| || HOUSTON -- The Houston Cougars on Monday fired coach Kim
Helton despite a seven-win season and a chance at their second bowl
appearance this decade.
The university must pay Helton the $600,000 for the two years
remaining on his contract, but athletics director Chet Gladchuk said
it was time for a change.
"We are very appreciative for the efforts and contributions Kim
has made to the university during his tenure as our football
coach," Gladchuk said. "The program has made significant strides
in establishing a competitive foundation.
"We are highly confident new leadership will now even further
advance our chances of returning this program to one of national
Houston was 24-53-1 under Helton, the eighth coach in the
program's history. Addressing reporters during an impromptu news
conference Monday at the university, Helton said he was surprised
by his dismissal.
"I'm going to coach somebody somewhere," Helton said of his
future. Attorneys will work out the final financial details of his
departure, he added.
Houston might get a Humanitarian Bowl berth if Louisville
accepts an alternate bowl bid. An assistant coach would take over
on an interim basis if Houston plays in a bowl, athletics department
spokesman Chris Burkhalter said.
Players on Monday referred to Helton as a "father figure" who
will be missed but recognized that Gladchuk had his reasons for
making a change.
"He had been here for seven years, so what can you say?"
junior linebacker Wayne Rogers said. "The best thing for us to do
is put it behind us and forget about it."
Houston was a perennially ranked force in the 1960s and 1970s
under Bill Yeoman, then saw a resurgence with the high-octane
run-and-shoot offense in the late 1980s.
But the Cougars have not ended a season in the Top 25 since
quarterback David Klingler slung Houston to a No. 10 finish in 1990.
Helton inherited a depleted program in 1993 and won just four
games in his first three seasons. Houston then went 7-4 and shared
the Conference USA title before losing their Liberty Bowl game in
1996, one year after the Southwest Conference fell apart.
After reverting to a pair of 3-8 seasons, Houston again went 7-4
this year and finished with consecutive victories over Tulane,
Louisiana State and Army. The Cougars finished sixth in Conference
USA with a 3-3 record.
"Beating LSU used to be pretty good, but they just happened to
be down this year," Helton said. "I'm very proud of this football
|Kim Helton was 24-53-1 during his career with Houston.|| |
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