star Ed Oliver. Still, the following week saw a chance at the American Conference championship. Memphis ended those hopes. A month later Army embarrassed the Cougars in their bowl game handing the heavily injured Cougars a 70-14 loss.

He was the second coming of Tony Levine. He was on the staff of the hotshot coach who left, Sumlin for Levine and Herman for Applewhite, and was promoted too soon to the top spot in the program. Usually in unimpressive manner the Cougars hobbled to a record above .500 but didn't instill confidence he was long for the reigns of the program.

Holgorsen or bust?

If Dana Holgorsen is the next head coach at Houston you won't find many people who will disagree he is an upgrade and the Cougars are in a better spot. The Big 12 teams will be more than happy to see him leave and he instantly would be the best coach in the American conference. Firing Applewhite for Holgorsen is a clear upgrade the Cougars can't pass up. Especially considering he would likely be around for more than just a couple of years.

Should the unthinkable happen and Holgorsen fall through where would the Cougars turn? It isn't the best list to choose from but Fertitta's money and Houston's recent success at launching careers is attractive. Most of these candidates have a shorter shelf life than Holgorsen.

Kiffin was in the hunt two years ago but didn't replicate his 2017 success this year at Florida Atlantic. He's a solid coach but if they passed two years ago and he hasn't showed a ton in the time since it is hard to imagine Kiffin can get in the hunt. Especially with his track record of leaving situations poorly.

Neal Brown is the best coaching candidate on the market. He has a 31-8 record the last three years at Troy. Before he got there the program never had won 10 games at the division one level. He runs a vicious spread attack that in 2016 gave Clemson all they wanted and in 2017 beat LSU at Tiger Stadium. He coached three years at Texas Tech so he knows Texas recruiting. Troy has absolutely none of the advantages Houston has as a program. Brown would crush and be the next Sumlin or Herman for the Cougars.

Mike Norvell of Memphis and Seth Littrell of North Texas both rebuffed offers to leave their school earlier in the postseason but Houston is better than a lot of the jobs - maybe all - they were initially targeted to take over. Both of them just got trounced in their respective bowl games however and would be poised to jump to really big jobs with one more successful year at their current job. Past these candidates it would be tough to sell the Cougar faithful they for sure got an upgrade.

Houston's Football Future

The hope, and absolutely achievable goal, is to be one of the best if not the best non-Power 5 school each and every year. This not only makes the school money but continues to raise the profile of Houston football should conference realignment ever occur again. Winning will not be ignored and neither will the eyeballs and dollar signs it brings. This is one of the most crucial hires Houston has ever made, especially if the non-Power 5 schools get a clearer path to a college football playoff spot.

Fertitta and company took a risk on Applewhite hoping the replicate the status quo from Herman. It failed. Moving on from Applewhite now carries little risk but the pressure of nailing this hire can't be understated. Nail it and recapture prominence in the college football landscape. Miss and risk losing far more than a few football games.

College basketball week in review

Houston gets back on track, Texas Tech stumbles

Kelvin Sampson and the Coogs had a big week. UHCougars.com

TEXAS LONGHORNS (11-7) 3-3 Big XII

Last week (1-0):
W- Oklahoma 75-72

This week: Wednesday @ TCU, Saturday @ Georgia

Texas finally won a close game, and it couldn't have come at a better time. The Horns pulled out a 75-72 win over their biggest rival, Oklahoma, ending a 3-game losing streak. Kerwin Roach II led the Horns offensively with 23 points on 9-16 shooting. It was a balanced offensive effort, with Texas also getting 15 points each from Jaxson Hayes, Dylan Osetkowski and Matt Coleman III. Texas struggled from 3-point range, going 5-of-22, but made up for it with a 20-of-25 showing at the free throw line. Texas has a road game against TCU on Wednesday and a non-conference test at Georgia on Saturday.

TEXAS A&M; AGGIES (7-9) 1-4 SEC

Last week (0-2): L- Auburn 85-66, W- Mizzou 66-43

This week: Tuesday @ Florida, Saturday vs. Kansas State

Texas A&M; is getting to the point of panic. If they aren't they should be. The Aggies now find themselves the only team in the SEC with a sub-.500 record. In a conference that will probably put 5-6 teams in the tournament, the Aggies need to go on a tear. This week showed no signs of a turnaround. The Aggies started with a loss to Auburn, 85-66. Auburn jumped out to an early lead and never slowed down. The Ags shot 38% from the field and just 29% from 3-point range. Sauvion Flagg and Wendell Mitchell were the only real bright spots offensively. They combined for 44 of the 66 Aggie points, putting in 22 a piece. Auburn dominated turnovers, rebounding and had a 27-5 advantage in points off the bench. Things go no better against Mizzou, where the Aggies lost 66-43. The 43 points scored is the lowest Aggie total of the season by 21 points. They had only 13 made field goals in the entire game, shooting at a 26% clip. Josh Nebo led the Aggies with 12 points, and was the only player who made more shots than he missed in the game. A&M; goes to Florida before getting a weekend matchup at home against former Big XII counterpart Kansas State.

HOUSTON COUGARS (18-1) 5-1 American

Last week (2-0): W- @ SMU 69-58, W- @ USF 69-60

This week: Wednesday vs. East Carolina, Sunday @ Tulsa

Houston got two road wins this week, and were moved up to 17th in the polls for their effort. They started with a 69-58 win at SMU, in a game many thought could be a tricky one for the Coogs. Houston handled SMU's big, athletic backcourt with relative ease. They held Jahmal McMurray to just 11 points on 3-of-14 shooting. Corey Davis, Jr. paced the Cougars with 20 points in the win. UH only turned the ball over four times in the game. They then took a 69-60 win over South Florida, though the Cougars wouldn't be quite as efficient in this one. Houston turned it over 16 times and shot just 3-of-13 from the 3-point line, but were able to hold on for an ugly win. Breaon Brady led the Cougars with 13 points. The two teams combined for 76 free throw attempts on the day. Houston should stay hot this week, with games against East Carolina and Tulsa, both teams in the bottom half of the conference.

RICE OWLS (7-12) 2-4 CUSA

Last week (0-1): L- @ North Texas 76-75

This week: Thursday vs. Middle Tennessee, Saturday vs. UAB

Rice was seconds away from getting their biggest win of the season, but fell just short, dropping a 76-75 tilt with North Texas. The Owls had a 16 point lead with seven minutes remaining, but the Mean Green were able to mount a miraculous comeback and sink the game winner as time expired. The Owls outshot and out-rebounded the Green, but their 18 turnovers proved costly. Senior Jack Murphy led the Owls with 20, and freshman Trey Murphy added 18 in the loss. After a disastrous start to the season, the Owls are playing better of late. They have two wins and two 1-point losses in their last 5 games. Rice gets two home games this week, against Middle Tennessee and UAB.

BAYLOR BEARS (12-6) 4-2 Big XII

Last week (2-0): W- Texas Tech 73-62, W- @ WVU 85-73

This week: Saturday vs. Alabama, Sunday @ Oklahoma

Baylor got a huge win over Texas Tech, 73-62, showing that there is still life in this team. Top freshman recruit Jared Butler came up big for Baylor in the win, dropping 19 points while racking up 5 assists and 3 steals. While Baylor shot only 41% from the field, they found some success from 3-point range, knocking down 11 shots from distance. The Bears then got an 85-73 win over West Virginia on Monday night. Makai Mason was a force, scoring 29 points on 10-16 shooting. The Bears shot 50% from the field. They overcame an 18 turnover night with a particularly strong showing on the boards, with a +10 rebounding advantage. The Bears get a road game at Oklahoma and a home game with TCU this week.

TCU HORNED FROGS (13-4) 2-3 Big XII

Last week (1-1):
W- West Virginia 98-67, L- @ Kansas State 65-55

This week: Wednesday vs. Texas, Saturday vs. Florida

TCU was up and down last week. They started off well, breaking a 2-game losing skid with a blowout win over West Virginia, 98-67. Desmond Bane dominated, posting a 26 point, eight rebound line. The biggest difference between the two teams was behind the 3-point line, where TCU shot 43% and held West Virginia to 17%. Of the eight Horned Frogs who played in the game, six of them reached double digit scoring. Things took a turn for the worse on the road, where TCU dropped a 65-55 decision to Kansas State. Alex Robinson had 17 in the loss, and Bane added 16 more. The 3-pointers didn't fall for TCU in this one, hitting just 6 of 24 from deep. Turnovers also killed the frogs, who gave it away 18 times on the night. TCU gets home games against Texas and Florida this week.

TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS (15-3) 4-2 Big XII

Last week (0-2): L Iowa State 68-64, L- @ Baylor 73-62

This week: Tuesday @ Kansas State, Saturday vs. Arkansas

Texas Tech is going to have to prove they can bounce back from adversity, as they are facing it for the first time this season after back to back losses. First, they dropped a nail biter against Iowa State 68-64 at home. Jarrett Culver was the high man for Tech, posting a 20 point/16 rebound line, but shot just 33% from the field and had five turnovers. In such a close game, free throw shooting cost the Raiders. They hit only 6 of their 15 freebies, while the Cyclones hit 13 of 19. Things went from bad to worse against Baylor, who beat the Raiders 73-62. Culver led Tech again with 19 points, nine rebounds and five assists. On the downside, he turned the ball over seven times. Tech will look to get back on track, but have a tough road game at Kansas State before getting Arkansas at home.

SMU MUSTANGS (11-7) 3-3 American

Last week (0-2):
L- Houston 69-58, L- @ Memphis 83-61

This week: Saturday vs. Tulane

SMU got a massive game from Jimmy Whitt, Jr. against Houston, but it wasn't enough to pull out a win. Despite 20 points on 9-of-11 shooting, the Mustangs fell to Houston 69-58. The Ponies struggled from distance, hitting just 21% from long range. Things got worse on the road, where Memphis throttled SMU 83-61. SMU trailed wire to wire, and it was easy to understand why. The Ponies shot just 36% and had 21 turnovers in the loss. Whitt's 12 points led the Mustangs in their most lopsided loss of the season. SMU has now dropped three of their last four. They get Tulane at home on Saturday.

LSU TIGERS (14-3) 4-0 SEC

Last week (2-0):
W- @ Ole Miss 83-69, W- South Carolina 89-67

This week: Wednesday vs. Georgia, Saturday @ Mizzou

LSU is really rounding into form since conference play started. They started the week with an 83-69 drubbing at Ole Miss. The Tigers had 4 players in double digits, led by Tremont Waters' 20 points. LSU was on fire from distance, going 9-19 from 3. The Tigers then rolled on to an 89-67 win against South Carolina. The 3-point shooting couldn't have been much worse in this one, with the Tigers hitting one 3-19 from deep. They made up for it at the free throw line (32 of 35) and on the boards, where they had a 49-29 advantage. LSU is one of only 2 SEC teams (Tennessee) who have yet to lose a game in conference. LSU gets Georgia and Mizzou this week.

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