James Madison’s Mike Houston to be ECU’s next football coach

The 47-year-old went 37-6 with an FCS national championship in his three seasons with the Duks

Mike Houston, who led James Madison to the 2016 FCS national championship, has been hired as ECU's new football coach (Daniel Lin/Daily News-Record via AP)

  When James Madison’s Mike Houston backed out of a deal to become Charlotte’s next football coach last week, it was assumed he did it to become a candidate for a similar job at East Carolina.

  Speculation only grew when the Pirates’ current coach, Scottie Montgomery, was fired on Thursday, just two days before his team was scheduled to play its final regular season game at NC State.

  Sunday, only 24 hours after a 58-3 loss to the Wolfpack, rumor became reality when Houston was hired as Montgomery’s replacement.

  The move won’t become official until the ECU Board of Trustees meets Monday morning at 9:30 a.m. to approve his contract. But through a statement posted on his now former school’s website both Houston and James Madison acknowledged his departure to an FBS program.

 According to multiple sources, that program is ECU.

  “We are grateful to Mike Houston, his family and his staff for their commitment to JMU over the last three years,” Dukes athletic director Jeff Bourne said in a statement. “When we hired Mike, he was the right coach at the right time for our program. He injected energy, he went about his job the right way, he cared about our student-athletes and he won.”

  Houston, a 47-year-old native of Franklin, led JMU to the FCS playoffs in all three of his seasons with the Dukes, compiling a 37-6 record that included a 34-14 win against ECU at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in the 2017 season opener.

  He led his team to the FCS national championship in 2016 and played for the title again the following season, finishing 14-1 both years. JMU  went 9-4 this season, finishing second in the Colonial Athletic Association. He takes over an ECU program that has suffered through a four straight losing seasons.

  Houston, who signed a 10-year contract extension with JMU last year, has a buyout of $750,000.

  He isn’t the only significant hire made by ECU on Sunday.

  As reported last week, Southern Mississippi’s Jon Gilbert will also be announced as the Pirates’ new athletic director, filling a position that has been vacant since last March.