Houston stopped the bleeding on Friday.
After a contentious, tumultuous few months that included the disheartening loss of their rising star of a head coach, the lack of a much-deserved invitation to join a Power 5 conference from the dysfunctional Big 12 and stunning defeats by lowly SMU and finally Memphis after an impressive start, the Cougars got it right.
Hunter Yurachek, the school’s sharp, up-and-coming athletic director, convinced powerful booster extraordinaire and regent chairman Tilman Fertitta and progressive president/chancellor Renu Khator that Houston didn’t need to a big name like Lane Kiffin or Les Miles as much as it needed stability and consistency and sustained momentum for the future.
So he promoted Major Applewhite to head coach.
Maybe Houston can hang onto a head coach for a while longer this time.
The former star quarterback of the Texas Longhorns carried the day with strong support within the locker room as well as the school’s administration. Yurachek said an “unbelievable” number of high school coaches reached out to him to endorse Applewhite, as did Applewhite’s college coach, Mack Brown.
“We were not looking for a national splash,” Yurachek said. “Houston is already nationally relevant, and there’s not a bigger name in the state of Texas than Major Applewhite.”
And what did Brown say?
“Mack said some people are just blessed with ‘it,’ and Major has ‘it’ whether it’s in the huddle or the locker room,” Yurachek said.
Now Houston doesn’t have to worry about yet another dramatic transition and an entire shakeup although Herman has brought a lot of his Houston staff to Texas. Houston Takeover had become Houston Makeover far too often.
Applewhite would have been a strong fit for Herman at Texas because he knows the landscape — including the potholes to avoid — in Austin and he clearly understands the expectations and pressure at this place. But all of that will serve him well in Houston.
I think Major will do very well. He’s smart. He’s used to the big stage. He’s learned under top head coaches. He already has a stud in All-American defensive tackle Ed Oliver — who will be a top-five NFL draft pick in two years — and a ready-made quarterback in Texas A&M transfer Kyle Allen. Those are all good starting points.
Major won’t be overwhelmed by this moment. He’s ready to call the shots. And Houston apparently is ready to move on.