The stories are trickling out that Tom Penders will not be returning to coach the Houston Cougars next season. Penders was on thin ice for most of the season thanks more to a lack of fan support and general alumni unrest than anything he's done coaching-wise. There were some thoughts that the team's run through the C-USA Tournament and into the Big Dance might be enough to insure his return for next year. But that appears not to be the result.
The two main sources for the report are former Houston Chronicle college sports reporter, Terrance Harris, who reports at Fanhouse.com that Penders is out. Penders and UH athletic director Mack Rhoades supposedly met last night, and earlier today, and Penders was informed of the decision earlier today.
What Harris can't report is whether Penders has been officially fired, or whether he is retiring. If Penders is fired, then the school will be on the hook for buying out the remaining years on Penders' contract, which amounts to about $500,000.
The other report is from Sports By Brooks, which is reporting that Penders will be given the option of being reassigned within the school's athletic department, retiring, or being fired.
Sports By Brooks is reporting that the Parker Executive Firm has been hired to head the search for a replacement. This is the same firm that placed Rhoades at Houston.
And while Steve Campbell's story in the Chron this morning didn't so much say that Penders was gone, his story highlighted the tension inside the athletic department at the moment. He noted that the one key thing that has not come from Rhoades over this past week have been any statements as to the future of Penders' job status.
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I've been trying to contact the University of Houston and get some confirmation on what is happening, but there is a strange quiet coming from the sports information department at the moment, and none of my other sources to the school have been able to confirm the reports, though they, too, are being met with the same radio silence which leads one to think to that the reporting might be true.
Things are still, in flux, of course.
But the primary name that has been tossed about all season as the replacement for Penders, when this topic has been broached is Billy Gillespie, former Texas A&M and Kentucky head coach, who, before he hit the big time, was the head coach at UTEP. And one of the key persons involved with bringing Gillespie to UTEP was Mack Rhoades, who was then the assistant AD at UTEP.
Update: The Chron announces Penders is resigning.