Chris Pezman on Todd Whitting and UH’s commitment to current leadership
In an interview with The Cougar, days before the University of Houston officially became a member of the Big 12 Conference, UH athletic director Chris Pezman detailed the reasoning behind the decision to bring back baseball head coach Todd Whitting.
“If you step back and look at it, Todd does everything right,” Pezman said. “He raises money. Our kids are excellent ambassadors of the program academically and socially.”
Whitting, who took the job back in 2010, won three American Athletic Conference tournament titles and made four NCAA Regional appearances between 2014-18. But when the 2023 season ended, the Cougars had failed to make the postseason for the fourth consecutive season in the final year of Whitting’s contract.
Though Pezman reiterated that the contract, which was first reported on by the Houston Chronicle, is not done yet, it is an example of how UH plans to deal with head coaching decisions across all sports entering the Big 12 Conference.
“I’d much rather invest in Todd than go invest in starting all over with a new program and new coaching staff, particularly as we’re making this transition,” Pezman said. “To me, I know Todd can do it. And we’re going to give him two to three years to get it done.”
While head coaches for track and field, swimming and diving, soccer and women’s golf have stepped down, retired or left for other jobs over the last few years, the last time Houston fired a head coach was in February 2019 when volleyball head coach Kaddie Platt was let go after seven seasons and a 94-123 record. Just two months prior, football coach Major Applewhite was fired after a 7-1 start melted into an 8-5 finish capped by a 70-14 blowout loss to Army in his second season.
Now, as UH transitions into much stiffer competition in the Big 12, Pezman emphasized the athletic department’s focus on giving its 15 sports programs the proper resources.
“It’s easy to change coaches. To me, it’s easy to say, ‘that coach is the problem,'” Pezman said. “The other point is, like, how are we funding those programs? What do you look like? How are we helping support them?”
In Whitting’s case, Pezman pointed to the team’s difficulty in finding the right coaching staff after the departure of assistants Frank Anderson and Trip Couch in 2017 as a reason to keep Whitting for another three years. Just this offseason, Whitting hired former Georgia pitching coach Sean Kenny to help improve a pitching staff that ranked 177th in the nation in earned run average in 2023 (6.77).
“I never felt like we, myself as administration were ever to give him enough resources to replace his assistants,” Pezman said. “We gave Todd the money to go out and get a pitching coach that he feels like can make a difference.”
The necessary investment for all sports — not just baseball — to be successful in the Big 12, is what Pezman says UH is continuing to work on.
“We’ve put a lot of eggs in our basket, obviously, with basketball, football with our commitment to them,” Pezman said. “Now we’re catching up with everything else.”
It will obviously take time for each one of UH’s sports to catch up to the Big 12, but Pezman feels that once a program does have adequate administrative support, winning is expected to follow.
“As we’ve raised that commitment to (our programs), then equally the expectations are raising,” Pezman said. “To me, part of it is how do you stabilize it, invest in them and watch them grow and be successful? And if they’re not getting that return after that investment, then that’s when you have to make some hard decisions.”