"We'd like to thank Coach Applewhite and his family for their commitment to the success of the Houston Football program over the last four seasons including the last two as our head coach," Houston Vice President for Athletics Chris Pezman said in a statement. "After a thorough evaluation of our Football program, it is my assessment our future opportunities for success are better addressed by making this very difficult decision now.
SB Nation's Steven Godfrey first reported the move on Saturday.
Houston is coming off a 70-14 blowout loss to the Army Black Knights in the Armed Forces Bowl. The Cougars allowed 592 yards, and Army's 54-point margin of victory tied an FBS bowl record.
Houston is 15-11 in two-plus seasons under Applewhite. He was credited with the team's Las Vegas Bowl loss in 2016 after replacing the outgoing Tom Herman.
Godfrey reported Dec. 22, the same day as the Armed Forces Bowl, that Applewhite's future might be in jeopardy. Godfrey also shared a statement from Houston in which the school reaffirmed its commitment to Applewhite.
The Cougars already lost offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, who took over as Florida State's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach on Dec. 23. Having to also replace one of its top coordinators won't make Houston's head coaching search any easier.
According to Godfrey, West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen is among those the Cougars have on their early shortlist.
Texas A&M pried Jimbo Fisher away from Florida State by giving him $75 million over 10 years, a move that was arguably a step backward for Fisher from a prestige perspective. Granted, Fisher didn't leave the Seminoles for a team in a Group of Five conference, which is what Holgorsen would be doing.
At the moment, the Cougars are regarded as a stepping stone for coaches with bigger ambitions. Herman, Art Briles and Kevin Sumlin all spent time at Houston before going to Texas, Baylor and Texas A&M, respectively.
By even considering Holgorsen, Houston clearly wants to shed that perception.