Friday's football: Houston promotes coach Major Applewhite

Associated Press
Houston offensive coordinator Major Applewhite was hired to replace Tom Herman as coach at Houston on Friday.

Houston — The University of Houston didn’t end up needing to go far in replacing head coach Tom Herman.

Major Applewhite, who served as Herman’s offensive coordinator the last two seasons, was promoted to the job on Friday. It will be the first head coaching job for the 38-year-old Applewhite.

“We had our sights set on a focused competitor who has demonstrated success and possesses a deep connection to college and high school football in the great state of Texas,” Houston athletic director Hunter Yurachek said. “As this process was completed, it was clearly evident the only individual to offer our position to was Major Applewhite and he was indeed the right man to lead our program.”

Herman recently left Houston to become the coach at Texas after two years with the Cougars and there was speculation Houston might hire Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin. Instead, Houston went with Applewhite, a Louisiana native who nonetheless has deep ties and familiarity with Texas.

“Living in the best state for high school football is a true blessing and advantage for our program and I cannot be more thankful for the support of our outstanding high school coaches from throughout the state,” he said.

The Cougars meet San Diego State in the Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 17.

Applewhite steps into a program that has had lot of success in the last 10 years and has become a launching pad for coaches. Art Briles went 34-28 with a Conference USA title at Houston from 2003-07 before moving on to Baylor. Kevin Sumlin went 35-17 from 2008-11 before leaving for Texas A&M. Herman went 22-4 with an American Athletic Conference championship in 2015 and was perhaps the hottest coaching commodity during his two-year tenure at Houston.

Under Applewhite’s direction, the Cougars gained more than 500 yards 11 times and passed the 600-yard mark four times. The offense piled up 40 points 12 times and scored at least 50 points five other occasions in the past two seasons.

“It’s no coincidence that the success UH football has achieved over the past two seasons happened with Major Applewhite running our offense,” Houston President Renu Khator said. “His energy and creativity are responsible for one of the most explosive passing games in college football and I am confident that as our head coach he will continue our upward trajectory as a nationally relevant athletics program.”

Applewhite spent seven seasons as an assistant at Texas before joining Herman’s staff. He was the co-offensive coordinator in his last four seasons with the Longhorns after working as assistant head coach for the first three seasons. The running backs had plenty of success under Applewhite’s guidance with their best season coming in 2011 when the group combined for 2,300 yards rushing and 23 touchdowns. A year later the team’s running backs combined for almost 2,000 yards rushing.

His time at Texas wasn’t without problems. Applewhite was disciplined in 2009 for what Texas called an “inappropriate” conduct with a student trainer on a bowl trip. Applewhite’s pay was frozen for a year and he was ordered to undergo counseling. He was later promoted to offensive coordinator.

The discipline wasn’t revealed until 2013, and now Applewhite’s case is a central element in a sex and race discrimination lawsuit filed by former women’s track coach Bev Kearney, who was forced out after it was revealed she’d had a relationship with one of her athletes. She claims that as a white male, Applewhite received favorable treatment.

Kearney’s lawsuit is pending before the Texas Supreme Court. Applewhite remains the only person deposed in the lawsuit, and his testimony and documents related to his discipline have been under court seal since 2014. He said in 2013 he was embarrassed by the incident, calling it a “one-time incident” and a “personal matter.”

Extra points

Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin is being pursued by Florida Atlantic to become the next Owls coach, two people with knowledge of the situation said.

Both said Kiffin, the coordinator at defending national champion Alabama for the last three seasons, and Florida Atlantic have had dialogue.

The former USC, Tennessee and Oakland Raiders coach also was believed to be a candidate at Oregon and Houston.

... Nevada has hired Arizona State assistant Jay Norvell as its coach, succeeding Brian Polian.

Norvell comes to Nevada from Arizona State, where he was the wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator this season. His career has included stops at UCLA, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas. He also has six years of experience in the NFL.

... Georgia State has hired South Carolina assistant Shawn Elliott as its coach, replacing Trent Miles.

Elliott had been with the Gamecocks for seven seasons, coaching the offensive line and serving as co-offensive coordinator. He also served as South Carolina’s interim coach in 2015 after Steve Spurrier retired


... Missouri has hired former Texas defensive line coach Brick Haley to handle the same position. Haley spent the last two at Texas until coach Charlie Strong was fired.

... The first five hires by new Baylor coach Matt Rhule include four members from his staff at Temple and David Wetzel, a longtime Texas high school coach who was a Bears receiver.

... North Carolina says junior defensive tackle Nazair Jones will enter the NFL draft.

... Former NFL wide receiver Michael Westbrook joined some 250 other former teammates, family and friends in Boulder, Colo., to say goodbye to Heisman Trophy winner Rashaan Salaam, remembering his warm heart. Salaam was found dead in a park Monday at the age of 42.

About 250 people gathered for a prayer service at the Islamic Center of Boulder near Folsom Field, where Salaam carved his name into the Colorado record book from 1992-94.

... Authorities have charged former Missouri wide receiver Keyon Dilosa with assault after a woman accused him of punching her in the face.