It turns out the “impossible buyout” that Dana Holgorsen referenced prior to the 2023 season proved doable. A loss to Oklahoma State in Week 12 eliminated Houston for bowl eligibility in its Big 12 debut season. The defeat against UCF dropped the Cougars to 4-8 in their first season as Big 12 members with losses against two of the other three newcomers. Add in a lack of recruiting momentum and that was enough to for Houston to move on from Holgorsen as the football program’s head coach.
Holgorsen arrived ahead of the 2019 season and departs with a 31-28 record at UH. He was 8-14 over his first two season, including a 3-6 mark during the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign. The Cougars turned a corner in year three when a Clayton Tune led squad won 12 games and beat Auburn in the Birmingham Bowl.
The team took a step back in a disappointing eight-win season a year ago despite the return of Tune and star receiver Tank Dell. The defense struggled and the run game suffered after a season-ending injury to Alton McCaskill in spring practice. The Cougars entered the year with aspirations of following Cincinnati’s blueprint to the College Football Playoff. It ended the season with a trip to the Independence Bowl.
No one in the Houston administration or coaching staff thought the transition to the Big 12 would be easy. That proved true for each of the four newcomers. A Hail Mary win over West Virginia and a victory over Baylor looked like signs of light. Uninspired losses to Cincinnati in Week 11 and Oklahoma State in Week 12 erased that momentum. A non-conference loss to Rice raised eyebrows, as did the worst 2024 recruiting class of a Power Five team.
Houston is a program undergoing change and needs a head coach that wants to recruit and recruit hard. And not just the teenagers starring at nearby high schools. The new hire must also recruit new donors, fans, the current roster, and students. Tom Herman understood that when he caught lighting in a bottle before bolting to Texas. The Cougars must find a coach with that type of energy again.
The Houston Chronicle was first.
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