In Thursday’s press conference at TDECU Stadium to officially introduce Dana Holgorsen as the new head football coach at the University of Houston, board of regents chairman and Galveston native Tilman Fertitta joked that the university isn’t doing this anymore.
That exasperation comes from Holgorsen being the third new Cougars head football coach introduced in the past five years. This time, from the details of Holgorsen’s contract to the attitudes of the individuals involved, Houston and its newest coach are looking to be in it together for the long haul.
“There’s so much to look forward to, the future is extremely bright, I’m honored to be here, I’m excited to be here,” Holgorsen said.
In recent history, head football coaches at Houston who have had significant success have used that as a launching pad to a job at a larger school in a more prestigious conference.
After the 2007 season, Art Briles left UH after five seasons for Baylor; Kevin Sumlin’s four-season stint ended when he departed following the 2011 season for Texas A&M; and, most recently, Tom Herman coached the Cougars for only two seasons before bolting to his alma mater Texas after the 2016 season.
But, Holgorsen, who was offensive coordinator at UH under Sumlin in 2008 and 2009, insisted that he is committed to the Cougars.
“This is not a stepping stone — I’ve been there, I’ve done all that,” Holgorsen said. “I’m excited about making this place great, winning championships here, and enjoying this great city and this great university.”
And, it’s not just talk that backs up this sentiment. Holgorsen’s contract is for five years and $20 million — the richest in the university’s history. On top of that, if Holgorsen were to take a job at another school before the end of the year, he would owe UH $12.9 million, and the buyout remains steep in 2020 ($9.1 million) and 2021 ($7.1 million). The contract also includes a $1 million bonus if UH is invited to join one of the power five conferences, as well as $4.5 million set aside to assemble a coaching staff.
“Dana made it real clear that he didn’t want to go anywhere, so it wasn’t even really anything to disagree about,” Fertitta said. “He just said, ‘whatever you want to do, I’m willing to do because I don’t want to go anywhere.’ And the way this contract is going, we are stuck with him for a few years, and he’s stuck with us for a few years. But, hopefully, he’s here for the next 20 years, and we build a statue of him out there. But, somebody better have a whole lot of money if you think he’s going to leave in the next couple of years.”
With a reputation as one of the top offensive minds (particularly in the passing game) in football, Holgorsen comes to UH after eight seasons at the helm of West Virginia, where he compiled a 61-41 record and led the Mountaineers to seven bowl games, including in each of the last five seasons.
Holgorsen is a member of the Mike Leach coaching tree, as he had his Division I college coaching career launched as an assistant under Leach at Texas Tech from 2000 to 2007 prior to coming to Houston as offensive coordinator. Holgorsen left Houston for the same position at Oklahoma State in 2010 before being named West Virginia’s head coach the following season, and said he is looking forward to once again be coaching — and recruiting — in the Lone Star State.
“The high school football in this state is the best in the country,” Holgorsen said. “Being on the east coast, I’ve recruited other states and other areas more so than I did when I was here the first time, and nobody does it better than the state of Texas.”
Holgorsen takes over the reins of the UH program from Major Applewhite, who the university parted ways with after he compiled a 15-11 record in two seasons and whose tenure ended with an embarrassing 70-14 loss to Army in the Armed Forces Bowl to cap an 8-5 season.
While school officials have made a long-term investment in his hiring, Holgorsen knows their lofty goals for the football team — which just three seasons ago won one of the prestigious New Year’s Six bowl games — will not waver.
“This is a program that understands what the expectations are — I don’t want to be somewhere where the expectations aren’t high,” Holgorsen said.