Update: Charlotte has withdrawn its offer to Houston. See statement from AD Mike Hill at the bottom.
As we know, Charlotte made James Madison head coach Mike Houston the top target in its coaching search, offering him the job early in the week. Aside from the tricky fact that James Madison’s season is still ongoing, all signs pointed toward Houston being the 49ers’ next head coach.
And then East Carolina fired Scottie Montgomery.
Sources indicate the Pirates were spurred into action by Charlotte’s pursuit of Houston.
This is an issue for Charlotte for a myriad of reasons, but the top line is this: Charlotte paid its outgoing coach $625,000 in 2018, per the USA Today coaching salary database. East Carolina paid theirs $1.1 million.
Though Charlotte would be expected to pay Houston more than it paid Brad Lambert, it would be tough for the 49ers to close a half million dollar gap — and that’s assuming ECU doesn’t offer Houston a higher salary than it paid Montgomery (which the school likely would or has).
Given that, Charlotte has started making contingencies in the event Houston spurns their offer, and a source says Austin Peay head coach Will Healy has drawn significant interest from the 49ers.
The 33-year-old just completed his third season as Austin Peay’s head coach. He shot to stardom in 2017 when leading Austin Peay, a program that was 1-45 in its previous four seasons and 14-87 in its last nine, to an 8-3 mark and the cusp of an FCS playoffs berth. The Governors went 5-6 in 2018.
Healy has drawn comparisons to Dabo Swinney in making energy and encouragement the hallmarks of Austin Peay’s turnaround, where body language has been equally important as Xs and Os. From Pete Thamel’s profile of Healy in September:
What’s different? There are cameras at practice solely focused on players’ body language. There’s mandatory exuberance after big plays captured by an end zone celebration camera. And overall, there’s a coaching philosophy more focused on the person than the player, as Healy preaches etiquette more than execution. Healy is such a stickler for manners that he makes his 3-year-old son, Eli, say please to the family’s Amazon Alexa device. “I don’t mind being different,” Healy said. “I think we hold our players accountable, but you don’t have to cuss ’em up one leg and down the other to do it.”
James Madison plays at Colgate tomorrow afternoon. Mike Houston has a lot on his mind, but this search isn’t standing still. Prior to offering the job to Houston, sources told FootballScoop Charlotte had also evaluated Kentucky offensive coordinator Eddie Gran and Alabama co-offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach Josh Gattis.
As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.
Update: Here’s the statement from Hill:
“Normally I would not comment on an ongoing search. However, in light of recent comments, I feel it’s important to update our supporters on the status of our interest in Mike Houston.
This morning we withdrew a contract offer that had been negotiated in good faith with Coach Houston and his representatives. This was based on the fact that last evening, Coach Houston informed us that he had interest in exploring other head coaching opportunities, while remaining in consideration here.”