JMU hires Houston as football coach

James Madison University hired Mike Houston as its new football head coach on Monday, Director of Athletics Jeff Bourne announced in a news release.

“I am thrilled to welcome Mike Houston as the next football head coach at James Madison,” Bourne stated in the release. “Mike has been a fast riser in the coaching ranks with success turning programs around at the Division II and FCS levels. His pedigree for winning and ability to lead young men make him the perfect fit to build upon the foundation already in place at JMU.”

JMU will hold a press conference to announce Houston’s hire at 3 p.m. Tuesday in the Bridgeforth Stadium Club. The event will be open to the public and streamed live on MadiZONE.

“I’m honored to have the opportunity to be the next head football coach at James Madison University,” Houston said in the press release. “James Madison is a special place and my family and I look forward to becoming integral parts of the community.”

Houston was the head coach the last two years at The Citadel. He led the Bulldogs to a 14-11 record in his two seasons as head coach. He is the only coach in The Citadel’s history to win a Southern Conference championship within his first two seasons.

In 2015, Houston guided the Bulldogs to the program’s fourth-ever winning season with a 9-4 record and a share of the 2015 Southern Conference title. They also defeated Southeastern Conference member South Carolina 23-22 in the regular-season finale and advanced to the second round of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs after upsetting ninth-ranked Coastal Carolina.

Houston was head coach at Lenoir-Rhyne, a NCAA Division II school in the South Atlantic Conference, for three seasons before going to The Citadel. He had a 29-8 record as head coach of the Bears and directed the team to three consecutive SAC championships, a stretch that included a school-record 13 wins in his final year. Houston was named SAC Coach of the Year each year and was also the Don Hansen Super Region II Coach of the Year in 2013. In his final year at Lenoir-Rhyne, the Bears advanced to the Division II national championship game and finished ranked No. 2 in the polls.

Before becoming head coach, Houston was the defensive coordinator at Lenoir-Rhyne as well as the secondary coach from 2007-10. He was also the associate head coach and defensive coordinator at Brevard College in 2006. He was a high school coach before coaching at Brevard.

Houston replaces Everett Withers as head coach. Withers left JMU two weeks ago for the job as head coach at Texas State. The Dukes went 9-3 last year, losing in the second round of the playoffs. They will be losing 11 seniors to graduation.

The hiring is just in time for the heavy recruiting season. National signing day for football is on Feb. 3. The next weekends are considered big recruiting weekends around the country.

“We are excited for JMU Nation to meet Mike Houston and his staff as they work to progress JMU football to bigger and better things,” Bourne stated in the release. “As he and his staff jump right into recruiting, spring ball and preparation for the 2016 season, now is a great time to make your impact by joining the Duke Club and supporting student-athletes.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com