The American Athletic Conference saw three coaching changes for the 2019 season. Our College Football America Yearbook editor, Matthew Postins, breaks down the three changes below.
East Carolina: Mike Houston (for Scottie Montgomery)
The Pirates cut ties with Montgomery, a former Duke coordinator, after just three seasons. He had three straight 3-win seasons for ECU after replacing Ruffin McNeill. Montgomery may have simply not been ready for a head-coaching job yet. He’s landed nicely, though, having taken the offensive coordinator job at Maryland. Houston is a smart hire here for ECU. First, Houston was ultra-successful at James Madison — he was 37-6 in three seasons and led JMU to the 2016 FCS national title. But he’s been a winner everywhere he’s been (Lenoir-Rhyne, The Citadel and JMU) with an overall record of 80-25. He’s a North Carolina native so he’s going home and he wants to be there. Plus, he knows the recruiting area having spent his entire head-coaching career in that area. But Houston has to rebuild the talent base and that’s going to take some time. Expect the Pirates to be an under-.500 team in Year 1 and a bowl-bound team in Year 2, if Houston’s history is any indication. Grade: B
Houston: Dana Holgorsen (for Major Applewhite)
Applewhite lasted two seasons as Tom Herman’s successor, going 15-11 in two-plus seasons. He had an 0-3 bowl record and perhaps that did him in. Perhaps the loss in the AAC Championship game to UCF did that, too. For whatever reason the brass felt it was time to move on and they made a bold move in luring Holgorsen away from West Virginia. The Cougars are paying Holgorsen like they’re a Power 5 school (SBNation.com reported the deal was for five years and $20 million) so that means their expectations are bound to be high. Holgorsen is 61-41 as a head coach and he did some wonderful things in Morgantown. But the Mountaineers never reached the top of the Big 12 or a Big 12 title game. Hoglorsen was Kevin Sumlin’s quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator at Houston in 2008-09 and left the program on good terms. Houston has some of the best high school football talent in the country and it will be up to Holgorsen to keep them home now. To date the Cougars have only signed one five-star recruit (Ed Oliver). The expectations are clear — the Cougars are looking for a coach to elevate this program into a perennial conference title contender and a participant in New Year’s Day bowl games to make it more attractive if Power 5 Conferences are looking to expand. That won’t be as easy as it seems. Holgorsen coaches a brand of football recruits like, but defense will always be an issue, based on his time at West Virginia. Plus, teams like UCF and Memphis are standing in Houston’s way. There is enough talent left to ensure Houston will be a contender right away. Grade: B+
Temple: Rod Carey (for Geoff Collins)
Geoff Collins spent just two seasons at Temple, but he maintained the standard of his predecessors in winning 15 games and leading the Owls to two bowl games. He didn’t coach the second bowl game, as he took over at Georgia Tech. In his place comes Rod Carey, the Northern Illinois coach who assumed the lead of the Huskies after Dave Doeren left for Wake Forest before the 2013 Orange Bowl. With QB Jordan Lynch returning for the 2013 season the Huskies went 12-2. But Carey’s overall success wasn’t tied to Lynch. The Huskies went 52-30 under Carey, won four Mid-American Conference West Division titles and two MAC Championship games. About the only thing he didn’t do at NIU was win bowl games (0-6 overall). But this is a solid hire for Temple. Carey knows the expectations at a mid-major program and should be able to maintain that success. The thing is, I felt Carey had a Power 5 job in mind. Perhaps this is the next step. For now, the move feels oddly lateral, even though Carey moves into an infinitely larger market, with Temple based in Philadelphia. Grade: B
Next: We’ll talk about the coaching changes in the ACC.
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2019 FBS Coaching Update: American Athletic Conference
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