Briles next in line to try to resurrect Baylor football
WACO, Texas -- Houston coach Art Briles is next to take on the task of pulling Baylor out of the Big 12 basement.
Greeted by enthusiastic applause, Briles flashed the school's trademark bear claw sign to supporters when he walked into a crowded room to be introduced Wednesday as Baylor's 25th coach.
"I'm extremely humbled and honored to be the Baylor head football coach," Briles said. "It's a privilege and honor to take this endeavor on. ... What we have to do is win football games. That's our mission. That's our goal, that's our job."
Briles met with his new players at Baylor before being formally introduced. Earlier in the day, he met with his players at Houston, where the Cougars are preparing for the fourth bowl in Briles' five seasons. He is not expected to coach the bowl game.
Briles got a seven-year contract that will pay him up to $1.8 million per season, including all incentives. Briles, who turns 52 Monday, had four years left on his Houston contract with a base salary of $900,000 annually.
Briles replaces Guy Morriss, who was fired Nov. 18 after five seasons. Morriss' firing came the day after the Bears (3-9) completed their 12th straight losing season with their 12th consecutive Big 12 loss, 45-14 to Oklahoma State.
Houston (8-4) has already accepted an invitation to play in the Texas Bowl on Dec. 28 in Houston against an undetermined opponent. The Cougars won the Conference USA title last season.
Houston assistant Chris Thurmond was named the interim coach of the Cougars on Wednesday. He has been recruiting coordinator and assistant coach in charge of cornerbacks the past two seasons.
"Right now, I have been designated as the guy to keep the team together, and that's what we'll do," Thurmond said.
Briles was 34-28 in five seasons at Houston with only one losing season. Before his arrival, the Cougars had only two winning seasons in the previous 12 years.
Before going to Houston, where he was a four-year letterman as a receiver and played in the 1976 Cotton Bowl, Briles spent three seasons as running backs coach at Texas Tech. His previous head coaching job had been at Stephenville High School, where in 12 seasons he was 136-29-2 and won four Texas state championships.
Morriss was 18-40 overall, 7-33 in conference games. The Bears were 0-8 in the Big 12 this season.
The leading candidate initially was Mike Singletary, the assistant head coach for the San Francisco 49ers. But the Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker and Baylor icon took his name out of consideration after a lengthy meeting with McCaw last week in California.
Briles was also on Baylor's short list, along with Houston Nutt, who resigned at Arkansas on Monday and was named Mississippi's new coach Tuesday.
Baylor's 12 consecutive losing seasons have come under the four coaches since Grant Teaff left in 1992 after 128 victories and eight bowl appearances in 21 seasons.
The Bears are the only Big 12 team without a bowl appearance since the conference's inception in 1996. Only two teams from Bowl Championship Series conferences have gone longer without a bowl, but Indiana (7-5) is expected to play its first postseason game in 14 years. Vanderbilt (5-7) lost its season finale to miss making its first bowl in 25 years.
There were some positive accomplishments under Morriss, a 15-season NFL lineman who was 9-14 in two seasons at Kentucky before taking the Baylor job.
Baylor beat two-time defending North Division champion Colorado in Morriss' conference debut in 2003. The coach also delivered the first Big 12 road victory, in 2005 at Iowa State, and then in 2006 the Bears won three Big 12 games in the same season for the first time.
Houston athletics director Dave Maggard said he was launching a national search to find a permanent replacement.
"There is no set timetable," Maggard said. "It will be as quickly as we can thoroughly get the job done."
Maggard named no candidates specifically, but said he wasn't necessarily seeking a coach who taught an offense similar to Briles' fast-paced, pass-oriented system.
"Anybody will be considered," he said. "This job has not been promised to anyone. This job is absolutely wide open."
Maggard met with Briles' assistants on Wednesday and didn't know yet how many would follow Briles to Waco.
"I am not going to be in judgment if someone says, 'I am leaving because this is a career situation for me and I feel like I need to do this,'" Maggard said. "If that is the case, then that's the case."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press