The University of Houston has reportedly convinced Dana Holgorsen to leave West Virginia. With $20 million in his pocket and a new recruiting base to build his team, Holgorsen has made the right move.
It wasn’t that long ago that the University of Houston was beating the likes of Oklahoma (by 10 points) and Florida State in the Peach Bowl (by 14 points). Tom Herman had Houston at the top of the AAC and everyone nationally was paying attention to what the Cougars were doing.
But Herman took off for Austin to coach the Texas Longhorns and his predecessor ultimately fell short of the lofty expectations that the folks in Houston had for their college football program. Major Applewhite won a total of 15 games in two seasons. This is after Tom Herman racked up 15 wins in his first 16 games in Space City.
Now, boosters in Houston are shelling out a ton of money in hopes that Dana Holgorsen can mirror Herman’s success. It looks like this move is the right one for both Holgorsen and Houston. Here’s why.
He probably has to win 10 games a year now, but that should be easier at Houston than at West Virginia.
There’s absolutely no way that Dana Holgorsen will be able to simply skirt by winning 8 or so games a season in Houston. Don’t believe me? Just ask Holgorsen’s predecessor, Major Applewhite what happens if you average 7.5 wins a season in back to back years.
Expectations for Holgorsen with Houston will be high, especially when one considers just how much UH is paying for his services. It doesn’t help that Houston’s president has said that the university would can coaches who go 8-4.
So, that means that Holgorsen better win once he gets on campus, but that should be fairly doable with the Cougars.
When Dana Holgorsen was the head coach of the West Virginia Mountaineers, he only won an average of 7.625 games a season. He also had just a couple of seasons where his team had a better record than 8-4 while in Morgantown.
But winning at a high level in Houston should be more easily accomplished than at West Virginia given each program’s resources relative to their respective conferences. When Holgorsen was in the Big 12, he had to compete against the likes of Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma State, TCU, and an improving Iowa State program.
In the AAC, Houston’s toughest competition will be UCF (who could be legitimately a difficult team to beat for the foreseeable future), Cincinnati, and Memphis. The fact of the matter is that those programs don’t compare in prestige and there’s a completely different level of difficulty between competing in the two conferences.
Holgorsen now has access to a significantly more fertile recruiting area
One key advantage that Holgorsen now has in Houston that he didn’t have in Morgantown is the difference in recruits available to him. Without even getting into the nitty gritty of it all, one must consider the sheer population differences between the Houston area and the entire state of West Virginia.
That means that Holgorsen will have a significantly larger group of high schoolers to recruit from. Even if SEC and Big 12 teams swoop in and take the majority of the elite recruits from the region, there’s still plenty of players in the neighborhood available to Holgorsen.
Houston’s 2019 class is currently just the No. 6 signing class in the AAC and is the 72nd ranked class nationally. That said, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Holgorsen get that turned around in the near future.
Tom Herman brought in the AAC’s best signing class a few seasons back with his 2016 group of players headlined by star defensive lineman Ed Oliver, a Houston native.
Even if Dana Holgorsen isn’t able to build his signing classes entirely of Houstonians, New Orleans, Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio aren’t too far away from Houston either, so the Cougars could certainly have an expansive recruiting footprint that propels the program forward for the future.
He didn’t have that luxury while at West Virginia.
It’s hard to turn down $20 million
At the end of the day, the biggest reason for this hire happening comes down to the sheer amount of money that the Houston Cougars pooled together for Holgorsen. $20 million over a term of five years is an increase over what West Virginia was paying for Holgorsen’s services, and that contract was coming to an end.
And it should be noted that UH’s boosters seem likely to continue investing into their football program. At the top of them all is Tillman Fertitta, a billionaire and owner of the Houston Rockets. Fertitta spoke to UH’s football team when Tom Herman was in town, was inducted into the UH Athletics Hall of Honor, and has a basketball arena named after him.
Don’t expect this $20 million contract with Dana Holgorsen to be the last large amount of money that UH throws around its football program. The program and its boosters aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Holgorsen found a new home in Houston. The biggest reason he left West Virginia was probably the money, but that reason should be around his new football program for the foreseeable future.