The coaching search for the Houston Cougars ultimately resulted in a promotion for offensive coordinator Major Applewhite, who will not follow Tom Herman to Austin to rejoin the Texas Longhorns, as Joseph Duarte of the Houston Chronicle broke the news of his hire Friday morning.
The official announcement followed not long thereafter.
“When we set out on our search for the new leader of our football program, we wanted a coach with great integrity who believed in our mission and truly believed in our student-athlete experience,” said vice president for athletics Hunter Yurachek.
“We had our sights set on a focused competitor who has demonstrated success and possesses a deep connection to college and high school football in the great state of Texas. As this process was completed, it was clearly evident the only individual to offer our position to was Major Applewhite and he was indeed the right man to lead our program.”
Former interim head coach Todd Orlando, on the other hand, will now have his own decision to make — stay in Houston with Applewhite or follow Herman to Austin. Whatever decision Orlando makes, he’s now the defensive coordinator for the bowl game and will serve in that role at least until the Cougars play San Diego State in the Las Vegas Bowl on December 17.
The coaching search for Houston included evaluations of other, more proven offensive coordinators like Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley and Alabama’s Lane Kiffin, as well as former head coaches like Les Miles.
However, it ultimately ended up remaining in-house, perhaps in part because Board of Regents chairman Tilman Fertitta was vocal about desiring a large buyout to keep the next head coach in place for an extended period of time.
The former Texas quarterback, like Herman, served as a graduate assistant under Mack Brown, then quickly rose through the coaching ranks — two years after serving as the quarterbacks coach at Syracuse, Applewhite was the offensive coordinator at Alabama.
He only spent one season at Alabama before returning to Austin to serve as the running backs coach/assistant head coach for Brown, eventually becoming co-offensive coordinator and then offensive coordinator for Brown’s final season at Texas.
After taking a year off from coaching, Applewhite reconnected with Herman and the two led Houston to its most successful two-year stretch in school history.
Expect Orlando to join the staff in Austin while Herman pursues his other options at offensive coordinator. Right now, there haven’t been any strong indications about which direction he will go in.