Citadel coach Mike Houston accepts job at James Madison

Mike Houston is gone but he left us a new culture. "just win baby!" to quote former Bulldog coach Al Davis

Mike Houston is gone but he left us a new culture. “just win baby!” to quote former Bulldog coach Al Davis

Jeff Hartsell
Jan 18 2016

In two years as The Citadel’s football coach, Mike Houston brought Bulldogs fans a Southern Conference championship, a playoff victory and an upset of South Carolina. And then, more quickly than Citadel faithful could have imagined, he was gone.

Little more than two years after he was hired at The Citadel, Houston left Monday to accept the head coaching job at James Madison University. It was not an easy decision, Houston said, even though James Madison offers a sizeable raise and more resources (the FCS school in Harrisonburg, Va., has more than 20,000 students).

“This is not the easiest move in the world,” Houston said in an interview Monday. “It has nothing to do with The Citadel or anyone at the institution. I have the greatest respect for everyone there. I can’t thank the people there or the kids in the program enough for the way they bought in and followed us. I’m excited to watch the future of Citadel football. It’s very bright.”

Citadel athletic director Jim Senter, hired in August 2014, already faces a second key coaching hire. He tabbed Duggar Baucom to take over Citadel basketball, and now he must find a way to sustain the football momentum created by Houston. “I’m happy for Coach Houston and appreciate the contributions he made to our program,” Senter said. “He has established a foundation which we can build upon for future success. We wish Mike and his family the best as they start their new endeavors at James Madison. We will move as quickly as possible to find the perfect fit for The Citadel.”

With National Signing Day and spring practice looming, time is of the essence for Senter, who sources said began interviewing candidates Monday.

Two logical candidates already are on staff: Defensive coordinator Maurice Drayton, a 1998 Citadel graduate, and offensive coordinator Brent Thompson, who came with Houston to The Citadel from Lenoir-Rhyne. Ex-Citadel great Everette Sands, a former assistant at South Carolina, North Carolina State and The Citadel, is a third potential choice.

Houston said his decision to leave had nothing to do with the fallout of from the controversial “white hoods” photo that emerged on social media last month. It depicted Citadel cadets wearing pillowcase hoods that some believed resembled the Ku Klux Klan.
“Absolutely not, and it’d be unfortunate if that were the perception,” Houston said. “That’s not what The Citadel stands for and not the climate or culture of the campus. It’s a good place for all people. “This is 100 percent about our family and my future, and my ability to provide for them. It’s a great opportunity here at James Madison.”
Houston lead the Bulldogs to a 9-4 record, a share of the SoCon title and a 23-22 upset of South Carolina last season.

In two seasons at The Citadel, Houston has a record of 14-11. In five seasons at Lenoir-Rhyne and The Citadel, he is 43-19. At JMU, Houston replaces Everett Withers, who left for FBS Texas State. He was 18-7 in two seasons at James Madison, including 12-4 in the CAA. The Dukes won a share of the CAA title this season.

JMU athletic director Jeff Bourne called Houston “a fast riser” in the coaching ranks.
“I am thrilled to welcome Mike Houston as the next football head coach at James Madison,” Bourne said. “Mike has been a fast riser in the coaching ranks with success turning programs around at the Division II and FCS levels. His pedigree for winning and ability to lead young men make him the perfect fit to build upon the foundation already in place at JMU.”

Withers reportedly earned at least $300,000 per year at JMU. That figure would be a hefty raise over Houston’s base salary of $210,000 per year at The Citadel.


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