Coach Houston responds to report that he's leaving JMU

HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — 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."