Update December 15 at 10:50 a.m.: Fox Sports college football reporter Bruce Feldman is reporting that Tom Herman will be the new coach of the Cougars. See update at the end of this post.
Are you a college football head coach with a reputation for mediocrity? Have you been fired from your job because of your inability to hire a competent offensive coordinator? Does your reputation rest on the arm of a quarterback who has since departed for the NFL? Have you failed at every head coaching stop that you've ever made?
Guess what? The Houston Cougars want to talk to you about becoming the school's next head coach.
It's been a week since the Cougars fired head coach Tony Levine. Levine was a nice guy in over his head. His record as coach was 21-17. He kept elevating Travis Bush to the role of offensive coordinator, and time and time again the Cougars had difficulties with putting points on the board. The immediate thinking upon Levine's departure was that Houston would look for an offensive-minded coach to take over, whether someone with previous head coaching experience or someone working as an offensive coordinator.
Washington State head coach Mike Leach was briefly linked to the job by KTRK's David Nuno last week. Leach is known for his high-flying, high-scoring offenses. Of course he departed Texas Tech under a cloud and he's been pretty much of a failure so far at Washington State. Then again, there's been no real mention of Leach taking the Houston job since that Nuno report. Hot shot offensive coordinators Doug Meacham and Tom Herman have also been mentioned for the job -- there are reports that Herman has actually interviewed for the job. And David Gibbs, UH's current interim head coach and the team's defensive coordinator, is also supposedly under consideration, though he's stated in the past that he's happy with being a coordinator.
But while UH conducts its search, the rumors and links have grown rampant. Last Friday, as UH president Renu Khator was seeking public assistance in finding a new coach, word leaked that the Cougars were talking to recently deposed Florida head coach Will Muschamp. Muschamp was clearly a head-shaking candidate for the job, as he was nothing more than a higher profile version of Levine -- a head coach with a mediocre record (28-21) known for his inability to find a legitimate offensive coordinator resulting in big problems with scoring points. Muschamp, however, saved the Cougars from a major mistake by accepting the defensive coordinator job at Auburn. And as the Muschamp news was hitting the public, word leaked that Houston AD Mack Rhoades was imploring candidates to not to talk to the media, and was in fact telling them they would no longer be considered for the job if they talked to the local media. That reeks of panic from an athletic director who knows this is probably his last chance to make a major coaching hire.
The odds are that sometime this week the Cougars will name Tom Herman as the next head coach. Herman's everything Houston should want in a head coach. He's a well-regarded assistant coach who just won the Broyles award that goes to college's top assistant coach each season. He calls the plays for a high-powered Ohio State offense, and he's got ties to Texas, having been an assistant at Sam Houston State, Texas State, and serving as Rice's offensive coordinator in 2008.
Then again, this is Houston, so it would be no surprise to see the Cougars blow this and instead make a move for someone like Alabama's offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin. Kiffin failed miserably as head coach of the Oakland Raiders then fell into the job at Tennessee which he left after a year to take over at USC before being fired last year. He's got a career coaching record of 40-36 so of course it makes sense to see his name linked to the Cougars. Just as makes it sense to see USA Today's Dan Wolken linking Fresno State's Tim DeRuyter to UH. DeRuyter's in his third season as a head coach, and his first without Derek Carr as his QB, and just like Tony Levine looked crappy without Case Keenum as his QB, DeRuyter's team is just 6-7 this season without Carr.
If it's safe and mediocre the Cougars are looking for, then at some point you have to expect them to talk to Mike Sherman (25-25 at Texas A&M), Ron Zook (57-65 at Florida and Illinois), or Rick Neuheisel (87-59 at Colorado, Washington, and UCLA) -- Neuheisel would actually be a nice fit with basketball coach Kelvin Sampson as Neuhiesel's also run afoul of the NCAA on multiple occasions. And if it's the local mediocre connection that Houston really seeks, then interviews with Wade Phillips and Gary Kubiak should be coming any day now.
How does it all end? When does it all end? Who really knows, though maybe if you send a tweet to @UHPres you can put your name put into consideration for the job. She did say she was taking suggestions, after all.
-- Update December 15 at 10:50 a.m.: Fox Sports college football reporter Bruce Feldman is reporting that Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman is expected to be named the new head coach of the Cougars.
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) December 15, 2014
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.