Citadel head football coach Houston leaving for James Madison

The Citadel head football coach Mike Houston announced on Monday that he was leaving the Bulldog program for a head coaching job at James Madison University in Virginia. (WCIV)

Citadel head football coach Mike Houston is leaving the program after two years and taking up the head coaching responsibilities at James Madison University in Virginia.

Houston and Athletic Director Jim Senter released statements on the move Monday evening.

"I'm thankful for my time at The Citadel and the support given to us by Jim Senter, Gen. Rosa and Capt. Paulso. We were able to lay the foundation for success, and I have no doubt they will continue building to reach the next level," Houston said.

He added that after researching James Madison, he realized it was a big opportunity for his coaching career.

"I'm happy for Coach Houston and appreciate the contributions he made to our program. He has established a foundation which we can build upon for future success. We wish Mike and his family the best as they start their new endeavors at James Madison. We will move as quickly as possible to find the perfect fit for The Citadel," Senter said.

Officials at The Citadel did not say when Houston was leaving, but there are only a few weeks left to recruit before national signing day so Houston could be out of his Moultrie Street office and on the road to Virginia immediately.

"I am thrilled to welcome Mike Houston as the next football head coach at James Madison," Director of Athletics Jeff Bourne said. "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 formal press conference to announce Houston's hire on Tuesday, Jan. 19 at 3 p.m. in the Bridgeforth Stadium Club.

Houston led The Citadel to a 9-4 record this year and the second round of the FCS playoffs, knocking off Coastal Carolina in the first round.

Houston joined the Bulldog program after a successful stint leading Lenoir-Rhine to the Division II National Championship game. The highlight of this season for Houston came late in the season, beating the South Carolina Gamecocks in Columbia. Houston is a defensive coach, so it's not certain that he will bring with him the triple option to James Madison.

JMU is a prestigious coaching job. It has some of the top facilities in that level of football. Everett Withers cavated the job at James Madison for the head coaching job at Texas State. Withers went 18-7 in Harrisonburg.

The guy Houston beat out for the job was Bobby Hauck, who was also on campus Monday in Harrisonburg. Hauck is the former head coach at both Montana and UNLV. He's now at San Diego State.

So who will replace Houston at The Citadel?

There are some obvious names for the job, including defensive coordinator Maurice Drayton. Drayton is well-respected in the college football ranks and a Moncks Corner native at Citadel grad. He's in his second stint coaching at The Citadel. He also coached at Coastal Carolina.

Another name who will almost certainly come up to replace Houston is Everette Sands, the Citadel great who is now unemployed after not being retained by Will Muschamp in Columbia. Sands certainly knows the triple option, and he has deep ties at The Citadel being both an alum and a former assistant coach under Kevin Higgins.

But if the Bulldogs want to take an offensive direction, Brent Thompson is an option. He was the offensive coordinator under Houston at The Citadel and at Lenoir-Rhine.

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