Houston promoting coordinator Major Applewhite to head coach was seen as a massive win for Texas’ football community. Though the hire was met with statewide acclaim, a private push for Applewhite to replace Tom Herman began as early as Nov. 28 last year, emails acquired by SB Nation detail.
It isn’t surprising that Applewhite, a former Texas Longhorns quarterback, would be a celebrated hire. Applewhite was an assistant with the Longhorns before coming to Houston in 2015. But high school coaches from programs across the state, both elite and middling, were calling for this for weeks before the hire was made public, which could pay off in recruiting.
Emails to Houston athletic director Hunter Yurachek and president/chancellor Renu Khator praised Applewhite. They showed his deep connections to the Houston coaching arena. One asked for his son to be coached by Applewhite. Others propped up Texas as the football king of the world.
Date: Monday, November 28, 2016 1:36 PM
From: BOB WAGER
To: Yurachek, Hunter
Dear Athletic Director Yurachek,
As the Head Football Coach at Arlington Martin High School, and the President of the North Texas Football Coaches Association, I have great interest in the continued success of the Houston Cougar football program. Please accept my unwavering support of Major Applewhite as the next Head Football Coach at The University of Houston. I have known Coach Applewhite throughout my career and share the same Passion, Commitment, and Loyalty as he does. Major Applewhite separates himself from the pack with his intellect, his work ethic, and most importantly, his love for kids. The true mission of our great profession is to set our players on a path for success in life. I would be honored for my son to be coached by Major. Coach Applewhite has been mentored by many of the finest coaches in the game. He is prepared. He is genuine. He has the full support of the High School Football Coaches in the great state of Texas. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Emails came from powerhouses like Todd Dodge’s Westlake and Gary Joseph’s Katy, both top-20 state programs last year. Dodge even referred to himself as a “successful high school coach here in the Houston area.”
Date: Thursday, December 01, 2016, 3:09 PM
From: Kirk Martin [on behalf of Dodge]
To: Khator, Renu ; Yurachek, Hunter
Dear Mr. Yurachek,
My name is Todd Dodge and I am currently the Athletic Director and Head Coach at Westlake High School. I have known Coach Applewhite since his playing days at the University of Texas. During his time at the University of Texas, Coach Applewhite worked at my quarterback/receiver camp each summer. We have stayed in touch and our families have become dear friends.
Coach Applewhite is one of the greatest leaders I have ever had the opportunity to be around. His competitive spirit is unmatched as well as his ability to develop young coaches and players. My son, Riley Dodge, was blessed to work under Coach Applewhite as a Quality Control at the University of Texas. Coach Applewhite did not treat Riley any different from a full-time position coach. He mentored, encouraged, developed, challenged, valued his opinion, and taught him to dream big and never give up.
Coach Applewhite has an unbelievable offensive mind that has produced results on each campus he has stepped foot on. He has recruited players across the country and has earned respect for keeping each player’s best interest in mind. His name carries a lot of weight with Texas High School Football coaches which will give him a unique advantage to recruit the best athletes the state has to offer. Coach Applewhite is the right man for the job. He is prepared to build on the stories history of Houston Cougar Football.
Emails like these aren’t rare. People recommending other coaches happens frequently, like at Western Michigan.
At times, the weight of the name behind the email can matter. A note from Joey McGuire’s top-five Cedar Hill or from Richard Carson, who just retired after 32 seasons as a successful local coach, might pay dividends later down the line.
Date: Tuesday, November 29, 2016 11:17 AM
From: Richard A. Carson
My name is Richard Carson. I am the head football coach athletic director at The Woodlands College Park High School. I am writing this letter to recommend Major Applewhite for the Head Football position at the University of Houston. Two years ago I wrote a similar letter to recommend Tom Herman because I felt very strong that he was the best person for the job. I feel just as strong that Major is the right man today. I have known Major for all of his coaching career. He is a great football coach and a great leader of young men. I know that he will build on the success and the momentum of the U of H football program. He has worked under and learned from some of the best college coaches in the country. He has a passion for the University and the City of Houston. I am a life long Houstonian and have been coaching for 31 years. I have served in the leadership of our State and Local coaching Associations. I have a good knowledge of how the coaches of the greater Houston area feel about Major. They know that he is a great recruiter and has built a lasting relationships over the years. He is a guy that has helped me find places for kids to play even if was not recruiting them. He is a guy that we can go to X and O question. Even during his season when he is busy. He has always made time for High School coaches. I know that you will have many great candidates, but I hope you strongly consider Major.
Having the approval of Texas high school football coaches, especially ones at dominant schools in the state, is no small subplot.
It is an interesting political tap-dance to make sure high school coaches around the state hold you in high regard. In a 20-minute speech before ever coaching a game at the state’s flagship university, former Texas coach Charlie Strong did not make a good first impression at an offseason coaching clinic.
Strong also erred, in many eyes, by immediately recruiting from outside of Texas, despite being on record about keeping in-state talent close to home. This led to a high school coach describing Strong as a “horrible hire.”
“Charlie was a great man but a horrible hire,” South Grand Prairie coach Brent Whitson told Landof10.com. “You get here and the first thing you do is go to Florida for recruits. ... All it did was cost him about 2,500 head coaches at Texas high schools.”
These knocks on Strong seemed suboptimal, but they stuck. Couple them with Strong’s introverted tendencies, and you can see how it didn’t serve him well in settings where glad-handing and baby-kissing are the required tacts. That’s compounded by the fact that Strong’s predecessor, Mack Brown, excelled in this area.
Strong had to battle the stigma that he was an outsider, someone without ingrained relationships with the high school coaches in the state. Strong was behind the eight-ball from the beginning in a way Applewhite is not.
When local coaches get together to talk amongst themselves, catty dissent can run deep. Houston hiring a Texas-bred coach who has a rapport with some of the most important power brokers in the state is as big as the game itself.