Chairman of the University of Houston board of regents and restaurant mogul Tilman Fertitta did not mince words when talking on Tuesday to Sean Pendergast and Rich Lord on The Triple Threat on SportsRadio 610 about the Houston Cougars football head coaching vacancy. Fertitta, the star of “Billion Dollar Buyer” on CNBC, is a huge supporter of the University and it’s athletic programs, paying for upgrades to Hofheinz Pavilion and having it renamed Fertitta Center.
The school is looking to fill after Tom Herman left for the University of Texas after two years and a 22-4 record as head coach of the Coogs. Herman is the third coach to have a winning record with the school to jump to a power five conference school in the state of Texas in the last 10 years. Fertitta is determined to stop that trend.
“It’s alright, it’s business, but I’m not going to accept it this time,” Fertitta told the Triple Threat about coaches leaving for bigger schools. “Internally we’re talking about, we’re not going to let someone come in here…I’m not going to let them go 10-2 next year and somebody steal them. I don’t care if there is a football coach out there listening to this, you’re not going to get your contract bought out for a couple of million dollars by a bigger school and be gone. It’s going to be a big enough number, you’re going to have to have won a national championship if they want you, because they’ll pay anything.”
Herman had a $2.5 million buyout that allowed him to leave his contract with Houston to go to Texas for a contract reportedly over $5 million a year.
“This whole college football, which the agents started a couple of years ago,” Fertitta continued, “(the school) can sign you to a five-year contract and if we fire you, we have to pay you. But if you decide to quit, (the school) only gets a little bit buyout. That isn’t happening again at the University of Houston.”
Almost every college coaching job has a buyout clause it so that coaches can go to a school they desire more, but Fertitta is determined to not let that happen at the University of Houston anymore.
“We have to have a buyout, but it isn’t going to be a little buyout,” Fertitta said. “If somebody wants (a coach) they’re really going to have to pay for them. If a coach doesn’t want that or an agent doesn’t want to do that then they shouldn’t even apply for the University of Houston job.”
The chance to keep a coach around for the long haul at UH was not the only thing Fertitta was fired up about during the interview. UH was hoping to gain entry into the Big 12 this past season, moving up from the American Athletic Conference to a power five school could have seen the Coogs retain Herman and make a serious run at National Championships in the years to come. But as one of the 11 schools looking for admission into the ten team Big 12 Houston was left out, along with the other ten schools. The Big 12 didn’t feel like any of the schools qualified to be in the conference. The process didn’t sit well with the Billionaire Houston supporter.
“It was a sham by the Big 12,” Fertitta said. “Why didn’t you vote in the beginning ‘we are going to expand.’ But to sit there and let a billion administrators and students and alumni get all excited and say ‘none of you all qualify.’ When I can take the ten schools in the Big 12 and (Houston) can take you in every category there is: academically, facilities and athletics, and show you that we are better than at least one or two of the schools in every category; it was a sham it was poor leadership by the Big 12. But what was good for us is the national media gave us a lot of attention because they were so sure we were going to get in.”
UH had a great year in their non-conference schedule this year, beating Oklahoma and Lousiville when both teams were in the top 5 of the college football rankings. If the Coogs had run the table in their conference they would likely be looking at becoming the first non-power five school in the College Football Playoff. But because Houston is not in a power five conference, and any loss hurts a teams’ chances at the playoff the Coogs have had a hard time getting teams to schedule them.
“People don’t understand that when you see the Texas A&M and the Alabamas schedule these weak non-conference schools,” Fertitta said. “They play division two, division three, that’s who they want to play if you’re a power five. ‘Why am I going to play another powerful school when I have to play good schools every week if I’m in the Big 12 or ACC or SEC.’ We have a horrible time struggling to [schedule] playing the power five because they know that Houston can come up and kick their butts. It’s a huge issue for us. A huge issue.”
The Cougars named defensive coordinator Todd Orlando the interim coach in the absence of Tom Herman.