Applewhite ‘honored’ to be new Cougar head coach
A packed club level of TDECU Stadium witnessed head coach Major Applewhite become the 14th head coach in UH program history Monday.
Accompanied by President and Chancellor Renu Khator, Board of Regents Chairman Tilman Fertitta and Vice President of Athletics Hunter Yurachek, a humbled Applewhite took to the podium having fulfilled his dream.
“I’m extremely excited — my face doesn’t always say it — but I’m extremely excited,” Applewhite said. “I’m honored to be a part of this program, to be able to lead this program and to be your new head football coach. It’s always been a goal of mine to be a head coach and to be able to do that at the University of Houston, this unique opportunity is the ultimate.”
Khator revealed that, in the search for the new head coach, she demanded that the chosen candidate will prioritize the athletes’ educational experience and keep the program clean, compliant and winning.
Although having little interaction with Applewhite before the interview process, Khator said she knew immediately that he was the person for the job.
“I didn’t know him much other than as the offensive coordinator of the football team,” Khator said. “(When I) met with him I could see: full integrity, enormous sincerity, passion and expectations that exceed maybe even mine.”
Applewhite said that no one will have higher expectations for the football team than him, and that winning nine games is not good enough. He also wants to provide a brand of football that drives fans to the games and translates to wins.
“I’ve always been a winner, I will always be a winner and I will always set those expectations for our football team,” Applewhite said. “On all three phases of the football, we are going to be relentless in what we do, we’re going to be aggressive in what we do and we’re going to be innovative and a little unique in what we do.”
He added that his program will be built on trust with his student-athletes, toughness and competitiveness — on and off the field.
Having been on the road visiting recruits for much of the time since being named head coach, Applewhite said that he has not yet had a chance to embrace the moment. Still, he has been “chomping at the bit” to head his own program.
The Cougars are readying for their Las Vegas Bowl matchup against San Diego State University Saturday. With the hire of a coach who is familiar with the team and has great relationships with players, preparation should be easier.
Senior quarterback Greg Ward Jr. was thrilled about Applewhite’s hiring and believes the competitiveness of the 38-year-old head coach will set him up for success.
With the game in Las Vegas as Ward’s last as a Cougar and Applewhite’s first as head coach, there should be added motivation to earn a win.
After months of head-coaching rumors swirling, Ward and the Cougars are ready to compete for Applewhite.
“It’s just about all of us,” Ward said. “It’s about the team. It’s about the players, coaches and what we’ve all been through the past few weeks. It’ll just be a great win for all of us.”