Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

Houston Football Player Calls Out Dana Holgorsen, Says Coach Is Tanking The Season

Illustration for article titled Houston Football Player Calls Out Dana Holgorsen, Says Coach Is Tanking The Season
Photo: Kevin Cox (Getty)

Houston Cougars offensive lineman Justin Murphy, who left the team Tuesday, shared his experience Thursday about his rough year with the program, as well as the specific mismanagement of head coach Dana Holgorsen. Murphy, a sixth-year graduate transfer who also attended Texas Tech and UCLA, said his body is too worn down to keep playing football, but claimed Holgorsen and the administration wants to tank the Cougars’ season.


The Cougars have had a rough year, as they stand at 2-3 and will be without several senior leaders for the rest of the season. Quarterback D’Eriq King and starting wide receiver Keith Corbin both announced they would redshirt the rest of the season after a 1-3 start. The timing works out well for the program next year, when several transfers from other programs will become eligible to play. The timing does not work out well for seniors like Murphy, who are screwed out a potentially competitive final season. His thread begins here, and you can find a full transcript below.

My name is Justin Murphy. And according to sources I am no longer apart of the 2019 Houston Cougar Football Senior Class. A senior class that is the first group to experience a head coach and administration to actively tank a football season.

To give a little chronological context as to why I am no longer with the team, I want to take it back to how the season began. We started off the season on a primetime Sunday night vs. Oklahoma University. After receiving a tick in the loss column, we would go on to play 4 games in 19 days. A schedule unprecedented.

The motivating speech to get the labor force (players) through the gauntlet of the University of Houston’s attempt at capitalism? “Nobody watching is gonna care so we can’t care either!” One harsh truth of the nature of football. We would go on to hold a record of 1-3. Despite the record, we can all hope that the TV revenue produced in those four games was worth it.

As for me at the age of 23 and 3 prior knee surgeries, it was the hardest thing as an athlete I’ve ever done. I at least hope my time as a 4 game starter warrants the only guaranteed compensation I have, a single semester full athletic scholarship valuing at $14,686.71. The only other things I have left guaranteed as a result of my time in college football; a 4th and 5th knee surgery and undoubtedly a case of CTE. Following the fourth game on 9/19/19 I would be advised to receive an MRI in order to proceed with further injections into my right knee, an injury ridden joint starting back to my first year starting at Texas Tech. The MRI would reveal yet another torn medial meniscus and a torn and presumed “dead” ACL. An injury that if self-preservation is in mind, I would be advised by a doctor to medically retire.

That Monday I learned that the Head Coach of the Houston Cougars football team had personally contacted several seniors and asked them if they would redshirt for the 2019 football season, in order to “develop” and come back in 2020. All seniors which greatly contributed to the little success we had done up to that point. Two of the seniors would go on to accept this invitation, including the preseason Heisman dark horse QB. My reaction can be summed up by a quote I said earlier in the season, “I call bullshit when I see it.” As a second time graduate transfer that was recruited to Houston on verbal confirmation that we intended to win now, Coach’s actions in a lot of way’s proved otherwise. But it’s like corporate tax evasion, it’s all within the rules and with the long-term success of the program in mind.

I would continue to go to work that week, participating in the full speed contact practices in preparation of the game. However, that Friday I was told to remain off the plane and stay in Houston in order to “heal up mentally and physically.” Forcibly taking away one of the reasons why I came to this University in the first place. A suspension that came based on the logic that I was a distraction and not committed to the team. Coach left practice that day stating, “If you’re not 100% committed to the team then don’t get on the bus.” Ironic in light of recent events.

As anyone who’s participated in sports knows, playing through an injury that can progressively get worse takes a certain level of motivation within himself/herself, and a level of commitment from the team in which he/she plays for. In my circumstances I could no longer meet that criteria. I decided to focus on self-preservation rather than the win and losses. A common theme in the history of the 2019-20 Houston Cougar Football season.

Safe to say there was no love lost between myself and the ole’ head coach. Only reason I say this is because when I went to say my piece on the matter and to swallow my pride and thank him for this opportunity, I was met with a reaction I did not expect. Holgorsen sat at a desk, eyes glued to a monitor and replied with 13 words. “I don’t have time to talk, I only have time to coach.” and “O.K.” As if I didn’t deserve an eye to eye farewell or a proper handshake.

As a person that is guaranteed a non-salary compensation of $3.4 million to go along with a $300,000 base salary for the 2019 year, one might think you’d have a better outlook on the players that contribute to your compensation. I mean this is a team sport, right?

He concluded the thread by calling out Holgorsen specifically.

Deadspin reached out to the school for comment, and we’ll update this post if we hear back.

Staff writer, Deadspin