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It remains to be seen whether 2021 will provide Houston sports fans with a safe haven from the almost apocalyptic year 2020. But if college football is a harbinger, we’re off to a good start. Texas A&M fans won a major bowl game on January 2nd and Texas Longhorn fans got a new head coach with the firing of Tom Herman.
Perhaps happiest of the latter events are the University of Houston fans and alums, as it was Herman who went on bail after coaching the Coogs two seasons and flew to Austin just hours after being openly on camera about entertaining jobs other schools. The guy didn’t even have the usual decency to return his program sponsored car.
So Coog fans are a little satisfied when they start 2021 because they know the man who berated them failed miserably in his next relationship. This has actually been a pattern for coaches in the UH program for almost this entire century. Is there a coog curse when it comes to head coaches? You decide:
ART BRILES (2003-2007, 34-28 total record)
Briles had the greatest success on the field of any former Cougar head coach. He played 65-37 at Baylor in eight seasons, won two Big XII titles, and mentored a Heisman Trophy winner in Robert Griffin III. Unfortunately, Briles had by far the worst coaching flame on this list, stepping down amid a scandal surrounding the cover-up of various sexual assault cases involving players on his program.
KEVIN SUMLIN (2008-2011, 35-17 overall record)
Sumlin got off to a fantastic start to his first season at Texas A&M, going 11-2, defeating Alabama in Tuscaloosa and training Johnny Manziel to be a Heisman. However, the remainder of his tenure at College Station would span five seasons of constant 4-4 conference records, and eventually his resignation in 2017. From there, Sumlin went to Arizona and was a disaster that was fired after 9-20 in three seasons.
TONY LEVINE (2012-2014, 21-17 overall record)
At a time when the University of Houston was shaken by Sumlin’s departure for College Station, Levine was a source of inspiration. The school cited Levine’s view that the UH position was a “target job” as a reason to promote him from specialty team coach to head coach. A man’s sweetheart, Levine was a decent recruiter but not the most inspirational leader, and he was fired after three nondescript seasons. After stints in Western Kentucky and Purdue, he retired from coaching and now owns a Chick-Fil-A in Missouri City.
TOM HERMAN (2015-2016, 22-4 overall record)
Herman’s calling card in his two seasons in Houston has been his ability to win games against powerhouse programs as an underdog, with wins against teams like Oklahoma, Florida State and Louisville (twice). Ironically, it was the bizarre performance of this trend that sacked him in Austin, with seven losses to unranked teams when the Longhorns themselves were classified.
MAJOR APPLEWHITE (2017-2018, 15-11 overall record)
In an almost identical reaction to Sumlin’s departure, where Levine was hired for showing his undying love for school, UH decision makers didn’t want their next coaching town to skip the way Herman did for Austin. Unfortunately, this is a quick way to get a mediocre head coach. Applewhite was fired after two seasons and returned to Alabama as an analyst. He recently signed up as an offensive coordinator in South Alabama.
DANA HOLGORSEN (since 2019, 7-13 total record)
After Applewhite, Holgorsen returned to Houston, where he was OK in the early Sumlin years. After a decade of solid results in West Virginia, Holgorsen was seen as a solid signing by the Coogs, but his first two seasons have been marked by transfers, COVID postponements, and most importantly, losses. With a salary of $ 4 million a year, Holgorsen is likely sure to be laid off for at least a year or two more, but he needs to get it started next season.
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Sean Pendergast is a freelance writer who provides daily news coverage for the Houston area sports, with regular columns and features. He also hosts an afternoon ride on SportsRadio 610 as well as the post-game show for the Houston Texans.