HARRISONBURG — Charlotte isn’t the only FBS program trying to hire James Madison football coach Mike Houston.
East Carolina, which plays its season finale on Saturday, fired coach Scottie Montgomery effective immediately on Thursday.
A source with knowledge of the situation on Thursday said East Carolina wasn’t planning on firing Montgomery until this coming Monday after the season ended, but when Charlotte’s offer to Houston became public the Pirates wanted to move more quickly on their top choice.
The third-year JMU coach, Houston, said Wednesday that Charlotte offered him the job to be the new coach of the 49ers and that he was interested in it.
“I was contacted on Sunday by Charlotte 49ers athletic director Mike Hill,” Houston said Wednesday. “We had a great conversation. I listened to him and I talked to him again on Tuesday. I told him I was interested in the job.”
Houston and JMU play Saturday in the second round of the FCS playoffs against No. 8-seed Colgate at Andy Kerr Stadium in Hamilton, N.Y.
If Houston would depart JMU, he’d be leaving only one season into the 10-year contract extension he signed last year. That deal, which pays Houston $515,311 – with $390,111 base salary and $125,000 coming from private sources – annually runs through Jan. 31, 2028.
Houston, a North Carolina native, has a $500,000 buyout if he leaves JMU for Charlotte or a $750,000 buyout if he leaves JMU for ECU prior to Jan. 31, 2020. The buyouts differ because of the leagues that Charlotte, a Conference USA member, and East Carolina, an American Athletic Conference member, reside in.
Charlotte fired former coach Brad Lambert on Nov. 18. Lambert was the only coach in the program’s history and was 22-48 over six seasons at the school.
Montgomery spent three seasons leading the Pirates and finished with a 9-26 mark during that time. One of his losses came to Houston when FCS JMU knocked off FBS ECU, 34-14, in the 2017 season opener.