The coaching swoon reached its climax for brothers Brett and Dana Holgorsen during their college years many moons ago.
Brett, three years older than Dana, was a senior playing football at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa, alongside Dana, a freshman, in the 1980s.
“We played one year of college ball together, and then one night he told me he was going to transfer to Iowa Wesleyan,” Brett recalled. “That was a school we’d repeatedly beat by 40, 50, 60 points; they were a conference school with us. I was in shock. I told him I couldn’t believe he’d ever do that, and I told him he was making a huge mistake.”
Brett thought Dana was moving closer to their home in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, “because it had something to do with a girlfriend maybe.” Nope.
It ended up meaning so much more.
For Dana, Brett said, “it turns out to be the best decision he ever made.”
“He played there for Hal Mumme. Mike Leach was the OC (offensive coordinator) on that staff,” Brett said, referring to two of the highest-regarded, forward-thinking offensive minds in football. “That really set up his opportunity to go to Valdosta State as a graduate assistant, and it was about that time I was a GA for the University of South Dakota. He remained in college coaching. I stayed in college coaching for a while, and then made the decision to stick with high schools.”
Brett, 50, has spent the last nine years coaching in Katy, two years apiece at Seven Lakes High and Taylor High, three as quarterbacks coach at Katy High (where he helped the Tigers win a state championship), and the last two as assistant head coach at Paetow High, which recently completed its inaugural year of varsity football.
Dana, 47, dominated headlines around the state last week when he agreed to a five-year, $20-million contract to become the University of Houston’s head coach. He returns to the Bayou City after eight years at the helm of West Virginia. From 2008-2009, Dana was the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Houston.
Brett is thrilled for his brother’s return.
“I’m real excited,” said Brett, who found out about Dana’s move to UH like everybody else, on Twitter. “I was here in Houston the last time he was at UH, so I know we’ll hang out a lot more, being in closer proximity. I’ll be able to go to games pretty frequently, around my schedule coaching high school ball. He’ll be bringing his family here and my folks will probably end up moving to Houston as well. It’s great. I’ll have more time with my immediate family, and for Dana it’s a great opportunity. I’m looking forward to seeing what he’s going to do.”
It was in the early 2000s that Brett opted to leave the college coaching ranks and stick to high school coaching.
“Moving all over the country, climbing the so-called career ladder, was taking a toll on my family,” said Brett, who has a wife, Lesley, and two sons, Clay and Garrett, both of whom played high school sports in Katy. “I remember walking into the house and my wife is crying. My older son is looking at his yearbook at old friends, with tears running down his face. I made the decision I was done with college coaching, and the rest was history.”
Brett had college coaching stints at South Dakota, Del Haven University (Jackson, Mississippi), Mississippi Valley State, and Iowa Wesleyan, Dana’s alma mater and, ironically enough, Brett's first head coaching gig.
He has coached high school ball in Dallas, Houston and Katy.
During his career, Brett has always taken advantage of his time visiting Dana on campus, revering his younger sibling because of his “exciting brand of football” and “energy.”
“We’ve always talked football,” Brett said. “I would go to the different places he was at, going back to when he was at Valdosta State to Wingate to Texas Tech to Oklahoma State to Houston and then West Virginia. I’d watch spring practice and get to games in the fall when I can, bowl games when I can. I’d watch, have conversations and see what was going on.”
Meanwhile, Brett enjoys the advantages that coaching high school ball has to offer compared to college.
“The advantage is our job security is better,” Brett said, laughing. “That’s No. 1. I’ve never been affected too much by outside pressure to win, whether college or high school. I put enough pressure on myself to be successful than anybody else could put on me. For the most part, we’re in our homes and beds every night of the year; it’s rare that our job puts us overnight somewhere else, whereas in college you’re on the road different times of the year for weeks and weeks.”
Brett now gets to enjoy both worlds, helping mold young men on and off the field while getting a front row seat as his brother attempts to lead the Cougars to prominence.
“I’m looking forward to watching him again,” Brett said.