Candidates to become the next head coach at Houston Christian

Photo Courtesy Howard Payne Athletics

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Some were surprised when news broke on New Year’s Eve that Braxton Harris was leaving Houston Christian to become the head coach at Campbell. Harris has done a fantastic job turning the Huskies into a winner in his only season on campus. He recently signed the top-ranked FCS recruiting class during the early signing period, according to rankings from 247Sports.

Harris returns to the place where he gained notoriety for his ability to sign the top recruiting classes in the country during his two-season tenure as associate head coach, linebackers coach, and recruiting coordinator at Campbell before being named head coach at HCU last year.

During his time with the Huskies, Harris changed the culture, led the program to its first winning season, and hired a tremendous coaching staff. The latter is one reason HCU could look inside the program for its next leader.

HCU needs to find someone who brings many of the same qualities Harris instilled during his time in Houston. The Huskies should look for someone young and energetic with a vision to continue to move the program forward while retaining their talented roster. With those qualities in mind, here are five candidates who could become the next head coach at HCU.

Jason Bachtel, HCU offensive coordinator

One solid choice for HCU would be to promote its offensive coordinator, who also happened to succeed Harris at Howard Payne. Known for his potent offenses, Bachtel led Argyle to the Class 4A Division I state title in 2020 before continuing the offensive success at HPU. He built off the foundation Harris established at HPU and recorded back-to-back 7-3 records as head coach of the Yellow Jackets. Promoting Bachtel could keep most of HCU’s talented roster and coaching staff intact.

Kris McCullough, UTPB head coach

McCullough recently signed a contract extension after leading the Falcons to the program’s first winning season, Lone Star Conference title, and NCAA Division II playoff appearance in history. All of that is why McCullough would be an excellent choice for HCU. He’s another fast-rising coach in the industry with a dynamic personality. Until HCU can build facilities worthy of being a Division I athletic program, it will struggle to be a destination location for successful head coaches.

Jordan Neal, McMurry head coach

Neal inherited a War Hawks program at the bottom of NCAA Division III. He led McMurry to its first win in 854 days during the spring 2021 season. However, the pandemic took a toll on the roster, forcing Neal to rebuild quickly. The War Hawks program took a massive leap forward with a 6-4 overall record, including a 4-3 record in the American Southwest Conference this season. It won’t be easy to pry the Abilene native away, but Neal is another young coach on the rise.

Tremaine Jackson, Valdosta State head coach

Jackson is becoming a mainstay on many candidate lists, and he was a candidate at HCU last year and Texas Southern this season. Jackson is a hot name during the coaching carousel because of his work at Valdosta State for the previous two years. The Blazers posted an 11-1 record this year and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Division II playoffs.

Major Applewhite, South Alabama offensive coordinator

Granted, Applewhite would likely have to take a pay cut to be a head coach in FCS, but HCU could be a solid choice if the former Houston head coach desires to lead a program again. Applewhite would be a homerun hire and signal a new direction for the university. Still, the administration could realize that success on the gridiron often leads to growth for the school.

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