Fresh off back-to-back bowl appearances, a Conference USA West Division title and a national ranking for most of the 2009 season, University of Houston head football coach Kevin Sumlin enters his third season poised to lead the Cougars to even greater heights in the national spotlight in 2010.
In 2009, the bar was set even higher and the football team surpassed those expectations. Houston finished with a 10-4 overall record while winning the West Division with a 6-2 league mark, and along the way, earned a berth in a fifth-straight bowl game. En route to the 10-4 record, UH knocked off Texas Tech, No. 5/6 Oklahoma State and Mississippi State and were 4-0 in non-conference action. Statistically, the University of Houston led the nation in passing offense (433.71 ypg), total offense (563.36 ypg) and scoring offense (42.21 ppg).
The high-powered Cougar offense topped 40 points in nine of 14 games, reached 50 points on four occasions and registered at least 70 points in a game for the second straight season, when UH knocked off its cross-town rival Rice, 73-14, to take back the Bayou Bucket.
Sumlin guided quarterback Case Keenum to 2009 Conference USA MVP honors, and Keenum not only led the nation in total offense for the second straight season, but he also finished eighth in the Heisman Trophy voting. In addition, wide receiver James Cleveland was named the C-USA Newcomer of the Year, while running back Charles Sims was named the Freshman of the Year. Sumlin earned his first C-USA Coach of the Year award. Among the individual award winners, 15 Cougars were also named to either the C-USA First or Second Teams.
Houston also became just the third team to post a 5,000-yard passer (Keenum) and three 1,000-yard receivers (Cleveland, Tyron Carrier and Patrick Edwards) in one season, and the 1,000-yard receiving trio marked just the fourth time the feat had been accomplished in NCAA history.
However, a bowl victory was not the only highlight of Sumlin's first season as head coach. In week five of the season, the Cougars knocked off No. 23 East Carolina, 41-24, posting Houston's first road win over a ranked opponent in 24 years. Coupled with the team's 70-30 victory over No. 24 Tulsa in November, it marked the first time since 1984 that Houston defeated two ranked teams in the same season.
Additionally, Sumlin guided the Cougars to a perfect 5-0 mark at home and a 6-2 finish in C-USA action. He was one of only 10 first-year Football Bowl Subdivision coaches to guide his team to a bowl game and one of only six to win the bowl contest. And with their eight victories, Sumlin recorded the most wins by a first-year head coach in UH history.
Statistically, it was an outstanding inaugural season for Sumlin as well, as the Cougars established 22 season and career records in 2008. The Houston offense ranked No. 2 nationally in both total offense (562.8 ypg) and passing yards (401.6 ypg), No. 4 in first downs (355), and No. 10 in both scoring (40.6 ppg) and 3rd down percentage (51.0).
Keenum finished the year as the nation's leader in total offense (403.2 ypg) and No. 2 in passing yards per game (386.2 ypg), while senior defensive end Phillip Hunt finished No. 2 nationally in sacks per game (1.08 spg).
Under Sumlin's guidance, Keenum was named the Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year, Hunt was named the Defensive Player of the Year and freshman running back Bryce Beall was named the C-USA Freshman of the Year. Overall, the Cougars garnered more than 60 individual honors following the 2008 season.
Sumlin came to Houston after seven seasons as an assistant coach and offensive coordinator in the Big 12. When introduced to lead the Cougars in December of 2007, Sumlin became the 12th head coach in UH history and the first African-American to lead the prestigious Cougar program.
With a reputation for engineering high-powered offenses and considered one of the country's top recruiters, Sumlin brought with him a wealth of collegiate coaching experience and a penchant for innovative ideas and styles.
Sumlin spent the previous five seasons at the University of Oklahoma, where he served as both the co-offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach (2006-07) and special teams coordinator/tight ends coach (2003-05).
In 2007, the OU receivers recorded 19 touchdowns while Malcolm Kelly and Juaquin Iglesias provided one of the best 1-2 receiving punches in the nation, ranking fifth and sixth in the OU record book for receiving yards in a season.
Offensively, the Sooners finished fifth in the nation in scoring offense at 42.3 points per game, while ranking 19th nationally in total offense averaging 448.9 yards per game.
The 2006 season saw OU's receivers catch 17 touchdown passes while Kelly reached 1,000 career-receiving yards faster than any player in school history. The Sooner offense ranked 19th nationally in scoring offense at 30.3 points per game. Prior to becoming co-offensive coordinator, Sumlin served as the Sooners' special teams coordinator.
In 2005, the Sooners ranked fourth nationally in kickoff return defense, a year after finishing sixth in that category. Sophomore punter Cody Freeby ranked 27th nationally with a 42.3 yard average, while OU ranked 10th in the country in net punting, averaging 37.8 yards per kick.
Before his arrival in Norman, Sumlin spent two seasons at Texas A&M, where he served as the assistant head coach, offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach.
Three games into the 2002 campaign, Sumlin was thrust into the offensive coordinator role, and the Aggies averaged 33.0 points per game after posting just 16.0 ppg before he took control. Working in his new position, the Aggies knocked off No. 1 Oklahoma, while the offense averaged 419 yards per game after netting an average of 286 yards in the season's first three contests.
Sumlin also has made stops at his alma mater, Purdue (1998-2001), Minnesota (1993-97) and Wyoming (1991-92).
Purdue's 1998 receivers set school records with 377 receptions for 4,208 yards and 43 touchdowns. The Boilermakers' Chris Daniels set a Big Ten record with 121 catches and recorded another Big Ten record with 21 receptions in one game.
Sumlin began his career as a graduate assistant at Washington State for Mike Price (1989-90). He also has been an assistant coach under Bob Stoops (Oklahoma), R.C. Slocum (Texas A&M), Joe Tiller (Purdue and Wyoming), Jim Wacker (Minnesota) and Glen Mason (Minnesota).
Sumlin has coached in 11 bowl games, including all four BCS games. Five came during his time at Oklahoma (2008 Fiesta, 2007 Fiesta, 2005 Holiday, 2005 Orange, 2004 Sugar), one at Texas A&M (2002 GalleryFurniture.com) and three with Purdue (2002 Rose, 2000 Outback, 1998 Alamo). He also is the only coach in Houston history to lead his team to back-to-back bowl appearances during his first two seasons.
A four-year letterman as a linebacker at Purdue (1983-86), Sumlin still ranks among the top 10 in career tackles for the Boilermakers. He was named to Sports Illustrated's All-America walk-on list as a freshman after leading Purdue with 91 tackles.
He was named Honorable Mention All-Big Ten in 1984 and helped the team reach the Peach Bowl. Sumlin also earned Honorable Mention All-Big Ten honors as a senior, ranking No. 5 in the league with 114 tackles.
The Indianapolis native graduated from Purdue in 1988 with a bachelor's degree in both criminology and criminal justice. Sumlin and his wife Charlene have four children: daughters Courtney and Shelby, and sons Jackson and Joey.