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Mike Houston

A report by The Athletic on Wednesday said James Madison coach Mike Houston will be named the new football coach at UNC Charlotte.

Houston and the Dukes are in the middle of the FCS playoffs.

Following Wednesday’s practice in Harrisonburg, Houston acknowledged interest but denied that he had taken the job.

“I was contacted on Sunday by Charlotte 49ers athletic director Mike Hill,” Houston told reporters. “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. Doesn’t have anything to do with JMU.

“I have been blessed to have the opportunity to be the head coach here. I am still the head coach here.”

Houston has gone 37-5 in his three years at JMU, including winning the 2016 FCS national championship. The Dukes lost in the FCS title game last year to North Dakota State.

UNC Charlotte fired Brad Lambert, the only coach in the 49ers’ six-year history, earlier this month. The 49ers finished the 2018 season 5-7. Lambert went 21-48 in his career at UNCC, which competes in Conference USA.

“The facts are I’ve been offered a job. That’s it,” Houston said. “It is 2 ½ hours from my parents, my family, and there’s personal reasons why that’s important to me. At the same time, this group here is very important to me also.”

The school indicated in a statement that Houston would coach the team Saturday in its playoff game against Colgate.

“The big thing I want is I want that group right there to have the opportunity to compete Saturday at a very high level with all of us being together,” Houston said. “And that’s my focus this week. And not anything else. And I hate that the timing of everything has sped up to where this is something people are talking about, because it shouldn’t be something people are talking about.”

Houston was referring to the fact that national signing day has been moved from February to December, meaning schools want to have their new coach in place before recruits decide which school they want to attend.

Houston signed a 10-year contract extension with JMU last season, the school announced last December. The deal includes an annual base salary of $390,113 through January 2028, the Times-Dispatch previously reported. He receives an additional $125,000, provided by the JMU Foundation. The deal also includes tiered buyouts if Houston were to leave JMU, up to $1 million for a job at a Power Five school.

“I have loyal coaches, I have a great administration,” Houston said of JMU. “I have been honest and straightforward with everyone at any institution I have talked to, including this one. I was honest with my team today.”

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