HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — UPDATE (Nov. 30):
Following a flurry of media attention spawned by a report that JMU head coach Mike Houston could be leaving Harrisonburg to coach for the Charlotte 49ers, the team has withdrawn its offer just days later.
Earlier this week, Coach Houston told WHSV in an on-field press conference that he had been contacted on Sunday by Mike Hill, Charlotte's athletic director, and offered the position of head coach for the 49ers.
"We had a great conversation," Houston said. "I listened to him. I talked to him again on Tuesday. I told him I was interested in the job."
But, according to a press release sent out by Charlotte on Friday, Houston was interested in other jobs as well, and so they're taking their offer off the table.
"Normally, I would not comment on an ongoing search," said Hill. "However, in light of recent public comments, I feel it's important to update our supporters on the status of our interest in Mike Houston. This morning, we withdrew a contract offer that had been negotiated in good faith with Coach Houston and his representatives. This was based on the fact that last evening, Coach Houston informed us that he had interest in exploring other head coaching opportunities, while remaining under consideration here."
The Charlotte 49ers are also known the football team of University of North Carolina Charlotte.
Houston, who led JMU to an FCS national championship victory in 2016 and back to the championship game in 2017, signed a 10-year contract extension with JMU at the end of 2017.
"I've turned down opportunities at the FBS level, and I did it because I believe in James Madison University," he said at the time, last December. "I am committed to ensuring that the JMU football program is one that is a reflection of our outstanding institution. I'm committed to staying here because JMU is different."
In the wake of the Charlotte report, as well as other sources claiming Houston could be considering a move to East Carolina University, JMU students reacted strongly.
A sign reading "PLZ STAY COACH" was posted at one of the entrances to the university Thursday morning.
In Charlotte, which currently has no coach, Mike Hill continued his statement, saying, "We feel great about our candidate pool and believe this institution, our students, fans and team deserve a head coach that is 100% committed to the Charlotte 49ers."
Charlotte 49ers Withdraw Offer to Mike Houston— Charlotte 49ers (@Charlotte49ers) November 30, 2018
Full statement below: pic.twitter.com/f0QOC9Uvo1
UPDATE: (Nov. 29):
On Thursday, JMU students reacted to reports that head football coach Mike Houston may be leaving the Dukes.
"My freshman year we won the National Championship and that really left an impression on me, and I always had a lot of fun going to JMU games," said Nick Harbaugh, a student at JMU. "Just the culture that he brought to the school and the students-- I really appreciated it."
Thursday morning. a sign was posted on campus saying "PLZ STAY COACH."
Banner at JMU's Newman Lake entrance this morning urging football coach Mike Houston to stay. pic.twitter.com/s4HdpmGID7— Thomas Robertson (@TomRobertsonJMU) November 29, 2018
James Madison head coach Mike Houston has responded to speculation that he is expected to take the head coaching job at Charlotte.
Bruce Feldman, a reporter with The Athletic, tweeted Wednesday afternoon that Houston is expected to leave Harrisonburg to become the new head coach at University of North Carolina Charlotte.
After initial requests for comment from WHSV and other media sources were denied by JMU on Wednesday afternoon, Houston responded to questions in an on-field press conference Wednesday evening.
"I'm not here to talk about speculation, rumors, anything like that," Houston said. "But I will talk to you about facts. And it's unfortunate. It's a reality of college football right now is the national signing day is moved up to December. Institutions have sped up their process for going after candidates. That being said, I was contacted on Sunday by the Charlotte athletics director Mike Hill. We had a great conversation. I listened to him. I talked to him again on Tuesday. I told him I was interested in the job. It has nothing to do with JMU. James Madison University. I have been blessed to be head coach here. I'm still head coach here. I have been fortunate enough to be around the best young men that I could ever possibly be around, and they have done everything I've ever asked of them. I have loyal coaches and a great administration. I've been honest, straightforward with everyone at any institution I've talked to, including this one. I was honest with my team today."
"The facts are, I've been offered a job," he continued. "That's it. It is two and a half hours from my parents, my family, and there are personal reasons why that's important to me. At the same time, this group here is very important to me also. The big thing I want is I want that group right there to have the opportunity to compete on Saturday at a very high level."
Houston, who led JMU to the FCS national championship in 2016 and 2017, with a 2016 victory, signed a 10-year contract with the university just under a year ago.
In December of 2017, James Madison Director of Athletics Jeff Bourne announced the contract extension right after the team's victory over Weber State to make it to the FCS National Semifinals.
"James Madison is a special place," Houston said at the time. "Amanda, our boys and I want to be here and consider this home. JMU approached me in in the second half of the regular season to discuss an extended contract. During negotiations, there was significant interest from multiple FBS programs. Throughout the process, JMU was proactive in wanting to make a long-term commitment while ensuring that our staff could remain intact. I've turned down opportunities at the FBS level, and I did it because I believe in James Madison University. I believe in the leadership of Jeff Bourne, Senior Vice President Charlie King and President Jonathan Alger. I believe in their vision for our university and our athletics programs. I also believe in our student-athletes, everyone in athletics who supports us and the passionate fan base that cheers for us. I am committed to ensuring that the JMU football program is one that is a reflection of our outstanding institution. I'm committed to staying here because JMU is different."