Houston has fired coach Major Applewhite after two seasons with the program, the school announced Sunday.
Applewhite went 15-11 in two-plus seasons at the helm, succeeding Tom Herman, who was 22-4 at Houston before taking the head coaching job at Texas. Houston will owe Applewhite a $1.95 million buyout.
"We'd like to thank Coach Applewhite and his family for their commitment to the success of the Houston Football program over the last four seasons including the last two as our head coach," said Houston vice president for athletics Chris Pezman via statement. "After a thorough evaluation of our football program, it is my assessment our future opportunities for success are better addressed by making this very difficult decision now.
"While the immediate future may be challenging, our future at UH is very bright. We've made many sizable improvements over the past five years, and I look forward to enhancing our future success through the hiring of our next head coach. At this time we have already begun the search process for our next head coach and will not comment further until the search is concluded."
The Cougars rose to as high as No. 17 in The Associated Press poll this season following a 7-1 start but lost four of their last five games, including a 70-14 loss to Army in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl. That loss tied the record for the largest margin of defeat in an FBS bowl game. Applewhite went 0-3 in bowl games, also losing to San Diego State and Fresno State in his tenure.
Houston power brokers haven't been shy about their expectations for the program. At a holiday party two years ago -- shortly after Applewhite was hired -- university president Renu Khator said "winning is defined at the University of Houston as 10-2 ... We'll fire coaches at 8-4," according to a Houston Chronicle account of the event. Herman, Kevin Sumlin and Art Briles all had significant success at Houston in the past 15 years before moving on to jobs at Power 5 programs.