In this Feb. 4, 2015 photo, Houston's offensive coordinator Major Applewhite speaks during a webcast in Houston. Applewhite was hired to replace Tom Herman as coach at Houston on Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. ( Karen Warren/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Cedric Golden

American-Statesman Staff

Column

Golden: Houston’s hire is a win-win for Texas, UH and Major Applewhite himself

Posted December 9th, 2016

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Major Applewhite would have done a bang-up job as Tom Herman’s offensive coordinator in Austin, but his eyes were on a bigger prize.

Houston has landed the right coach and Texas has avoided what would have been some trepidatious maneuvering had one of the most popular players in school history returned to campus for a second tour as an assistant coach.

It all worked out for the best. Applewhite could be college football’s next explosive young head coach after working as a coordinator for winners like Nick Saban, Mack Brown and, to a lesser degree, Herman. He’s ready for this challenge because he’s been working toward this moment for parts of the last two decades.

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As good as he was a college player, Applewhite recognized early on that he wasn’t cut out for life as an NFL player. After signing with the New England Patriots as a free agent after the 2002 draft, he informed the team he was retiring to pursue a career in coaching.

It turned out to be the right decision as he embarks on his first head coaching job 14 years later.

Herman will find a suitable offensive coordinator to man this Longhorns attack, but more important, the UT administration avoided a potential public relations minefield by not bringing Applewhite back as part of the new staff. His involvement with a female student trainer while a member of Mack Brown’s staff during the 2009 Fiesta Bowl made him a side story in former Texas track coach Bev Kearney’s race and gender discrimination lawsuit against the university.

To date, Applewhite has been the only person deposed in the lawsuit, which has yet to be settled.

For his part, Applewhite has moved forward personally and professionally. Starting fresh with this new challenge and a clean slate will enable him to concentrate on football and only football. First he has to figure out how to beat San Diego State in the Las Vegas Bowl since his promotion is effective immediately. Then he has to deal with replacing graduating superstar quarterback Greg Ward Jr. as he steps into a much hotter pressure cooker than the one he occupied as an assistant.

Meanwhile, when Herman is finished giving away free pizza and posing for selfies on campus, he will get down to the business of hiring someone who will keep this offense moving on its upward arc.

It won’t be Major. That’s a good thing on all fronts.

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