HOUSTON – Houston head football coach Tony Levine filled the remaining open position on his staff Tuesday as he announced the hiring of Vernon Hargreaves (pronounced Har-graves) as the program’s linebackers coach. The 28-year coaching veteran spent the last three seasons at the University of South Florida where he coached defensive ends and oversaw the program’s special teams units.
“We are excited to add a coach of Vernon Hargreaves’ caliber,” said Levine. “When you look at his resume, his track record speaks for itself. He’s a veteran of the game and he’s been known to develop linebackers that excel on the college and professional level as evident with seven NFL Pro Bowl honors shared by players he coached. Just last night I watched Tavares Gooden, who he coached in college, playing in the Super Bowl for the 49ers.”
Coaching staffs that included Hargreaves have advanced to bowl games in 12 of the last 15 seasons including back-to-back BCS National Championship appearances while at Miami in 2001 and 2002. Hargreaves’ 2001 linebackers helped to lead a Miami defense that allowed just 9.4 points per game en route to a national title.
“I’m excited to join the Houston family and am really looking forward to getting to work with Tony and the rest of the staff,” said Hargreaves. “I’m familiar with the program having coached against it in the past, so I know there is great potential in a great environment. The future for this program is definitely an exciting one.”
In his last three seasons at USF, Hargreaves helped to lead a defense that finished among the Big East leaders. In 2011, Hargreaves’ defensive ends helped USF finish second nationally in tackles for loss and fourth nationally in sacks while only allowing 107.3 rushing yards per game, good for 15th in the NCAA ranks. The unit helped South Florida win its fourth bowl game in school history with a 31-26 win over Clemson in the 2010 Meineke Car Care Bowl.
Hargreaves’ first year at the USF saw the Bulls’ defense rank 17th nationally in total defense, 317.9 yards per game, 22nd in scoring defense, 20.0 points per game, and 22nd in rushing defense with 125.6 yards per game. The Bulls led the Big East in tackles for loss while finishing fourth in the conference in sacks.
Prior to his time in Tampa, Hargreaves spent three seasons in charge of East Carolina’s defensive ends and special teams. In addition to being a part of a coaching staff that appeared in a bowl in all three of his seasons in Greenville, N.C., Hargreaves was instrumental in the development of a pair of All-Conference USA performers, five game-winning field goals and college football’s all-time leading career kickoff return specialist at the time.
Under Hargreaves’ leadership, defensive end C.J. Wilson was named the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year in 2007 after leading the Pirates with 10.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss. Fellow end Zack Slate was not far behind with five sacks on the season.
ECU special teams under Hargreaves flourished as well. His 2007 kickoff return unit ranked 13th nationally with an average return of 24.3 yards per return while the punting unit led Conference USA in net punting in both 2008, when it finished ninth nationally with a net average of 37.9 yards per punt, and in 2009, when it finished seventh nationally with a net average of 39.1 yards per punt.
Hargreaves also helped East Carolina star Chris Johnson earn All-America honors his senior season as he completed the 2007 season as one of the country’s top return specialists. In the kicking game, Hargreaves’ field goal unit accumulated five game-winning field goals in his three years while kicker Ben Hartman ranked 10th nationally with 1.91 field goals per game in 2008.
Prior to spending the 2006 season at Florida International, where he coached Lombardi Award nominee Keyonvis Bouie, Hargreaves enjoyed a successful eight years at Miami in which the Hurricanes advanced to a bowl each season including back-to-back BCS National Championship appearances and the 2001 BCS Championship.
Credited with molding some of the nation’s top linebackers while in Coral Gables, Hargreaves saw Dan Morgan win the Butkus Award, Nagurski Trophy and the Bednarik Award in 2000 and Jonathan Vilma and D.J. Williams finish as semifinalists for the Butkus Award in 2003. The three would all later be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, three of Hargreaves’ seven linebackers to be drafted with the Miami program.
During Miami's 12-0 national championship season in 2001, which was capped by a 37-14 win over Nebraska in the Rose Bowl, Hargreaves helped guide a Hurricane defense that allowed just 9.4 points per game, only 138.2 passing yards a contest while netting a +2.36 edge in turnover margin. A year later, UM's defense surrendered a paltry 119.7 passing yards per game on the way to a 12-1 campaign that concluded with a title game appearance against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl.
During his time at Miami, Hargreaves enjoyed a run of eight consecutive bowl appearances beginning in 1998 which resulted in victories against N.C. State (Micron PC), Georgia Tech (Gator), Florida (Sugar, Peach), Nebraska (Rose) and Florida State (Orange).
Hargreaves accepted his position at Miami after 13 seasons on the University of Connecticut staff, where he was outside linebackers coach from 1985-89 and inside linebackers coach from 1989-97. While at his alma mater, he played a pivotal role in the development of Paul Duckworth, who was a sixth-round pick of the Green Bay Packers in 1994.
A native of New Haven, Conn., Hargreaves earned a bachelor's of science degree in sociology from Connecticut in 1986. Prior to graduation, he was a four-year football letterman for the Huskies, who earned All-America honors as a junior and senior linebacker.
He still ranks fifth on the UConn career tackles list with 393, holds two of the top-10 single-season tackle marks and stands as one of only eight Huskies to register 20 tackles in a single game (vs. Holy Cross in 1983). At the end of his collegiate career, Hargreaves signed a free agent contract with the Cleveland Browns and played professional football in Italy.
In 1998, Hargreaves was named a member of UConn's 100th Anniversary Team commemorating the greatest players in the football program's first century. On March 24, 2007, he was inducted into the inaugural class of New Haven's James Hillhouse High School Athletic Hall-of-Fame after earning all-state honors as a prep standout in the late 1970s.
Hargreaves is married to the former Jackie Bond and the two have three children; Carina, Vernon III and Chanelle.