Doing some digging through old info about the Houston Cougars I came across some interesting info: In 2008 Art Briles had left the Cougars to become the head coach of the Baylor Bears. Among the candidates the Cougars were interviewing to replace Briles included Oklahoma OC Kevin Sumlin (who would be hired for the job), former Houston Cougars and Houston Oilers coach Jack Pardee (who passed away in 2013), Michael Haywood (then Notre Dame’s OC), Chris Thurmond (then a UH assistant), and none other than Gus Malzahn! I hadn’t remembered that Malzahn was a candidate for the Cougars head coaching position back then. Malzahn, the innovative former head coach at Springdale High School in Arkansas, was during this time Tulsa’s offensive coordinator and led the Golden Hurricanes high-flying offense.
The Cougars would hire Oklahoma OC Kevin Sumlin who would bring the Cougars to even further prominence and success than Art Briles had and Sumlin would leave for the head coach position at Texas A&M after the 2011 season. Malzahn would leave Tulsa after the 2008 season for the Auburn OC position and lead Cam Newton and the Tigers to the 2010 national championship where they beat Oregon. After 2011 Malzahn would become the head coach at Arkansas State for one season before heading back to Auburn to be head coach in 2013.
In hindsight, it seems obvious that Malzahn’s high octane, innovative spread offense would’ve been a great fit for the Cougars back in 2008. The Cougars were then led by a sophomore named Case Keenum who would re-write the record books under the Sumlin regime. But Coog fans shouldn’t have any regrets: Kevin Sumlin was also a great hire for the Coogs in 2008 and he brought in excellent offensive coordinators like Dana Holgorsen from ’09-10 and Kliff Kingsbury from ’10-11. Holgorsen is now the head man at West Virginia and Kingsbury is now running the show at Texas Tech. Who knows what the college football landscape would look like if Malzahn would’ve been hired instead of Sumlin.