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This is the first in a four-part series about the state of the Cougar football program.
From Twitter to Facebook to our subscribers at the Veer to the 50+ conversations I’ve had with UH fans since Saturday, a super-majority want to see Major Applewhite gone. Most weren’t thrilled with the hire in the first place and many more have come to believe he’s all wrong for the job.
That’s a bad spot for UH to be in just two seasons into Major’s tenure. A lot of UH supporters saw the disaster in the Vegas Bowl in 2016 as a red flag. Even more were concerned with the hiring of a DC that was universally loathed by Miami fans and an OC that had been demoted and pushed out at Utah.
Follow that with our ineffectual use of QBs in 2017, the implosion of the defense in 2018, and roster mismanagement and it’s hard to make much of a case for Major.
Cougar fans have shown their displeasure with the Applewhite regime in several ways: there’s no enthusiasm around the program, season tickets are slipping, and there are thousands of empty seats at home games.
This is what the USF game looked like: a 7-0 USF team facing a 6-1 UH team on a beautiful October afternoon.
UH announced home crowds that equaled 61,000 empty seats for the season but the real number was over 100,000. 100,000 empty seats means millions of dollars lost in tickets, donations, parking, merchandise, concessions, and more. It’s hard to lose a fan base after just one season but Major found a way.
Administration Needs To Look In The Mirror
After the carnage of the Armed Forced Bowl but before the team was back in Houston, news spread about possible discussions of Major being let go. That story was broken by a reporter that spent several days with (and profiled) Tilman Fertitta right before the NBA season. That seems like more than coincidence.
The uproar from the bowl loss, the Briles resignation, and the well-timed leak about Major’s future resulted in a lot of angst from the fans. The noise was so loud that UH released a statement intended to mollify the fan base.
Except, it didn’t pacify anyone. It was just a statement reiterating the fact that we’re financially committed to football. The administration didn’t refute the SBNation article saying that Major’s future was in doubt – nor did it address the bowl loss or the terrible finish to the season.
It’s reasonable to ask if anyone in the UH administration understands the frustration in the fan base right now or the antipathy towards Major.
In a an interview with the Houston Chronicle, Dr. Khator said she was going to “chill out and have a nice holiday season and then think about” the football program. She also said that “it’s not the end of the world” that UH lost a bowl game in a historic and embarrassing way. That shows a total disconnect between the administration and their customers.
Renu has been as engaged as any president we’ve had but these comments come off as aloof. If the fans don’t feel like they are being heard, their anger is going to shift to apathy.
Make a year-end donation to UH? They’ll get by without my money – it’s not the end of the world.
Buy season tickets? Well if I don’t, it’s not the end of the world. There will be plenty of seats.
Continue supporting Cougar Pride, the 46ers, and the Huddle? If Major doesn’t get a few resources it’s not the end of the world.
You cannot tell your customers that this season and this bowl result aren’t that big of a deal. You can’t say that chilling out is a priority over something so many people are passionate about.
Just for football, UH has gone to the fans to pay for a new stadium, a practice facility, and to make long term commitments to buy loge and club seats and a couple dozen suites. Those five-year commitments for seats were exhausted with the 2018 season; now, it’s time to get those customers to re-up for their premium tickets. Those people need to be excited about the trajectory of the program.
But how many are satisfied?
Major & The Future
I believe Major has done his best but, quite candidly, his best was never good enough. He should have never been a candidate and he should have never been hired. Major has more advantages than any UH coach in history and he’s spent two seasons squandering them.
But you can’t blame Major solely. You’ve also got to look to the people that hired him. That blame falls squarely on Tilman Fertitta and Renu Khator. Along with former AD Hunter Yurachek, they are the ones that demanded a large coach’s buyout in the contract. Why would a talented and sought-after coach accept a $4.5 million buyout after year 2? Or $6.75 million to go somewhere in Texas?
That buyout eliminated many quality candidates that weren’t going to accept terms that no other head coach in the country is burdened with. The fact that Major accepted the huge coach’s buyout proves that he didn’t have any other options.
By demanding such a large buyout from the coach, UH leaders also committed the school to a large buyout of their own. UH would be required to pay Major’s $650,000 base salary through the entire term of the contract – over $3.4 million in buyout in the beginning (now reduced to $2.06 million as of 1/1/19).
All of that for a first-time head coach that had no other options from anyone at our level.
Pez, Renu, and Tilman need to take a long look in the mirror and be honest about this program. To compete on the level we want to be at it and to build ourselves before the next (and possibly final) realignment, there’s no time for further mistakes. And we can’t keep allowing season tickets to erode.
No more time for band aids, no more time for favors to old friends at NRG/LSSE, and no more time for coaches that cannot handle all aspects of the job.
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