Post and Courier
December 2, 2015

New Citadel football coach Mike Houston promises aggressive approach

Posted: 01/09/2014 12:06 p.m.
Updated: 01/09/2014 05:53 p.m.

By Jeff Hartsell

As new Citadel football coach Mike Houston was introduced Thursday at Johnson Hagood Stadium, his two young sons clambered over, under and around the rows of chairs set up for spectators.

Owen and Reid ended their morning with a wrestling match in front of the podium.

Houston, 42, promises a similarly aggressive approach as he takes over as the 24th coach in Citadel history and the successor to coach Kevin Higgins, who resigned Dec. 16 to become an assistant coach at Wake Forest.

A few sound bites from Thursday's news conference reveal the energetic style Houston brings with him from Division II Lenoir-Rhyne:

On his triple-option offense: "We'll primarily operate from a no-huddle, flexbone attack. We'll be extremely aggressive."

That approach and Houston's record in three seasons at Lenoir-Rhyne - 29-8 with a 13-2 mark and trip to the D-II national title game last year - made him "kind of jump out of the pack," Citadel athletic director Larry Leckonby said.

"He's the guy we went after and the guy we wanted to coach at The Citadel," said Leckonby, who said Houston received a five-year contract, but would not disclose his salary.

Leckonby said The Citadel wanted five things in its new coach: option experience; "CEO experience" as a head coach or coordinator; understanding of the culture of a military school; familiarity with the Southeast; and "passion."

He said Houston, a 1994 graduate of Mars Hill, can succeed at The Citadel, though he's never attended or coached at a military school.

"As you talk to players, coaches, folks who know him, everything seemed to say he's the type of guy that would be a good fit for the culture of discipline and leadership at The Citadel," Leckonby said.

Houston said it's his "goal" to have a coach with Citadel experience on his staff. Among the six assistants coming from Lenoir-Rhyne is offensive coordinator Brent Thompson; Houston met Thursday afternoon with current Citadel assistants.

"I'm going to rely on the people here, people who've played here and coached here as to exactly what traits we need in the players we recruit," he said.

Houston said Lenoir-Rhyne and The Citadel often recruited the same type of players in recent years. Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Miller, the likely starter next season, chose The Citadel over L-R.

As for the immediate future, Houston will attend the national coaches' convention this weekend in Indianapolis, where he will interview some prospective assistants. He will be back in Charleston early next week to prepare for a recruiting weekend Jan. 17-19 and to meet the current players, who return to campus Sunday. He said spring practice could be pushed back a week or two.

As for the long-term future: "I expect to compete for championships."