Houston Cougars Coaching Search: Will Muschamp Out; Tom Herman In?


The heat is on as the Houston Cougars search for a new head coach continues to seek a successor to Tony Levine, who was fired this past Monday after going 21-17 in two seasons of work.

Levine is widely-considered as a nice guy and if that was the sole qualification to keep his job, we’d be talking about what his game plans were for the team’s Armed Forces Bowl match up against Pitt next month.

But that’s in the land of fairy tales and athletic programs are looking for results — Levine just wasn’t getting it done on the football field.

It’s an amazing transition for that guy — he goes from being rewarded with a contract extension earlier this year, with tons of praises for his 8-5 record in 2013 and a bowl appearance to be out of a job at year’s end.

Nov 22, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Cougars head coach Tony Levine talks with linebacker D

Levine was locked up through the 2018 season — at $925,000 a year, that’s one hell of a buyout!

My best inference was either the UH brass was receiving increasing pressure from Cougar Pride to let Levine go or they felt they could find someone with a bigger name/talent that could do a better job.

Possibly both.

Will Muschamp, who had just been jettisoned from the University of Florida, was reportedly talking with UH but ultimately decided to take job offer from Auburn University as their defensive coordinator.

Nov 22, 2014; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp talks with the defense on the bench against the Eastern Kentucky Colonels during the first quarter at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Muschamp said that Auburn was the only school that gave him a firm offer so that certainly means his discussions with UH weren’t all that serious as us fans had envisioned.

It tends to be a love/hate relationship between athletic administrations and coaches — as long as you’re winning, they love you but when there’s any inkling of you starting to lose that love plummets faster than a falling rock.

The Coogs were in every game they played this season with the exception of the home opener at TDECU Stadium where they were mowed down by UTSA 27-7.

As the season wore on, Levine turned to wide receiver Greg Ward after John O’Korn continued to struggle and he provided a effervescent spark in the offense that took them quite a long way.

Ward was used quite a bit on special plays designed for him in the 2013 season and he had shown enough that he was to take the reins of being the Coogs’ signal-caller.

Whether if I was at TDECU Stadium catching a game or watching them on television/online if I couldn’t be there, I noticed that it was apparent that something was still missing.

Ward was a significant spark to the offense and he efficiently used the plethora of weapons the Coogs offense had in Kenneth Farrow, Ryan Jackson, Deontay Greenberry, Markeith Ambles and Steven Dunbar but despite all of that, team still continued to underachieve.

Nov 22, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Cougars quarterback Greg Ward Jr. (1) attempts a pass during the first quarter against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane at TDECU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Their defense, a long-begotten aspect of Cougar football, looks to be back on track — they ended the season being nationally-ranked 19th in the FBS in terms of total defense giving up about 328 yards per game.

UH will look to fill that apparent void I mentioned by providing a new voice in the locker room.

David Gibbs, the mastermind of the Coogs’ defense, has been rumored to be a candidate for head coaching job but he has no head coaching experience.� I honestly would like to see him continue as the defensive coordinator because of his remarkable progress.

So who’s next?

According to the Houston Chronicle’s Joseph Duarte, UH has interest in Tom Herman, the offensive coordinator of football playoff-bound Ohio State.

Although not a household name, he could eventually become one.

What he has done with the football program that he currently represents would certainly be a shot in the arm not only for offensive strategy but with recruiting here in the state.� His previous stops before Ohio State were as offensive coordinator at Texas State and Rice.

I suspect Herman will talk with UH whether it’s as soon as possible or after bowl season but he will remain a Buckeye.� It doesn’t hurt to kick the tires a bit though.

Other names rumored to be in the mix according to Duarte are: former Texans’ defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, Georgia Southern’s Willie Fritz, San Francisco 49ers linebackers coach Jim Leavitt, New York Jets’ special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughney, TCU/former UH offensive coordinator Doug Meacham.

More from Houston Cougars

Interesting list — let’s just stay away from hiring special teams coordinators for awhile.

We all know how that turned out.

My best guess is that the names that have been thrown around will not be who they go with — it will be someone we haven’t envisioned that would be a fit for the job.

We shall see, until then…go Coogs!