Conference USA Football Championship - Houston 34, Southern Mississippi 20 (AP Photos/Dave Einsel)
University of Houston head football coach Art Briles can finally feel satisfied...he has returned a smile to Shasta's face. One of the first things Briles mentioned when he was hired at his former school was that he "wanted to put a smile back on Shasta's face." Consider it done. Not only has Briles returned national respectibility to the once-proud Cougar Football Program, but he also guided the Red and White to a Conference USA Championship last season with an impressive 10-4, 7-1 mark. The Cougars played in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl for the first time in a decade, playing South Carolina in what CollegeFootballNews.com determined was the fourth-best 2006 postseason bowl game.
For his outstanding effort, Briles was honored by his C-USA peers by being named the 2006 Coaches Conference USA Coach of the Year and also was named the Sportexe 2006 Division I-A National Football Coach of the Year. In May 2007, Briles received the Johnny Vaught Head Coach of the Year Award from the All-American Football Foundation.
Briles knew he had a special team in 2006. The Cougars had 17 starters returning, a favorable schedule and gunslinger Kevin Kolb returning at quarterback for the fourth season. But, Briles wanted this championship to be won during the off-season, so he implemented a rigorous workout routine that paid dividends in the fourth quarter. The Cougars were a tough team to beat, but even harder to knock off in the second half, especially during the six-game win streak to end the season.
It was Briles' patience and dogged determination that kept the Cougars going after a midseason swoon that saw UH go from 4-0 to 4-3 and on the verge of dropping out of the C-USA race. However, Briles saw something in his Cougars: heart and passion. And, Houston had lost three straight by a combined eight points.
Under Briles' guidance the Cougars reeled off consecutive wins over UTEP, UCF, Tulsa, SMU and Memphis to capture the West Division title and the right to play host to the Conference USA Championship Game. Then, the Cougars exacted some revenge for their only league loss by knocking off Southern Miss, 34-20, to win the league crown.
The Cougars had the nation's seventh best turnaround from 2005, a +4 in the win column. Also, the Cougars are conference champions just five years removed from finishing the 2001 season winless. In the past 30 years only five other teams in Division I-A football have been able to improve from winless to conference champs and just 14 other schools since the early 1900s.
Briles guided the Cougars to a bowl appearance for the third time in four years. One of nine finalists for the Eddie Robinson National Coach of the Year award, Briles is the third coach in school history to lead the Cougars to a 10-win season and the sixth one to lead his team to a conference championship. He is now tied for third in all-time victories at UH with 26.
This past season the Cougars' offense was ranked number one in Conference USA and sixth nationally with 439.9 yards per game. He mentored Kolb to a consensus Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year award (Media and Coaches), while center Sterling Doty (Media and Coaches), free safety Will Gulley (Media and Coaches) and linebacker Wade Koehl (Coaches) all were selected to the Conference USA First Team.
As a matter of fact, a record 13 Cougars were honored with postseason awards on the Media list, while 12 were selected by the Conference USA Coaches. Kolb finished his career ranked #3 in the NCAA history books for total offense and #4 for passing yards.
Briles had some significant wins during the '06 campaign, including his first-ever win over a Big XII opponent, knocking off Oklahoma State, 34-25, on Sept. 23 at Robertson Stadium. He also defeated Memphis, UCF and UTEP for the first time and was able to improve to 3-1 versus cross-town rival Rice.
Coaching football at Houston is not just a job for Briles: It is his passion and his dream-come-true all rolled up into one for the former Cougar standout. If his first four seasons at the University of Houston are any indication of his future success, go ahead and stamp the name "Briles" in the UH record books.
Briles concluded his third season by taking the Cougars to their second bowl appearance in the past three seasons, becoming just the second coach in UH history to lead his squad to at least two bowl games. Briles made history in 2003, when he led the Cougars to a 7-6 record and a berth in the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl in just his first season as a collegiate head coach. Even though the Cougars' came up short in their first bowl game in seven years, Houston's 54-48 triple overtime loss to Hawai'i was one of the most exciting bowl games not only in 2003, but in the history of college football. Briles became the second UH head coach to lead his troops to a bowl game in his first year, joining his former coach and legendary College Football Hall of Fame head coach Bill Yeoman in this exclusive group.
The Cougars were an exciting team to watch in Briles' first campaign, topping 50 points and 500 yards of total offense in six games. His team averaged 458.3 yards and 34.5 points per game in 2003, as Briles guided the Cougars to a 4-4 record in Conference USA for its best finish since 1999. More impressive, the Cougars finished 4-3 on the road under Briles' direction, including a 3-1 road mark in league action.
Briles' innovative offense produced a 1,000-yard rusher (Anthony Evans), a 1,000-yard receiver (Brandon Middleton) and a 3,000-yard passer (Kevin Kolb)-one of only five Division I-A teams to post such outstanding performers. The Cougars also were one of a handful of Division I-A schools to score more than 40 points in at least seven games in 2003.
Briles also tutored Kolb to Conference USA Freshman-of-the-Year honors, as Kolb became the first true freshman to start a season opener at quarterback for the Cougars in their 58-year history. Briles also coached two First-Team, All-Conference performers in Middleton and center Rex Hadnot, as well as Second-Teamers Joe Clay (defensive end) and Matt Mattox (offensive tackle.) Both Evans and tight end Jonathan Pritchett picked up Third-Team accolades. WR Leonard Gibson, LB Wade Koehl, DT Marquay Love and CB/KR Ricky Wilson were members of the 2003 Conference USA All-Freshman squad.
In 2004, both Clay and wide receiver Vincent Marshall grabbed Second-Team All-C-USA accolades, while offensive tackle Phil Hawkins, defensive tackle Kade Lane and cornerback Stanford Routt were named to the league's Third Team. Indicative of his productive recruiting, offensive guard Byron Alfred, wide receiver Donnie Avery, offensive tackle SirVincent Rogers and strong safety Rocky Schwartz picked up All-C-USA Freshman Team honors.
In the spring of 2005, Routt was a second-round draft pick of the NFL's Oakland Raiders.
In 2005, Briles' offense finished #1 in Conference USA, and both Ryan Gilbert and Marshall were named to the Conference USA First Team. Lane picked up Second-Team honors, while Kolb, Schwartz, Koehl, Rogers and David Douglas were named to the Third Team.
Under Briles' direction in 2003, the Cougars jumped out to a 5-1 start, the best for any UH coach in 13 seasons. Along the way Houston knocked off arch-rival Rice, Mississippi State of the Southeastern Conference and Louisiana-Lafayette, as well as league foes East Carolina and Tulane. The Cougars finished the 2003 season with wins over Army and UAB to clinch their first bowl berth in seven seasons.
Briles became the first former UH player to lead the Cougar football program, when his team took on Rice in the season opener on August 30, 2003. Briles is the 10th head coach in the program's history, and the Houston job is his first Division I-A head coaching position.
The Cougars certainly lived up to his beliefs in 2003.
A former wide receiver for the Cougars from 1974-77, Briles was a member of the 1976 Cougar squad that captured the Southwest Conference championship in UH's first-season in the league. He later played in the 1977 Cotton Bowl against fifth-ranked Maryland, a game won by the Cougars, 30-21.
Briles returned to the place where his collegiate career began after spending three years as the running backs coach at Texas Tech University. Under his direction, the Red Raider rushing attack drastically improved each year. Taurean Henderson led the Red Raider rushing game during his freshman year, when Texas Tech averaged over 100 yards for the first time under head coach Mike Leach. Henderson rushed for 733 yards on 143 carries and 5.1 yards per attempt. He also broke the school's freshman record for scoring with 11 touchdowns, six on the ground and five in the air.
Briles' running game complemented the air-it-out style of Leach. The Red Raiders led the Big 12 Conference and ranked fourth nationally in total offense, and was seventh nationally in scoring at 37.1 points per game.
When Briles accepted the position at Texas Tech, he inherited one of the nation's top running backs in Ricky Williams and a corps of underclassmen. Williams finished the 2001 campaign as the nation's second-leading receiver and was a First-Team, All-Big 12 selection as an all-purpose back and a Second-Team pick as a running back. Williams finished second in the Big 12 with 122.7 all-purpose yards per game.
Before he went to Texas Tech, Briles spent 12 seasons as a head coach and athletics director at Stephenville (Texas) High School. During his tenure, the Yellowjackets won four state championships, including back-to-back titles in 1998 and 1999. His 1998 team posted a then national record 8,650 yards of total offense and still holds the third and fourth positions on the national all-time list. During a six-year stretch, he set a record as his teams posted a 91-11-1 (.888) mark during the run. While coaching in the high school ranks, Briles developed six Division I quarterbacks and had five quarterbacks throw for over 3,000 yards in a season.
Briles has spent his entire coaching career in the state of Texas. He began at Sundown as an assistant coach in 1979 and moved on to Sweetwater for four seasons as an assistant in 1980. His first head coaching opportunity came at Hamlin in 1984-86, where he also served as athletics director.
In 1986, Briles began a two-year stint as head coach and athletics director at Georgetown, before moving on to Stephenville in 1988.
Briles received a Bachelor of Arts degree at Texas Tech in 1979 and a Master's of Education degree at Abilene Christian University. He played collegiately at the University of Houston as a wide receiver from 1974-77.
Briles was recently inducted into the Big Country Athletic Hall of Fame for his West Texas exploits.
Briles and his wife, Jan, have three children, Jancy, a graduate of the University of Houston who now works in the Dallas Cowboys Public Relations office; Kendal, a former quarterback and wide receiver on the Cougar squad in 2004-05 and also a graduate of the University of Houston; and Staley, a senior at UH this fall.
Briles at a glance
BRILES' COACHING EXPERIENCE
|2002||Texas Tech||Assistant/Running Backs|
|2001||Texas Tech||Assistant/Running Backs|
|2000||Texas Tech||Assistant/Running Backs|
|1999||Stephenville H.S.||Head Coach/Athletic Director|
|1998||Stephenville H.S.||Head Coach/Athletic Director|
|1997||Stephenville H.S.||Head Coach/Athletic Director|
|1996||Stephenville H.S.||Head Coach/Athletic Director|
|1995||Stephenville H.S.||Head Coach/Athletic Director|
|1994||Stephenville H.S.||Head Coach/Athletic Director|
|1993||Stephenville H.S.||Head Coach/Athletic Director|
|1992||Stephenville H.S.||Head Coach/Athletic Director|
|1991||Stephenville H.S.||Head Coach/Athletic Director|
|1990||Stephenville H.S.||Head Coach/Athletic Director|
|1989||Stephenville H.S.||Head Coach/Athletic Director|
|1988||Stephenville H.S.||Head Coach/Athletic Director|
|1987||Georgetown H.S.||Head Coach/Athletic Director|
|1986||Georgetown H.S.||Head Coach/Athletic Director|
|1985||Hamlin H.S.||Head Coach/Athletic Director|
|1984||Hamlin H.S.||Head Coach/Athletic Director|