The Houston Cougars are making a big splash, hiring West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen to take over the football program.
Holgorsen, who spent eight years with the Mountaineers, is one of the best offensive minds in college football. He is a high profile hire that should get Houston back to the top of non-power 5 programs.
At first blush, it would appear to be a step down from a high-profile Big 12 program. But with the facilities, recruiting ground and vision at the University of Houston, the program is at worst a lateral move. UH is a top three Group of Five program (Boise and UCF being the others) and the program has a good national reputation. Holgorsen still has a home in Houston, should be able to recruit at a high level and win a lot of games. The question is would you rather be at a top 3 Group of Five or a top 40 Power Five? The path to New Year's Six games and possibly even the playoffs may indeed be the former.
Despite really awful takes like this one, the move once again proves that UH has high aspirations. They gave Major Applewhite two years, but the school never looked like the dominant group we saw under Tom Herman and Kevin Sumlin. Applewhite could be a good coach at a lower level, but the UH job was over his head. There was no indication of a big leap in Year 3.
Kudos to Tilman Fertitta, Chris Pezman, and Renu Khator for recognizing that and correcting a mistake. Holgorsen should have instant success. Applewhite's failure — like a lot of coaches — was an inability to hire the right people and he was not good enough to run an offense on his own in addition to being the head coach. Holgorsen can run an offense on his own. If he can get the right defensive coordinator, he has a chance to be an instant success.
He immediately becomes the best coach in the American Conference, and his offense will be good enough to play with anyone on the schedule. Winning at West Virginia is not easy considering the competition in the Big 12. He won't have to regularly compete with Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma State, and company. It's hard to see losses to SMU and Temple under Holgorsen.
Holgorsen's deal will be for reportedly $4 million a year for five years. His buyout at West Virginia is just $1 million. He will be the highest paid coach in the Group of Five, another indication just how serious Houston is about competing at a high level. Since Fertitta has become involved, the program has had high aspirations. Fertitta has deep pockets and the kind of personality that gets attention. It's doubtful the school could lure a coach like Holgorsen without him.