Fred Faour: Applewhite's hiring of former Baylor assistants is a bad look for UH

Major Applewhite made a couple questionable hires. Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

We will start this article with a disclaimer. When it comes to the local teams, it is hard to do my job and be a fan. I want the teams to do well, but I also have to try to remain detached so I can offer fair analysis. When it comes to the things I remain truly passionate about, UH football is at the top of the list (right behind the Toronto Maple Leafs. That’s another story for another time).

I believe UH’s program deserves a better conference than the AAC and can compete at the highest level. I loved the hire of Chris Pezman as athletic director. And I think it is fantastic that Tilman Fertitta is so involved. But Saturday, the school made a very questionable move. UH hired a pair of former Art Briles assistants, including his son Kendal as offensive coordinator.

Unless you live under a rock, you know what happened with Art Briles at Baylor.

From a pure football perspective, it makes sense. Kendal Briles is a former UH player who has had success as an OC at both Baylor and Florida Atlantic. He is a damned good coach who will make the offense better. The question is at what cost? Not every decision can be made from purely a football perspective.

It’s a slippery slope to speculate what Kendal Briles or any of the assistants might have known about what was going on at Baylor. It seems unrealistic to assume they had zero knowledge. Should those coaches be punished forever based on speculation? Should they never get other jobs? Those are hard questions, and there are no easy answers.

However, there is the good old eye test. UH did not need to hire Kendal Briles or Randy Clements. Tom Herman did not need to hire former Baylor assistant Casey Horny at Texas last year. He justifiably took flak for it.

Major Applewhite should take the same flak for Saturday’s hires. There were other qualified assistants who could have been offered the job. Others who came without the stigma of what happened at Baylor. If you are a UH fan who ripped Herman for his Horny hire last season, can you give Applewhite a pass for the same thing?

Applewhite and UH clearly were convinced Kendal Briles was not involved in the scandal, as Lane Kiffin was when he hired Briles last season. Should Briles continue to be punished if he was unaware of the issues? Should his name be held to the same standard as his father? Of course not. I do trust the judgement of UH’s leadership. But why even go there? Let it be someone else’s problem. Let someone else take the flak. It is not a hire that needed to be made. UH probably recognizes that from the timing of the announcement; a Saturday in the middle of the NFL playoffs? It misses a media cycle and will likely not get the same traction as it would have during the week.

From a purely football perspective, absolutely it could work out. UH’s offense, which took a huge step back last year, could thrive under Briles. The Cougars might improve their disappointing 7-5 record in Applewhite’s first year. But at what cost? There were no other coaches out there who could take the offense to the next level? Public opinion should matter. How something looks when you are trying to build a program does matter. It can never be just about winning.

It brings to mind the famous quote from the Bible:

“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”

At best, it is a bad look. At middle, it screams tone deaf. At worst? The school has just endorsed one of the worst scandals in college football history.

There are those who still swear by Art Briles. They believe he could not have been involved because he was a “good guy” and more importantly, a winner. Baylor reached heights it had never achieved with Briles at the helm. There were those who wanted the elder Briles to replace Tom Herman at UH last year. Fortunately, that gained no traction. The message would have been simple: Win at all costs. That should never be the mandate. Bringing on his son was unnecessary and sends the wrong message.

Pezman defended the hires in a statement.

“Every hire in our athletic department, from the top to the bottom, is an important one and we vet every candidate for employment in our department,” the statement said. “We have done our research on the backgrounds of both Kendall and Randy, and coach Applewhite has been in close contact with myself and our university leadership providing all necessary information and to gain approval.

“We hold all our staff to the high standards the University of Houston demands, and will continue to do so with all of our current staff. Both Kendal and Randy know our expectations and we look forward to their growth while members of our department.”

I have faith in the leadership at UH, but Saturday’s hires are not a good look for the school.

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Houston scored in droves

Astros drub Twins in finale to take series win

Houston's offense showered Minnesota with hits in Sunday's finale. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After splitting the first two games, with Houston's offense uncharacteristically ineffective in the loss on Saturday, they tried to turn things around with a win to take the series on Sunday. The Astros would bounce right back at the plate, getting hits and runs all through the afternoon to rout the Twins.

Final Score: Astros 14, Twins 3

Astros' Record: 37-28, second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Framber Valdez (3-0)

Losing Pitcher: Michael Pineda (3-4)

Valdez keeps rolling

Framber Valdez continued to impress in 2021 after starting his season on the IL, posting another quality start with a win against the Twins. After four scoreless frames, he allowed a solo homer to start the bottom of the fifth, just the third hit of the game for Minnesota to that point. He went on to retire the next three batters to get through the inning.

He faltered a bit in the bottom of the sixth, allowing a leadoff double followed by a single, with a run coming across on an error on that play. He once again rebounded to finish that frame, then put up a 1-2-3 seventh to finish his day off, notching another quality start and a win. His final line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 1 HR, 97 P.

Houston keeps their foot on the gas

While Valdez's outing was a highlight of its own, Houston's offense was the story of the day. They put their foot down on the pedal all day and did not let up, starting in the top of the first when Jose Altuve turned the first pitch of the game around for a single, later scoring on a sac fly by Alex Bregman to put the Astros in front 1-0.

After two scoreless innings, they got right back on the scoreboard in the fourth with a two-run homer by Kyle Tucker, then kept pouring it on with two runs in the fifth on a sac fly by Yuli Gurriel and an error, making it 5-0 at the time. The runs kept coming in the top of the sixth, with a two-RBI double by Michael Brantley, who would score later on a two-run bomb by Yordan Alvarez. Then, in the top of the seventh, Brantley struck again to push it to double-digits with a two-RBI single to make it 11-2 and give Brantley 4 RBI on the afternoon.

With Houston swapping out starters with the hefty lead, even their pinch-hitters were getting involved, with Chas McCormick leading the top of the eighth off with a solo shot to make it a ten-run game. They then loaded the bases with no outs, setting up a sac fly for Myles Straw to make it 13-2.

Astros take the series

In the bottom of the eighth, Ralph Garza Jr. came in as the first reliever out of the bullpen for Houston. He recorded two quick outs but then met Nelson Cruz, who lasered a solo homer to put it back at a ten-run game before finishing the frame. Houston put their twentieth hit on the board in the top of the ninth, their highest total this season, en route to another scoring inning with a sac fly by Robel Garcia to make it 14-3. Garza came in for his second inning of work to wrap things up in the bottom of the ninth, giving the Astros a successful end to this series and road trip.

Up Next: Houston will travel home before an off day on Monday to rest before 20 days of consecutive games. They'll kick off a six-game homestand on Tuesday, welcoming in the Rangers for two starting at 7:10 PM Central. Lance McCullers Jr. (3-1, 2.96 ERA) will make his return from the IL for the Astros, though Jake Odorizzi will "piggy-back" him, and Kyle Gibson (4-0, 2.13 ERA) will take the mound for Texas.

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