Briles resigns, heads to Baylor
The man that many UH students have come to know as a stalwart in Cougar football history is now a Baylor Bear.
Head coach Art Briles accepted an offer Wednesday to become Baylor’s new head coach and agreed to a seven-year deal worth about $1.8 million per year.
He replaces former Baylor head coach Guy Morriss, who was fired on Nov. 18 after Baylor finished 3-9 and 0-8 in the Big 12.
"It’s a situation where, hopefully, I can feel proud about the program we’ve established here at the University of Houston. I know that we’re leaving it in better shape than it was when we got here five years ago," Briles said Wednesday afternoon. "I’m extremely grateful to all the fans. I’m thankful to our players and our student body because they are truly resilient."
Briles, who leaves with a 34-28 record in five seasons, told UH Athletics Director Dave Maggard that as of Wednesday afternoon he was going to work for Baylor and would not coach the Cougars in the Texas Bowl on Dec. 28 at Reliant Stadium.
"We really appreciate what coach Briles has done during the time that he has been here at the University of Houston," Maggard said. "He has done some really outstanding things, and we really appreciate it."
Maggard named Chris Thurmond, who has spent the last two seasons as a recruiting coordinator and assistant coach in charge of cornerbacks, the interim head football coach for the Texas Bowl.
With four years remaining on a contract extension he signed last year, Briles exercised a $300,000 buyout clause that allowed him to take the Baylor position.
Maggard said Baylor would likely pay the difference.
Maggard said the nationwide search for a new head coach would begin immediately but declined to release the names of candidates.
"It has to be the best person for the University of Houston," Maggard said. "What we want is a solid, solid program. What we will do is look for the coach that can stabilize this program and continue to move upward."
Baylor, who was 18-40 in five seasons under Morriss, has not had a winning season since 1995 and hasn’t been to a bowl since 1994.
Briles will receive a nearly 100 percent pay increase from the $900,000 annual salary he received at UH, but Maggard said Briles insisted it was not about the money.
Briles met with the UH football team Wednesday to tell them of his resignation. He said the attitude of the team was understandably somber.
"It was a quiet meeting," Briles said. "I told them they’re not just players, they’re sons. We put a lot of time, effort, blood, sweat and love together… so it’s a numbing effect, and it was a numbing atmosphere."
They were numbed, but not distraught, Maggard said immediately after the meeting.
Maggard said senior offensive lineman Dustin Dickinson called his teammates together and said, "We’re going to stay together and we’re going to win the bowl game."
When Maggard arrived at UH in January 2002, the football team was coming off an 0-11 season and finished 5-7 the next season.
Maggard felt he needed to hire a coach who would help revitalize the program. He chose Briles, who served as running backs coach at Texas Tech from 2000-02.
In 2003, Briles led the Cougars to a 7-6 finish and their first bowl game since 1996. He led the Cougars to last season’s Conference USA championship.