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Houston Cougars football
Current season Current season
University of Houston Logo.svg
First season 1946
Athletic director Mack Rhoades
Head coach Kevin Sumlin
2nd year, 18–9–0  (.667)
Home stadium Robertson Stadium
Year built 1941
Stadium capacity 32,000
Stadium surface Grass
Location Houston, Texas
League NCAA Division I
Conference Conference USA
Division West
Past conferences Southwest (1976-95)
Independent (1960-75)
Missouri Valley (1951-59)
Gulf Coast(1949-50)
Lone Star (1946-48)
All-time record 359–323–15 (.526)
Postseason bowl record 8–11–1
Conference titles Missouri Valley: 4
Southwest: 4
Conference USA: 2
Heisman winners 1
Consensus All-Americans 18
Colors Scarlet and White              
Fight song Cougar Fight Song
Mascot Shasta
Marching band Spirit of Houston
Rivals Rice Owls
Texas Longhorns
Website UHCougars.com

The Houston Cougars football program is an NCAA Division I FBS football team that represents the University of Houston. The team is commonly referred to as "Houston" or "UH" (spoken as "U of H"). The UH football program is currently a member of the Conference USA intercollegiate athletic conference, and is coached by Kevin Sumlin. The team played its first season in 1946, and currently plays its home games on-campus at Robertson Stadium in Houston. Throughout the Cougars' history, the team has won 10 conference championships and has several players as members of the College Football Hall of Fame, including a Heisman Trophy winner.

Contents

History

Wallace era

In 1941, Johnny Goyen, then sports editor for The Cougar, and Jack Valenti, president of the sophomore class, began a petition for an official intercollegiate football team at the university. The next year, the two called a student body meeting to organize another petition.[1] This petition's purpose was to challenge Rice Institute (later known as Rice University) to a football game. The Rice Owls were an established program, having played since 1919 as a member of the Southwest Conference.

Tony Ditta, a co-captain for Houston's 1946 inaugural team in a practice uniform

In August 1945, the University of Houston announced that the school would field a football team for the first time.[2] Following the announcement, the Lone Star Conference, spearheaded by Theron J. Fouts of North Texas and Puny Wilson of Sam Houston State, extended an invitation for Houston to join on October 25, 1945.[3]

In September 1946, the team became a reality after Harry Fouke, UH's first athletic director hired successful high school coach Jewell Wallace, and tryouts were held.[1] 130 students showed up, only ten of which had actually played college football before. Many of the married students lived on-campus at a makeshift village for World War II veterans, while some others lived in the university's recreation center in bunks for naval recruits training at UH during the war.[1] Prior to joining the Cougars, Wallace served as head coach for San Angelo High School.

During the spring training for the first team, Goyen and Valenti's petition was finally answered, as Coach Wallace arranged a small practice game between Rice and Houston.[1] The meeting was to be at Rice. When the team arrived at the field in their practice uniforms, they realized that the game was much more serious. Officials were there, and the stadium was full of spectators. The game ended with Rice demolishing the Houston Cougars. The game had an attendance of 11,000. It wouldn't be until 1971 that the Cougars and Owls competed again.

Playing in Houston Public School Stadium as a part of the Lone Star Conference on September 21, 1946, the Cougars played their first official game against Southwestern Louisiana Institute (later known as the University of Louisiana at Lafayette) using the Split-T offensive strategy.[4][5] Although Charlie Manichia, the Cougars' starting quarterback scored the first touchdown of the game (and in Cougar history), the team lost to SLI 13-7.[6]

The next game, the Cougars played against West Texas State Teachers College (later known as West Texas A&M University), and won their first game 14-12. The Cougars finished up their first season with a 4-6-0 record. Wallace continued as head coach for the Cougars until the end of the 1947 season, when Clyde Lee took over.

Lee era

Clyde Lee, a University of Tulsa assistant coach, became Houston's second head coach in February 1948.[7] To replace the remainder of Wallace's team that didn't return, Lee turned to junior colleges for the majority of his recruiting.[1] At this time, the University of Houston, along with Texas Tech University, attempted to join the established Southwest Conference, but were rejected.[8] In response, several universities from the Lone Star Conference formed the Gulf Coast Conference. This marked the Cougars' first time playing as an NCAA University division team (later known as simply Division I), and the first time Houston offered athletics scholarships. Also during this time, Lee setup formal housing facilities for students.[1]

In 1951, the Cougars began playing in the Missouri Valley Conference, moved into Houston Stadium, and made it to their first bowl game. The next season, proved to be a breakout one for the Cougars, and the team claimed the conference title. In addition to being ranked #19 in the nation by UPI (the first time the Cougars were nationally ranked), 1952 also marked the first meetings between UH and Texas A&M University, University of Arkansas, and Ole Miss.[9] J.D. Kimmel, a former player for the Army Cadets, became Houston's first All-American when the Associated Press chose him for the 1952 team. The year after, UH met with the University of Texas at Austin for the first time in football. Such events proved that the team was growing quickly. However, in 1954, Lee retired from coaching after a 37-32-2 overall record. Lee was credited with having transitioned the Cougars from a small-time team to a legitimate collegiate force in football.

Meek era

After a 45 day search for a head coach replacement, Bill Meek, a successful head coach from Kansas State University signed a contract with the Cougars. The Cougars' 1955 opening game against the University of Montana marked a 54-12 victory, the first opening victory since 1948. It was during this season that UH attempted to gain a membership to the Southeastern Conference (SEC). Ole Miss, UH's sponsor to the conference had played the Cougars in their ninth game of the season, and although the Cougars lost, Ole Miss felt the team was worthwhile. The SEC decided to wait a year to determine whether UH would be a member of the conference.

The 1956 season was thus an important one for the team. The Cougars won the Missouri Valley Conference title for the second time, and tied with the Southwest Conference's nationally ranked Texas A&M Aggies during their meeting. However, UH lost to both SEC scheduled teams during the season. Both Southwest Conference and Southeastern Conference bids by the Cougars were once again rejected. During the next season, Meek left UH for Southern Methodist University.

Lahar era

Houston versus Texas A&M during the 1958 season

The Cougars' next coach, Hal Lahar, came from Colgate University, where he served as head coach. In college, Lahar had played for the Oklahoma Sooners, where he was a part of the school's first bowl team. Under Lahar, during the 1958 season, the Cougars became a nationally recognized offensive leader, as the team scored a combined 117 points in their first three games. Lahar's offensive strategy was best characterized as Split-T.[10]

After winning the Missouri Valley Conference titles again in 1957 and 1959, Lahar left UH in 1961, and headed back to Colgate University.

Yeoman era

Under Hall of Fame coach Bill Yeoman, the Cougars compiled a record of 160-108-8. His 160 victories rank 51st on the NCAA all time list, and make him the winningest coach in Cougar history. He used the Veer offense in 1964 which quickly helped lead the Cougars to national prominence. Yeoman's Cougars finished the season ranked in the Top 10 four times and 10 times in the Top 20.

Yeoman coaching the Cougars on the sidelines

In 1964, Yeoman broke the color barrier for major Texas football programs when the University of Houston signed San Antonio’s Warren McVea to a scholarship. On September 11, 1965 the Cougars played their first nationally televised game on NBC against Tulsa.[11]

For three straight years Houston led the nation in total offense, averaging 437 yards a game in 1966, 427 in 1967, and 562 in 1968. The 1968 total was an NCAA record at the time. Houston also led the nation in scoring, 42.5 points a game that year.

He guided the Cougars to four Southwest Conference Championships – 1976, 1978, 1979 & 1984 - and a 6-4-1 record in bowl games including Cotton Bowl Classic victories over the Maryland Terrapins in 1977 and the Nebraska Cornhuskers in 1980. In 1976, Houston’s first year as a member of the SWC, Yeoman was named Texas Coach of the Year and runner-up for National Coach of the Year. Yeoman was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2001 and the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in 2003. He coached 46 All-Americans and 69 NFL players. In 1978, the NCAA subdivided the Division I into Division I-A and Division I-AA with Houston being a part of the former (now known as Division I FBS).

However, his career was not without controversy. In 1986, allegations surfaced regarding illegal recruiting inducements and extra benefits for his players. Subsequently, in 1988, the program was placed on probation. Yeoman was alleged to have handed out cash to players and provided them with illegal transportation and lodging.

Yeoman is the longest-serving coach in Cougar history, having been with the team from 1962 to 1986. After retiring as head coach, Yeoman remained with the Cougars as a fundraiser, a position he still holds today.

Innovation and NCAA Probation - The Pardee Era

Jack Pardee as head coach of the Houston Cougars

Following Bill Yeoman's retirement after the 1-10 campaign in 1986, the University of Houston hired Jack Pardee to be the program’s sixth head coach. Pardee was a former NFL All-Pro linebacker who had previously held head coaching positions with the Chicago Bears, Washington Redskins and the USFL's Houston Gamblers. Pardee brought with him the Run & Shoot offense and a young offensive coordinator named John Jenkins. The Run & Shoot offense was a strongly pass-oriented system that called for throwing the ball on most downs and in almost any situation. The Cougars would become one of the top offensive teams in the country during the Run & Shoot years.

In 1987, Pardee's first season, the team struggled in adjusting to the new system but scored a 60-40 home upset of the Texas Longhorns on the way to a 4-6-1 finish. The 1988 season saw great improvement in all aspects of team play with the Cougars posting a 9-3 mark, ultimately finishing 2nd in the Southwest Conference standings. The team played in the Aloha Bowl but fell 24-22 to Washington State. The Cougars' offense was led by quarterback Andre Ware, who had been originally recruited to UH by Bill Yeoman as a Veer-option quarterback. UH finished the 1988 regular season at #18 in the AP Poll.

In 1988, the NCAA announced that it would levy sanctions against the University of Houston football program for rules violations during the Yeoman era.[12] The university was charged with around 250 violations, and carried some of the most charges for a program at the time.[13] The program was placed on probation for five years, banned from playing in bowl games for two years, and barred from appearing on television for the entire 1989 season. The lack of television exposure in 1989 was a setback but ultimately did not dampen the accolades UH would garner in a record-setting season.

The 1989 season was one of the most memorable in UH football history. Andre Ware continued his dramatic development as a passer and posted unprecedented passing statistics en route to winning the 1989 Heisman Trophy. Ware passed for 4,299 yards and threw 44 touchdown passes on the season. He posted one of his finest performances with 475 yards passing in the Cougars' 47-9 rout of archrival Texas in the Astrodome. The Cougars set many offensive records during the season. The Cougars finished the 1989 season at 9-2 and 2nd in the Southwest Conference but could not go to a bowl game. UH finished the season ranked #14 in the AP poll.

After the 1989 season, Jack Pardee was hired as the head coach of the Houston Oilers and John Jenkins was promoted from offensive coordinator to head coach at UH. The Pardee era at UH had been the most successful period in Cougar football since the late 1970s. The program enjoyed consistent success on the field, and helped to usher in the explosion of passing offense in college football. The Cougars’ prolific offense and Andre Ware’s Heisman Trophy raised the program to a level of national recognition that it had perhaps never enjoyed before. Pardee was later considered as a returning head coach for the Cougars after Art Briles left the program, but was eventually passed up for Kevin Sumlin.[14] Pardee has not coached since 1995.

Jenkins era

John Jenkins ascended to the helm at UH as a brash, innovative young coach, considered by many the brains behind the high-powered Run & Shoot offense. Jenkins' offensive system reached its pinnacle in the 1990 season.

Led by new quarterback David Klingler, the Cougars' offense put up even more eye-popping numbers in the 1990 season than they had a year before. Klingler set a record by throwing 11 touchdown passes in a single game during an 84-21 rout of Eastern Washington University at the Astrodome. In a final-game victory over Arizona State University played in the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Japan, the two teams combined for 107 points and over 1,000 yards passing.

The Cougars achieved a high ranking of #3 in the AP poll but fell out of national championship contention following a late-season loss to the #14 Texas Longhorns. The Cougars finished the 1990 season with a 10-1 record and a #10 national ranking, again good for only 2nd in the conference standings. Klingler finished 3rd in Heisman balloting behind BYU's Ty Detmer and Notre Dame's Raghib Ismail. The program was serving its final season of probation and was again ineligible to play in a bowl game.

Despite returning David Klingler and many of their best players, the 1991 season saw a significant downturn from the Cougars’ previous four-year arc of improvement. The season began in rousing fashion with a 73-3 home rout of Louisiana Tech, but the second game marked what would in hindsight be a decade-long fall from the successes of the late ‘80s. In a nationally televised game that had been billed as an intersectional meeting of powers, the Cougars were routed handily by the Miami Hurricanes at the Orange Bowl. The Cougars lost the game 40-10, and with it, a great deal of the mystique of their offense. Opposing defenses began to defend the Run & Shoot more effectively, following in Miami’s pattern of frequent blitzes. Although the Cougars defeated Texas for the fourth time in five years, they finished the 1991 season 7th in conference with a 4-7 record. After the season, David Klingler was selected #6 overall in the 1992 NFL draft.

The 1992 season saw the program continue its slide. New quarterback Jimmy Klingler posted impressive performances against inferior competition, but the Cougars struggled against the better teams on the schedule. Jenkins increasingly came under fire for his teams’ poor defensive performance and his propensity to “run up the score” in an unsportsmanlike manner against weaker opponents. The '92 season ended with the Cougars finishing 4-7 yet again.

The controversial Jenkins resigned under pressure on April 17, 1993. Jenkins finished his tenure with an 18-15 overall record. In the chaos surrounding the sudden resignation of Jenkins, Houston athletic director Bill Carr hired Kim Helton, a former NFL offensive line coach, to become the 8th head coach in the history of the program.

Dissolution, Disappointment, Renovation - The Helton Era

After the controversy and NCAA sanctions of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, the UH athletics administration was determined to remake the football program into one founded on sound discipline and transparency. The tough talking Kim Helton seemed to fit this need perfectly. The no-nonsense former offensive line coach was nearly the diametric opposite of the brash, innovative John Jenkins. Where Jenkins believed in the primacy of passing offense above all else, Helton preached a hard-nosed brand of football centered on fundamentals that was a throwback to the 1970s.

Despite returning all 11 starters on offense for the 1993 season, Helton discarded the high-powered Run & Shoot offense in favor of a more traditional run-based attack. The personnel already in the program had not been recruited to excel in such a system and the team struggled mightily as a result of the offensive sea change. In Helton’s first three seasons (1993-95), the Cougars limped to a combined 4-28 record for a winning percentage of just .125.

Helton eschewed the program’s long-time reliance on local talent and instead began heavily recruiting junior college players from Florida, Georgia and Mississippi. By doing so, Helton effectively severed the program’s ties to the local high schools that had long been the lifeblood of UH football. Many local high school coaches claimed that they never saw Helton during his seven-year tenure as head coach.

In 1994 the Big 8 Conference and four schools from the Southwest Conference announced that they would dissolve their respective conference affiliations and merge to form what would become the Big 12 Conference. Houston, along with TCU, SMU, and Rice, would not be invited to join the new association. After over 80 years of SWC play including 21 successful years of UH membership, the SWC ceased to exist at the end of the 1995 season.

UH joined the newly formed Conference USA for the 1996 season. In the inaugural season of C-USA play, led by future NFL running back Antowain Smith and quarterback Chuck Clements, the Cougars went 7-5 and won the 1996 C-USA Football Championship. The 1996 season marked the first winning campaign for the Cougars in six years. UH won that season’s pivotal game against Southern Miss 56-49 in overtime. As part of a new trend, the game was played at on-campus Robertson Stadium rather than at their long-time home, the Astrodome. The Cougars also played in their first bowl game since 1988, losing to #21 Syracuse 30-17 in the Liberty Bowl.

UH posted consecutive 3-8 records in the 1997 and 1998 seasons. In 1999, the Cougars went 7-4, scoring an impressive late-season win at LSU. Four-year starter Ketric Sanford broke many Houston rushing records, but the team failed again to gain an invitation to a bowl game. Despite the winning season, Helton was dismissed as head coach after the season. In his seven years at UH, Helton had compiled a 24-53 overall record.

The decade of the 1990s had not been a good one for UH football. Since the almost magical 10-1 season of 1990 in which they held a #3 ranking into November, the Cougars had since failed to crack the AP Top 25 and had gone to only one bowl game. The team’s poor on-field performance had not been kind to fan interest. Attendance had slipped slowly downward throughout the decade, and the team often played in front of home crowds of less than 20,000 fans. The program also lacked stability in the athletic department after several changes at athletic director. Clearly, significant change was needed for the program to break out of its cycle of apathy. In a move to alleviate the financial burden of paying rent to the Astrodome’s operators, Athletic Director Chet Gladchuk began a drive to renovate Robertson Stadium and move all home football games back to campus for the first time since the 1940s. This idea became a reality in the 1998 season, and significant renovations to the 60 year-old stadium were completed the following year.

Also in 1999, the Houston–Rice rivalry was renewed after a three year hiatus when the Southwest Conference disbanded. The Cougars defeated the Owls in that season's Bayou Bucket.

Hoping to inject vitality into the program on the field, UH hired the successful 37 year-old head coach of Wyoming, Dana Dimel, to take over the program in late 1999.

A New Beginning - The Dimel Era

After coaching at Kansas State as an assistant under the legendary Bill Snyder, Dana Dimel was selected as the 9th headman of the Houston Cougars after a successful stint as the head coach at Wyoming. Dimel took over the program with fan support at an all-time low. The program's relationship and standing with local high school coaches was also at a nadir as a result of Helton's often dismissive attitude toward local programs. As part of Dimel's rebuilding program, he vowed to bring back the aggressive passing attack that the Cougars had featured during the successful Pardee/Jenkins years.

In the 2000 season, the Cougars opened with a 3-4 stretch before faltering late in the season to finish 3-8. During the off-season, Dimel brought in one of the program's best-rated recruiting classes in decades, and he began reestablishing positive relationships with local high school programs.

Despite the positive attention surrounding Dimel's first recruiting class, the 2001 season was the worst to date in the history of Cougar football. The Cougars went 0-11 on the season, the first winless campaign in the history of the program. Despite the poor season, Dimel again brought in the top-rated recruiting class in Conference USA. The class featured a number of players who would form the nucleus of future winning teams, players such as Jackie Battle, Willie Gaston, Will Gulley and Roshawn Pope.

The Cougars fared better in the 2002 season, but new athletic director Dave Maggard made it clear that he expected significant progress in the program's performance on the field. Late in the year, with the Cougars holding a 4-7 record, AD Maggard informed Dimel that he would not be asked to return as head coach for the 2003 season. The final game of the 2002 season was a rousing 27-10 upset win over Louisville that spoiled the Cardinals' chances of winning the conference title, but UH finished with a 5-7 record which was good for only 8th best in Conference USA.

Return to Prosperity - The Briles Era

Seeking a sense of stability in the coaching staff, Athletic Director Dave Maggard began the search for a new head coach who would stay and build the program over the long term. To this end, Maggard began searching for coaches with close ties to UH and Texas football in general. The candidate who jumped to the fore was Art Briles, a former Cougar player under Bill Yeoman and assistant at Texas Tech. Briles had earned a reputation as a top-flight offensive coach while the head coach at Stephenville High School of Stephenville, Texas, where he led the team to multiple state titles running his unique version of the spread offense. Briles became the 10th head coach in Cougar football history, and the first former UH player to hold the position.

Briles inherited a program that had lost its way on the field but was stocked with young talent from Dimel’s exceptional recruiting classes. The Cougars had only won eight games in Dimel’s three-year tenure, but things were about to change. In his first season, Briles led the Cougars to a 7–5 record and their first bowl appearance since the 1996 season. The Cougars lost the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl to the Hawaii Warriors 54-48 in triple overtime on Christmas Day, 2003.

After a successful inaugural season under Briles, the Cougars fell back to 3–8 in 2004. Briles guided the Cougars to a 6–6 season in 2005 and an appearance in the Fort Worth Bowl. The Cougars’ hopes for a winning season were ended in a 42-13 bowl-game rout at the hands of the Kansas Jayhawks.

The 2006 season was the most successful for UH in over 15 years. Led by senior quarterback Kevin Kolb, the Cougars romped to a 9–3 regular season record and a spot in the Conference USA Championship game against Southern Miss. The Cougars hosted the nationally televised game at Robertson Stadium and won 34-20 to claim the school’s second C-USA Championship and 10th conference title overall. The Cougars finished the season with a loss to the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Liberty Bowl that gave them a final won-loss record of 10-4.

In 2007, the Cougars went 8-4 and finished second in the Conference USA West Division to the Tulsa Golden Hurricane. In late November the Cougars accepted an invitation to the Texas Bowl. Two days later, Art Briles interviewed for the vacant Baylor Bears head coaching position and was hired the next day. Despite criticism from many Houston fans, Briles promptly left Houston for Waco and did not return to coach the Cougars for their bowl game in December. Cornerbacks coach Chris Thurmond was named interim coach for the bowl game which the Cougars lost to TCU, 20-13.

Despite the rancor surrounding the departure of Art Briles, his coaching tenure had been the most successful at UH since Jack Pardee departed for the NFL almost 20 years before. Briles had recruited well and coached his teams to on-field success, compiling a 34-28 record in his five seasons. More importantly, Briles had helped to return the program to respectability, most notably with the 2006 C-USA Championship. Briles’s close ties with Texas high school coaches helped him to strengthen the program’s ties to its primary talent base, and several of his players had been prominent selections in the NFL draft. Fan interest increased in the Briles era, and talk began of expanding Robertson Stadium beyond its current capacity. It is not too much to say that Art Briles brought the program to heights it had not seen since the 1980s, but this success would have been unlikely without the talent that Dana Dimel had brought into the program before Briles arrived.

Into the Future - The Kevin Sumlin Era

Kevin Sumlin in 2008

On December 14, 2007, Kevin Sumlin, a co-offensive coordinator for the Oklahoma Sooners was named as the Houston Cougars' 11th head football coach. Sumlin became the first African-American head coach in Cougar history, and the eighth in the NCAA's Football Bowl Subdivision. In his final year with the Sooners, his offense was one of the best in the country, averaging 44 points per game. Sumlin's first game made history at UH, as it drew the second-largest crowd ever as a home opener at Robertson Stadium.[15] Topping Bill Meek's record, he scored the most points in Cougar history for a coaching debut. That season, the Cougars defeated two ranked teams, including one on the road. They also ended their twenty-eight year bowl game losing streak, as they won the 2008 Armed Forces Bowl. On September 12, 2009, the Sumlin-led Cougars defeated #5 ranked Oklahoma State in Stillwater to win its first victory over a top 10 opponent in 21 years, and first victory over a top 5 opponent in 25 years. After defeating then #5 Oklahoma State, the Cougars were ranked (#21 on the AP Top 25) for the first time since September 17, 1991. The following game, in front of a sold-out crowd at Robertson Stadium, Houston would pull out yet another huge win, this time on Texas Tech 29-28 in the final minute. The Cougars continued to be nationally ranked throughout the majority of the season.

Conference affiliations

The Houston Cougars' football program started the same year as its basketball program in 1946. The Cougars played in the Lone Star Conference for their first few seasons through 1948. During this time the Cougars played as part of NCAA's College Division which was designated for small colleges. The university then decided to leave for the Gulf Coast Conference, where the team began playing in NCAA's University Division. From 1951 to 1959 Houston played in the Missouri Valley Conference, and in 1960 the Houston Cougars played independently of any athletic conference. In 1973, the Cougars continued with NCAA's football division changes as a Division I school where it continued as an independent team. In 1976, the Cougars began to play in its first athletic conference since 1959 when it joined the now defunct Southwest Conference. After the breakup of this specific conference in 1995, Houston became a charter member of then newly formed Conference USA, where it currently plays.

Records and awards

Bowl history

Houston defeats Air Force in the 2008 Armed Forces Bowl, ending their eight bowl game losing streak

Prior to their 2008 Armed Forces Bowl win against Air Force, the Cougars had not won a bowl game since the Garden State Bowl in 1980. This puts the Cougars in second place, behind the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, for the all-time longest bowl game losing streak.[16] The following is the full bowl game history for the team. The AP Poll ranking, if any, is given before the team name in parentheses.

Date Played Bowl game Winning team Losing team
January 1, 1952 Salad Bowl Houston 26 Dayton 21
December 22, 1962 Tangerine Bowl Houston 49 Miami (OH) 21
December 31, 1969 Bluebonnet Bowl (12) Houston 36 (20) Auburn 7
December 31, 1971 Bluebonnet Bowl (3) Colorado 29 (17) Houston 17
December 29, 1973 Bluebonnet Bowl (9) Houston 47 Tulane 7
December 23, 1974 Bluebonnet Bowl (19) Houston 31 North Carolina State 31
January 1, 1977 Cotton Bowl Classic (4) Houston 30 (8) Maryland 21
January 1, 1979 Cotton Bowl Classic (7) Notre Dame 35 (10) Houston 34
January 1, 1980 Cotton Bowl Classic (5) Houston 17 (9) Nebraska 14
December 14, 1980 Garden State Bowl Houston 35 Navy 0
December 26, 1981 Sun Bowl (3) Oklahoma 40 Houston 14
January 1, 1985 Cotton Bowl Classic (5) Boston College 45 Houston 28
December 25, 1988 Aloha Bowl (16) Washington State 24 (18) Houston 22
December 27, 1996 Liberty Bowl (21) Syracuse 30 Houston 17
December 25, 2003 Hawaii Bowl Hawaii 54 Houston 48
December 23, 2005 Fort Worth Bowl Kansas 42 Houston 13
December 29, 2006 Liberty Bowl South Carolina 44 Houston 36
December 28, 2007 Texas Bowl TCU 20 Houston 13
December 31, 2008 Armed Forces Bowl Houston 34 Air Force 28
December 31, 2009 Armed Forces Bowl Air Force 47 Houston 20

Top 25 poll rankings

The Houston Cougars have finished in the AP Poll and Coaches' Poll fifteen times in the program's history. The team's highest ranking was during the 1976 season, where the Cougars were ranked fourth. Note: The AP Poll began in 1936, and the Coaches' Poll began in 1950. Before 1990, only the top 20 teams were ranked in the AP Poll.

Year AP Poll ranking Coaches' Poll ranking
1952 N/A 19
1966 N/A 17
1967 N/A 19
1968 18 20
1969 12 16
1970 19 13
1971 17 14
1973 9 13
1974 19 11
1976 4 4
1978 10 11
1979 5 5
1988 18 N/A
1989 14 ineligible (on probation)
1990 10 ineligible (on probation)

Conference championships

The Cougars have won ten conference championships in their history, half of which were outright championships. From 1960 to 1975, the Cougars were not affiliated with any conference, and did not participate in any conference championships.

Year Overall Record Conference Record Coach Conference
1952 8-2-0 3-0-0 Clyde Lee Missouri Valley Conference
1956 7-2-1 4-0-0 Bill Meek Missouri Valley Conference
1957 5-4-1 3-0-0 Bill Meek/Hal Lahar Missouri Valley Conference
1959 3-7-0 3-1-0 Hal Lahar Missouri Valley Conference
1976 10-2-0 7-1-0 Bill Yeoman Southwest Conference
1978 9-3-0 7-1-0 Bill Yeoman Southwest Conference
1979 11-1-0 7-1-0 Bill Yeoman Southwest Conference
1984 7-5-0 6-2-0 Bill Yeoman Southwest Conference
1996 7-5-0 4-1-0 Kim Helton Conference USA
2006 10-4-0 8-1-0 Art Briles Conference USA

Individual awards

National award winners

Heisman Trophy winners

Davey O'Brien Quarterback Award

  • Andre Ware, 1989

Sammy Baugh Trophy

Lombardi Award

College Football Hall of Fame inductees

  • Jack Pardee, Coach, 1986
  • Andre Ware, Quarterback, 2004
  • Wilson Whitley, Defensive Tackle, 2007
  • Bill Yeoman, Coach, 2001

Head coaching records

Future non-conference opponents

2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
at UCLA[17] vs. UCLA vs. Louisiana Tech vs. Louisiana Tech at Louisiana Tech
vs. Mississippi State at Louisiana Tech at UCLA
vs. Texas State[18] at Navy
at Texas Tech[19]

Facilities

Robertson Stadium

Robertson Stadium, the Cougars' current home stadium

From the program's inception, until the end of the 1950 season, the Cougars played their home games in the Houston Public School Stadium, which would eventually be renamed to Robertson Stadium in 1980. However, with the exception of occasional single games in the 1995 and 1996 seasons, the Cougars did not return to the stadium until the 1998 season following renovations. This remains their home stadium today. Along with the Cougars, the stadium is home to Houston's Major League Soccer team, the Houston Dynamo.

Houston Stadium

In 1951, Houston Stadium, a stadium subsidized by the city of Houston opened. Until 1964, the Cougars played their home games in Houston Stadium along with Rice University. During this time, President John F. Kennedy gave his famous address regarding the nation's space effort at the stadium. It is now simply known as Rice Stadium, and is only home to the Rice Owls.

Astrodome

In 1965, the Astrodome was officially opened, and the Cougars moved in the same year. In 1968, the Bluebonnet Bowl also changed its location to the stadium, and the Cougars regularly began to participate in the bowl. After the 1997 season, following renovations, the Cougars moved back into Robertson Stadium. The Astrodome remains the team's longest serving home stadium.

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f Wizig, Jerry (1977). Eat 'Em Up, Cougars: Houston Football. The Strode Publishers, Inc. ISBN 873971221.  
  2. ^ "Sports Shavings". The Dallas Morning News. 1945-08-23. p. 6.  
  3. ^ "Lone Star Conference Invites U. of Houston". The Dallas Morning News. 1945-10-26. p. 15.  
  4. ^ "Facilities: John O'Quinn Field at Robertson Stadium". University of Houston athletics. http://uhcougars.cstv.com/facilities/hou-robertson.html. Retrieved 2008-04-08.  
  5. ^ "Houston Thumbs Down". Amarillo Globe-News. 1946-01-04. p. 12.  
  6. ^ Carpenter, Tom (2003-09-10). ""Cougar '48 alum was UH's first sports hero"". The Daily Cougar. http://www.thedailycougar.com/static/vol69/12/sports/sports1.html. Retrieved 2008-04-08.  
  7. ^ "Lee Houston Football Coach". The New York Times. 1948-02-18. p. 40.  
  8. ^ "Southwest Loop May Admit Texas Tech". St. Petersburg Times. 1954-05-04. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=2R4LAAAAIBAJ&sjid=Jk8DAAAAIBAJ&pg=4364,1621137. Retrieved 2009-07-22.  
  9. ^ Nelson, Lindsey (1953-07-26). "Michigan State Again Picked As Top Grid Power". Toledo Blade. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=NeMSAAAAIBAJ&sjid=qgAEAAAAIBAJ&pg=4637,4237545. Retrieved 2009-07-22.  
  10. ^ "The Southwest". Sports Illustrated. 1958-09-22. http://vault.sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1002856/2/index.htm. Retrieved 2009-06-01.  
  11. ^ "On Television". http://grfx.cstv.com/photos/schools/hou/sports/m-footbl/auto_pdf/hou-09-mg-section8.pdf. Retrieved 2009-08-10.  
  12. ^ "Houston Is Placed on Probation". The New York Times. 1988-12-17. http://www.nytimes.com/1988/12/17/sports/football-houston-is-placed-on-probation.html. Retrieved 2009-09-16.  
  13. ^ Reed, J.D.; Coleman, Carolyn-Lawrence (1988-11-14). "The N.C.A.A. Calls "Foul!"". Time Magazine. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,968927,00.html. Retrieved 2009-02-22.  
  14. ^ Schlabach, Mark (2007-12-06). "Yellow Jackets, Wolverines, Midshipmen earn high marks". ESPN.com. ESPN. http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/columns/story?columnist=schlabach_mark&id=3158996. Retrieved 2008-11-17.  
  15. ^ Loh, Zaneta (2008-09-02). ""Cougars trample Jaguars"". The Daily Cougar. http://media.www.thedailycougar.com/media/storage/paper1206/news/2008/09/02/Sports/Cougars.Trample.Jaguars-3410792.shtml. Retrieved 2008-09-02.  
  16. ^ Griffin, Tim. ""Sumlin ideal to recruit fertile Houston landscape"". ESPN. http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/news/story?id=3276092. Retrieved 2008-04-07.  
  17. ^ ""UCLA Adds University of Houston To Future Schedules"". UCLA Bruins athletics. 2008-05-16. http://uclabruins.cstv.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/051608aaa.html. Retrieved 2008-07-16.  
  18. ^ "2010 Non-Conference Slate Set For Cougar Football". Houston Cougars athletics. http://www.uhcougars.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/010410aaa.html. Retrieved 2010-01-10.  
  19. ^ ""Texas Tech, Houston Announce Two-Game Series"". Texas Tech Red Raiders athletics. 2008-07-11. http://texastech.cstv.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/071108aaa.html. Retrieved 2008-07-16.  

Further reading

  • Wizig, Jerry (1977). Eat 'Em Up, Cougars: Houston Football. The Strode Publishers, Inc. ISBN 873971221.  

External links


Houston Cougars
Current season
File:University of Houston
First season 1946
Athletic director Mack Rhoades
Head coach Kevin Sumlin
3rd year, 19–9–0  (Template:Safesubst:Str sub long)
Home stadium Robertson Stadium
Year built 1941
Stadium capacity 32,000
Stadium surface Grass
Location Houston, Texas
League NCAA Division I
Conference Conference USA
Division West
Past conferences Southwest
(1976-95)
Missouri Valley
(1951-59)
Gulf Coast
(1949-50)
Lone Star
(1946-48)
All-time record 365–326–15 (Template:Safesubst:Str sub long)
Postseason bowl record 8–11–1
Conference titles Missouri Valley: 4
Southwest: 4
Conference USA: 2
Heisman winners 1
Consensus All-Americans 18
Colors Scarlet Red
and Albino White
            
Fight song Cougar Fight Song
Mascot Shasta
Marching band Spirit of Houston
Rivals Rice Owls
Website UHCougars.com

The Houston Cougars football program is an NCAA Division I FBS football team that represents the University of Houston. The team is commonly referred to as "Houston" or "UH" (spoken as "U of H"). The UH football program is currently a member of the Conference USA intercollegiate athletic conference, and is coached by Kevin Sumlin. The team played its first season in 1946, and currently plays its home games on-campus at Robertson Stadium in Houston. Throughout the Cougars' history, the team has won 10 conference championships and has several players as members of the College Football Hall of Fame, including a Heisman Trophy winner.

Contents

History

Wallace era

In 1941, Johnny Goyen, then sports editor for The Cougar, and Jack Valenti, president of the sophomore class, began a petition for an official intercollegiate football team at the university. The next year, the two called a student body meeting to organize another petition.[1] This petition's purpose was to challenge Rice Institute (later known as Rice University) to a football game. The Rice Owls were an established program, having played since 1919 as a member of the Southwest Conference.


In August 1945, the University of Houston announced that the school would field a football team for the first time.[2] Following the announcement, the Lone Star Conference, spearheaded by Theron J. Fouts of North Texas and Puny Wilson of Sam Houston State, extended an invitation for Houston to join on October 25, 1945.[3]

In September 1946, the team became a reality after Harry Fouke, UH's first athletic director hired successful high school coach Jewell Wallace, and tryouts were held.[1] 130 students showed up, only ten of which had actually played college football before. Many of the married students lived on-campus at a makeshift village for World War II veterans, while some others lived in the university's recreation center in bunks for naval recruits training at UH during the war.[1] Prior to joining the Cougars, Wallace served as head coach for San Angelo High School.

During the spring training for the first team, Goyen and Valenti's petition was finally answered, as Coach Wallace arranged a small practice game between Rice and Houston.[1] The meeting was to be at Rice. When the team arrived at the field in their practice uniforms, they realized that the game was much more serious. Officials were there, and the stadium was full of spectators. The game ended with Rice demolishing the Houston Cougars. The game had an attendance of 11,000. It wouldn't be until 1971 that the Cougars and Owls competed again.

Playing in Houston Public School Stadium as a part of the Lone Star Conference on September 21, 1946, the Cougars played their first official game against Southwestern Louisiana Institute (later known as the University of Louisiana at Lafayette) using the Split-T offensive strategy.[4][5] Although Charlie Manichia, the Cougars' starting quarterback scored the first touchdown of the game (and in Cougar history), the team lost to SLI 13-7.[6]

The next game, the Cougars played against West Texas State Teachers College (later known as West Texas A&M University), and won their first game 14-12. The Cougars finished up their first season with a 4-6-0 record. Wallace continued as head coach for the Cougars until the end of the 1947 season, when Clyde Lee took over.

Lee era

File:1952 Houston vs. Ole
Ole Miss at Houston during the 1952 season under Lee

Clyde Lee, a University of Tulsa assistant coach, became Houston's second head coach in February 1948.[7] To replace the remainder of Wallace's team that didn't return, Lee turned to junior colleges for the majority of his recruiting.[1] At this time, the University of Houston, along with Texas Tech University, attempted to join the established Southwest Conference, but were rejected.[8][9] In response, several universities from the Lone Star Conference formed the Gulf Coast Conference. This marked the Cougars' first time playing as an NCAA University division team (later known as simply Division I), and the first time Houston offered athletics scholarships. Also during this time, Lee setup formal housing facilities for students.[1] The 1949 season was prefaced with an act of vandalism from Houston fans on the campus of The College of William & Mary.[10] William & Mary was the opening game of the season between both schools.

In 1951, the Cougars began playing in the Missouri Valley Conference, moved into Houston Stadium, and made it to their first bowl game.[11] The 1952 season, proved to be a breakout one for the Cougars, and the team claimed the conference title.[12] In addition to being ranked #19 in the nation by UPI (the first time the Cougars were nationally ranked), 1952 also marked the first meetings between UH and Texas A&M University, University of Arkansas, and Ole Miss.[13] J.D. Kimmel, a former player for the Army Cadets, became Houston's first All-American when the Associated Press chose him for the 1952 team. The year after, UH met with the University of Texas at Austin for the first time in football. Such events proved that the team was growing quickly. However, in 1954, Lee retired from coaching after a 37-32-2 overall record. Lee was credited with having transitioned the Cougars from a small-time team to a legitimate collegiate force in football.

Meek era

After a 45-day search for a head coach replacement, Bill Meek, a successful head coach from Kansas State University, signed a contract with the Cougars and was appointed as Houston's head coach on January 19, 1955.[14] The Cougars' 1955 opening game against the University of Montana marked a 54-12 victory, the first opening victory since 1948. It was during this season that UH attempted to gain a membership to the Southeastern Conference (SEC). Ole Miss, UH's sponsor to the conference had played the Cougars in their ninth game of the season, and although the Cougars lost, Ole Miss felt the team was worthwhile. The SEC decided to wait a year to determine whether UH would be a member of the conference.

The 1956 season was thus an important one for the team. The Cougars won the Missouri Valley Conference title for the second time, and tied with the Southwest Conference's nationally ranked Texas A&M Aggies during their meeting. However, UH lost to both SEC scheduled teams during the season. Both Southwest Conference and Southeastern Conference bids by the Cougars were once again rejected. During the next season, Meek left UH for Southern Methodist University.

Lahar era

Hal Lahar was announced as Houston's next head coach on January 18, 1957.[15] Lahar, came from Colgate University, where he had served as head coach for five seasons.[16] In college, Lahar had played for the Oklahoma Sooners, where he was a part of the school's first bowl team. Under Lahar, during the 1958 season, the Cougars became a nationally recognized offensive leader, as the team scored a combined 117 points in their first three games. Lahar's offensive strategy was best characterized as Split-T.[17]

After winning the Missouri Valley Conference titles again in 1957 and 1959, Lahar left UH in 1961, and headed back to Colgate University.

Yeoman era

Under Hall of Fame coach Bill Yeoman, the Cougars compiled a record of 160-108-8. His 160 victories rank 51st on the NCAA all time list, and make him the winningest coach in Cougar history. He used the Veer offense in 1964 which quickly helped lead the Cougars to national prominence. Yeoman's Cougars finished the season ranked in the Top 10 four times and 10 times in the Top 20.

File:Bill Yeoman coaching
Yeoman coaching the Cougars on the sidelines

In 1964, Yeoman broke the color barrier for major Texas football programs when the University of Houston signed San Antonio’s Warren McVea to a scholarship. On September 11, 1965 the Cougars played their first nationally televised game on NBC against Tulsa.[18]

For three straight years Houston led the nation in total offense, averaging 437 yards a game in 1966, 427 in 1967, and 562 in 1968. The 1968 total was an NCAA record at the time. Houston also led the nation in scoring, 42.5 points a game that year.

He guided the Cougars to four Southwest Conference Championships – 1976, 1978, 1979 & 1984 - and a 6-4-1 record in bowl games including Cotton Bowl Classic victories over the Maryland Terrapins in 1977 and the Nebraska Cornhuskers in 1980. In 1976, Houston’s first year as a member of the SWC, Yeoman was named Texas Coach of the Year and runner-up for National Coach of the Year. Yeoman was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2001 and the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in 2003. He coached 46 All-Americans and 69 NFL players. In 1978, the NCAA subdivided the Division I into Division I-A and Division I-AA with Houston being a part of the former (now known as Division I FBS).

However, his career was not without controversy. In 1986, allegations surfaced regarding illegal recruiting inducements and extra benefits for his players. Subsequently, in 1988, the program was placed on probation. Yeoman was alleged to have handed out cash to players and provided them with illegal transportation and lodging.

Yeoman is the longest-serving coach in Cougar history, having been with the team from 1962 to 1986. After retiring as head coach, Yeoman remained with the Cougars as a fundraiser, a position he still holds today.

Innovation and NCAA probation - The Pardee era

Following Bill Yeoman's retirement after the 1-10 campaign in 1986, the University of Houston hired Jack Pardee to be the program’s sixth head coach. Pardee was a former NFL All-Pro linebacker who had previously held head coaching positions with the Chicago Bears, Washington Redskins and the USFL's Houston Gamblers. Pardee brought with him the Run & Shoot offense and a young offensive coordinator named John Jenkins. The Run & Shoot offense was a strongly pass-oriented system that called for throwing the ball on most downs and in almost any situation. The Cougars would become one of the top offensive teams in the country during the Run & Shoot years.

In 1987, Pardee's first season, the team struggled in adjusting to the new system but scored a 60-40 home upset of the Texas Longhorns on the way to a 4-6-1 finish. The 1988 season saw great improvement in all aspects of team play with the Cougars posting a 9-3 mark, ultimately finishing 2nd in the Southwest Conference standings. The team played in the Aloha Bowl but fell 24-22 to Washington State. The Cougars' offense was led by quarterback Andre Ware, who had been originally recruited to UH by Bill Yeoman as a Veer-option quarterback. UH finished the 1988 regular season at #18 in the AP Poll.

In 1988, the NCAA announced that it would levy sanctions against the University of Houston football program for rules violations during the Yeoman era.[19] The university was charged with around 250 violations, and carried some of the most charges for a program at the time.[20] The program was placed on probation for five years, banned from playing in bowl games for two years, and barred from appearing on television for the entire 1989 season. The lack of television exposure in 1989 was a setback but ultimately did not dampen the accolades UH would garner in a record-setting season.

The 1989 season was one of the most memorable in UH football history. Andre Ware continued his dramatic development as a passer and posted unprecedented passing statistics en route to winning the 1989 Heisman Trophy. Ware passed for 4,299 yards and threw 44 touchdown passes on the season. He posted one of his finest performances with 475 yards passing in the Cougars' 47-9 rout of archrival Texas in the Astrodome. The Cougars set many offensive records during the season. The Cougars finished the 1989 season at 9-2 and 2nd in the Southwest Conference but could not go to a bowl game. UH finished the season ranked #14 in the AP poll.

After the 1989 season, Jack Pardee was hired as the head coach of the Houston Oilers and John Jenkins was promoted from offensive coordinator to head coach at UH. The Pardee era at UH had been the most successful period in Cougar football since the late 1970s. The program enjoyed consistent success on the field, and helped to usher in the explosion of passing offense in college football. The Cougars’ prolific offense and Andre Ware’s Heisman Trophy raised the program to a level of national recognition that it had perhaps never enjoyed before. Pardee was later considered as a returning head coach for the Cougars after Art Briles left the program, but was eventually passed up for Kevin Sumlin.[21] Pardee has not coached since 1995.

Jenkins era

John Jenkins ascended to the helm at UH as a brash, innovative young coach, considered by many the brains behind the high-powered Run & Shoot offense. Jenkins' offensive system reached its pinnacle in the 1990 season.

Led by new quarterback David Klingler, the Cougars' offense put up even more eye-popping numbers in the 1990 season than they had a year before. Klingler set a record by throwing 11 touchdown passes in a single game during an 84-21 rout of Eastern Washington University at the Astrodome. In a final-game victory over Arizona State University in the Coca-Cola Classic played in the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Japan, the two teams combined for 107 points and over 1,000 yards passing.

The Cougars achieved a high ranking of #3 in the AP poll but fell out of national championship contention following a late-season loss to the #14 Texas Longhorns. The Cougars finished the 1990 season with a 10-1 record and a #10 national ranking, again good for only 2nd in the conference standings. Klingler finished 3rd in Heisman balloting behind BYU's Ty Detmer and Notre Dame's Raghib Ismail. The program was serving its final season of probation and was again ineligible to play in a bowl game.

Despite returning David Klingler and many of their best players, the 1991 season saw a significant downturn from the Cougars’ previous four-year arc of improvement. The season began in rousing fashion with a 73-3 home rout of Louisiana Tech, but the second game marked what would in hindsight be a decade-long fall from the successes of the late ‘80s. In a nationally televised game that had been billed as an intersectional meeting of powers, the Cougars were routed handily by the Miami Hurricanes at the Orange Bowl. The Cougars lost the game 40-10, and with it, a great deal of the mystique of their offense. Opposing defenses began to defend the Run & Shoot more effectively, following in Miami’s pattern of frequent blitzes. Although the Cougars defeated Texas for the fourth time in five years, they finished the 1991 season 7th in conference with a 4-7 record. After the season, David Klingler was selected #6 overall in the 1992 NFL draft, while defensive end Glenn Cadrez picked #154 overall by the New York Jets. Although Klingler's career was short lived, Cadrez went on to play 11 seasons in the National Football League, mainly for the Denver Broncos, which included winning appearances in both Super Bowl XXXII and Super Bowl XXXIII (the latter of which he started in). Cadrez is currently married to actress and former Playboy Playmate of the Year, Brande Roderick.

The 1992 season saw the program continue its slide. New quarterback Jimmy Klingler posted impressive performances against inferior competition, but the Cougars struggled against the better teams on the schedule. Jenkins increasingly came under fire for his teams’ poor defensive performance and his propensity to “run up the score” in an unsportsmanlike manner against weaker opponents. The '92 season ended with the Cougars finishing 4-7 yet again.

The controversial Jenkins resigned under pressure on April 17, 1993 after a group of departing players including Trey Hooper, Tim Woods, Geoff Tait, Christopher Tuffin and star receiver Tracy Good reached out to legendary sports columnist Dick Schaap who arranged for an investigative team from ESPN to look into long rumored NCAA violations allegedly being committed by their former head coach (the story went on to win ESPN a 1993 Sports Emmy). Jenkins finished his tenure with an 18-15 overall record. In the chaos surrounding the sudden resignation of Jenkins, Houston athletic director Bill Carr hired Kim Helton, a former NFL offensive line coach, to become the 8th head coach in the history of the program.

Dissolution, disappointment, renovation - The Helton era

File:Kim
Former Houston head coach Kim Helton

After the controversy and NCAA sanctions of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, the UH athletics administration was determined to remake the football program into one founded on sound discipline and transparency. The tough talking Kim Helton seemed to fit this need perfectly. The no-nonsense former offensive line coach was nearly the diametric opposite of the brash, innovative John Jenkins. Where Jenkins believed in the primacy of passing offense above all else, Helton preached a hard-nosed brand of football centered on fundamentals that was a throwback to the 1970s.

Despite returning all 11 starters on offense for the 1993 season, Helton discarded the high-powered Run & Shoot offense in favor of a more traditional run-based attack.[22] The personnel already in the program had not been recruited to excel in such a system and the team struggled mightily as a result of the offensive sea change. In Helton’s first three seasons (1993-95), the Cougars limped to a combined 4-28 record for a winning percentage of just .125.

Helton eschewed the program’s long-time reliance on local talent and instead began heavily recruiting junior college players from Florida, Georgia and Mississippi. By doing so, Helton effectively severed the program’s ties to the local high schools that had long been the lifeblood of UH football. Many local high school coaches claimed that they never saw Helton during his seven-year tenure as head coach.

In 1994 the Big 8 Conference and four schools from the Southwest Conference announced that they would dissolve their respective conference affiliations and merge to form what would become the Big 12 Conference. Houston, along with TCU, SMU, and Rice, would not be invited to join the new association. After over 80 years of SWC play including 21 successful years of UH membership, the SWC ceased to exist at the end of the 1995 season.

UH joined the newly formed Conference USA for the 1996 season. In the inaugural season of C-USA play, led by future NFL running back Antowain Smith and quarterback Chuck Clements, the Cougars went 7-5 and won the 1996 C-USA Football Championship. The 1996 season marked the first winning campaign for the Cougars in six years. UH won that season’s pivotal game against Southern Miss 56-49 in overtime. As part of a new trend, the game was played at on-campus Robertson Stadium rather than at their long-time home, the Astrodome. The Cougars also played in their first bowl game since 1988, losing to #21 Syracuse 30-17 in the Liberty Bowl.

UH posted consecutive 3-8 records in the 1997 and 1998 seasons. In 1999, the Cougars went 7-4, scoring an impressive late-season win at LSU. Four-year starter Ketric Sanford broke many Houston rushing records, but the team failed again to gain an invitation to a bowl game. Despite the winning season, Helton was dismissed as head coach after the season. In his seven years at UH, Helton had compiled a 24-53 overall record.

The decade of the 1990s had not been a good one for UH football. Since the almost magical 10-1 season of 1990 in which they held a #3 ranking into November, the Cougars had since failed to crack the AP Top 25 and had gone to only one bowl game. The team’s poor on-field performance had not been kind to fan interest. Attendance had slipped slowly downward throughout the decade, and the team often played in front of home crowds of less than 20,000 fans. The program also lacked stability in the athletic department after several changes at athletic director. Clearly, significant change was needed for the program to break out of its cycle of apathy. In a move to alleviate the financial burden of paying rent to the Astrodome’s operators, Athletic Director Chet Gladchuk began a drive to renovate Robertson Stadium and move all home football games back to campus for the first time since the 1940s. This idea became a reality in the 1998 season, and significant renovations to the 60 year-old stadium were completed the following year.

Also in 1999, the Houston–Rice rivalry was renewed after a three year hiatus when the Southwest Conference disbanded. The Cougars defeated the Owls in that season's Bayou Bucket.

Hoping to inject vitality into the program on the field, UH hired the successful 37 year-old head coach of Wyoming, Dana Dimel, to take over the program in late 1999.

A new beginning - The Dimel era

After coaching at Kansas State as an assistant under the legendary Bill Snyder, Dana Dimel was selected as the 9th headman of the Houston Cougars after a successful stint as the head coach at Wyoming. Dimel took over the program with fan support at an all-time low. The program's relationship and standing with local high school coaches was also at a nadir as a result of Helton's often dismissive attitude toward local programs. As part of Dimel's rebuilding program, he vowed to bring back the aggressive passing attack that the Cougars had featured during the successful Pardee/Jenkins years.

In the 2000 season, the Cougars opened with a 3-4 stretch before faltering late in the season to finish 3-8. During the off-season, Dimel brought in one of the program's best-rated recruiting classes in decades, and he began reestablishing positive relationships with local high school programs.

Despite the positive attention surrounding Dimel's first recruiting class, the 2001 season was the worst to date in the history of Cougar football. The Cougars went 0-11 on the season, the first winless campaign in the history of the program. Despite the poor season, Dimel again brought in the top-rated recruiting class in Conference USA. The class featured a number of players who would form the nucleus of future winning teams, players such as Jackie Battle, Willie Gaston, Will Gulley and Roshawn Pope.

The Cougars fared better in the 2002 season, but new athletic director Dave Maggard made it clear that he expected significant progress in the program's performance on the field. Late in the year, with the Cougars holding a 4-7 record, AD Maggard informed Dimel that he would not be asked to return as head coach for the 2003 season. The final game of the 2002 season was a rousing 27-10 upset win over Louisville that spoiled the Cardinals' chances of winning the conference title, but UH finished with a 5-7 record which was good for only 8th best in Conference USA.

Return to prosperity - The Briles era

Seeking a sense of stability in the coaching staff, Athletic Director Dave Maggard began the search for a new head coach who would stay and build the program over the long term. To this end, Maggard began searching for coaches with close ties to UH and Texas football in general. The candidate who jumped to the fore was Art Briles, a former Cougar player under Bill Yeoman and assistant at Texas Tech. Briles had earned a reputation as a top-flight offensive coach while the head coach at Stephenville High School of Stephenville, Texas, where he led the team to multiple state titles running his unique version of the spread offense. Briles became the 10th head coach in Cougar football history, and the first former UH player to hold the position.

Briles inherited a program that had lost its way on the field but was stocked with young talent from Dimel’s exceptional recruiting classes. The Cougars had only won eight games in Dimel’s three-year tenure, but things were about to change. In his first season, Briles led the Cougars to a 7–5 record and their first bowl appearance since the 1996 season. The Cougars lost the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl to the Hawaii Warriors 54-48 in triple overtime on Christmas Day, 2003.

After a successful inaugural season under Briles, the Cougars fell back to 3–8 in 2004. Briles guided the Cougars to a 6–6 season in 2005 and an appearance in the Fort Worth Bowl. The Cougars’ hopes for a winning season were ended in a 42-13 bowl-game rout at the hands of the Kansas Jayhawks.

The 2006 season was the most successful for UH in over 15 years. Led by senior quarterback Kevin Kolb, the Cougars romped to a 9–3 regular season record and a spot in the Conference USA Championship game against Southern Miss. The Cougars hosted the nationally televised game at Robertson Stadium and won 34-20 to claim the school’s second C-USA Championship and 10th conference title overall. The Cougars finished the season with a loss to the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Liberty Bowl that gave them a final won-loss record of 10-4.

In 2007, the Cougars went 8-4 and finished second in the Conference USA West Division to the Tulsa Golden Hurricane. In late November the Cougars accepted an invitation to the Texas Bowl. Two days later, Art Briles interviewed for the vacant Baylor Bears head coaching position and was hired the next day. Despite criticism from many Houston fans, Briles promptly left Houston for Waco and did not return to coach the Cougars for their bowl game in December. Cornerbacks coach Chris Thurmond was named interim coach for the bowl game which the Cougars lost to TCU, 20-13.

Despite the rancor surrounding the departure of Art Briles, his coaching tenure had been the most successful at UH since Jack Pardee departed for the NFL almost 20 years before. Briles had recruited well and coached his teams to on-field success, compiling a 34-28 record in his five seasons. More importantly, Briles had helped to return the program to respectability, most notably with the 2006 C-USA Championship. Briles’s close ties with Texas high school coaches helped him to strengthen the program’s ties to its primary talent base, and several of his players had been prominent selections in the NFL draft. Fan interest increased in the Briles era, and talk began of expanding Robertson Stadium beyond its current capacity. It is not too much to say that Art Briles brought the program to heights it had not seen since the 1980s.

Into the future - The Kevin Sumlin era

File:Kevin Sumlin
Kevin Sumlin in 2008

On December 14, 2007, Kevin Sumlin, a co-offensive coordinator for the Oklahoma Sooners was named as the Houston Cougars' 11th head football coach. Sumlin became the first African-American head coach in Cougar history, and the eighth in the NCAA's Football Bowl Subdivision. In his final year with the Sooners, his offense was one of the best in the country, averaging 44 points per game. Sumlin's first game made history at UH, as it drew the second-largest crowd ever as a home opener at Robertson Stadium.[23] Topping Bill Meek's record, he scored the most points in Cougar history for a coaching debut. That season, the Cougars defeated two ranked teams, including one on the road. They also ended their twenty-eight year bowl game losing streak, as they won the 2008 Armed Forces Bowl. On September 12, 2009, the Sumlin-led Cougars defeated #5 ranked Oklahoma State in Stillwater to win its first victory over a top 10 opponent in 21 years, and first victory over a top 5 opponent in 25 years. After defeating then #5 Oklahoma State, the Cougars were ranked (#21 on the AP Top 25) for the first time since September 17, 1991. The following game, in front of a sold-out crowd at Robertson Stadium, Houston would pull out yet another huge win, this time on Texas Tech 29-28 in the final minute. The Cougars continued to be nationally ranked throughout the majority of the season.

Conference affiliations

The Houston Cougars' football program started the same year as its basketball program in 1946. The Cougars played in the Lone Star Conference for their first few seasons through 1948. During this time the Cougars played as part of NCAA's College Division which was designated for small colleges. The university then decided to leave for the Gulf Coast Conference, where the team began playing in NCAA's University Division. From 1951 to 1959 Houston played in the Missouri Valley Conference, and from 1960-1976 the Houston Cougars as a major independent, achieving 6 straight final Top 25 finishes (8 total while independent) and 5 bowl appearances. In 1976, the Cougars began to play in its first athletic conference since 1959 when it joined the now defunct Southwest Conference. After the breakup of the SWC in 1995, Houston became a charter member of then newly formed Conference USA, where it currently plays.

Records and awards

Bowl history

File:Carson Blackmon and Spencer Armstrong 2008 Armed Forces
Houston defeats Air Force in the 2008 Armed Forces Bowl, ending their eight bowl game losing streak

Prior to their 2008 Armed Forces Bowl win against Air Force, the Cougars had not won a bowl game since the Garden State Bowl in 1980. This puts the Cougars in second place, behind the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, for the all-time longest bowl game losing streak.[24] The following is the full bowl game history for the team. The AP Poll ranking, if any, is given before the team name in parentheses.

Date Played Bowl game Winning team Losing team
January 1, 1952 Salad Bowl Houston 26 Dayton 21
December 22, 1962 Tangerine Bowl Houston 49 Miami (OH) 21
December 31, 1969 Bluebonnet Bowl (12) Houston 36 (20) Auburn 7
December 31, 1971 Bluebonnet Bowl (3) Colorado 29 (17) Houston 17
December 29, 1973 Bluebonnet Bowl (9) Houston 47 Tulane 7
December 23, 1974 Bluebonnet Bowl (19) Houston 31 North Carolina State 31
January 1, 1977 Cotton Bowl Classic (4) Houston 30 (8) Maryland 21
January 1, 1979 Cotton Bowl Classic (7) Notre Dame 35 (10) Houston 34
January 1, 1980 Cotton Bowl Classic (5) Houston 17 (9) Nebraska 14
December 14, 1980 Garden State Bowl Houston 35 Navy 0
December 26, 1981 Sun Bowl (3) Oklahoma 40 Houston 14
January 1, 1985 Cotton Bowl Classic (5) Boston College 45 Houston 28
December 25, 1988 Aloha Bowl (16) Washington State 24 (18) Houston 22
December 27, 1996 Liberty Bowl (21) Syracuse 30 Houston 17
December 25, 2003 Hawaii Bowl Hawaii 54 Houston 48
December 23, 2005 Fort Worth Bowl Kansas 42 Houston 13
December 29, 2006 Liberty Bowl South Carolina 44 Houston 36
December 28, 2007 Texas Bowl TCU 20 Houston 13
December 31, 2008 Armed Forces Bowl Houston 34 Air Force 28
December 31, 2009 Armed Forces Bowl Air Force 47 Houston 20

Top 25 poll rankings

The Houston Cougars have finished in the AP Poll and Coaches' Poll fifteen times in the program's history. The team's highest ranking was during the 1976 season, where the Cougars were ranked fourth. Note: The AP Poll began in 1936, and the Coaches' Poll began in 1950. Before 1990, only the top 20 teams were ranked in the AP Poll.

Year AP Poll ranking Coaches' Poll ranking
1952 N/A 19
1966 N/A 17
1967 N/A 19
1968 18 20
1969 12 16
1970 19 13
1971 17 14
1973 9 13
1974 19 11
1976 4 4
1978 10 11
1979 5 5
1988 18 N/A
1989 14 ineligible (on probation)
1990 10 ineligible (on probation)

Conference championships

The Cougars have won ten conference championships in their history, half of which were outright championships. From 1960 to 1975, the Cougars were not affiliated with any conference, and did not participate in any conference championships.

Year Overall Record Conference Record Coach Conference
1952 8-2-0 3-0-0 Clyde Lee Missouri Valley Conference
1956 7-2-1 4-0-0 Bill Meek Missouri Valley Conference
1957 5-4-1 3-0-0 Bill Meek/Hal Lahar Missouri Valley Conference
1959 3-7-0 3-1-0 Hal Lahar Missouri Valley Conference
1976 10-2-0 7-1-0 Bill Yeoman Southwest Conference
1978 9-3-0 7-1-0 Bill Yeoman Southwest Conference
1979 11-1-0 7-1-0 Bill Yeoman Southwest Conference
1984 7-5-0 6-2-0 Bill Yeoman Southwest Conference
1996 7-5-0 4-1-0 Kim Helton Conference USA
2006 10-4-0 8-1-0 Art Briles Conference USA

Individual awards

National award winners

Heisman Trophy winners

College Football Performance Awards

Davey O'Brien Quarterback Award

  • Andre Ware, 1989

Sammy Baugh Trophy

Lombardi Award

College Football Hall of Fame inductees

Head coaching records

Future non-conference opponents

2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
at UCLA[25] vs. UCLA vs. Louisiana Tech vs. Louisiana Tech at Louisiana Tech
vs. Mississippi Stateat Louisiana Tech at UCLA at UTSA[26] vs. UTSA
vs. Texas State[27] at Navy
at Texas Tech[28]

Facilities

Robertson Stadium

From the program's inception, until the end of the 1950 season, the Cougars played their home games in the Houston Public School Stadium, which would eventually be renamed to Robertson Stadium in 1980. However, with the exception of occasional single games in the 1995 and 1996 seasons, the Cougars did not return to the stadium until the 1998 season following renovations. This remains their home stadium today. Along with the Cougars, the stadium is home to Houston's Major League Soccer team, the Houston Dynamo.

Houston Stadium

In 1951, Houston Stadium, a stadium subsidized by the city of Houston opened. Until 1964, the Cougars played their home games in Houston Stadium along with Rice University. During this time, President John F. Kennedy gave his famous address regarding the nation's space effort at the stadium. It is now simply known as Rice Stadium, and is only home to the Rice Owls.

Astrodome

In 1965, the Astrodome was officially opened, and the Cougars moved in the same year. In 1968, the Bluebonnet Bowl also changed its location to the stadium, and the Cougars regularly began to participate in the bowl. After the 1997 season, following renovations, the Cougars moved back into Robertson Stadium. The Astrodome remains the team's longest serving home stadium.

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f Wizig, Jerry (1977). Eat 'Em Up, Cougars: Houston Football. The Strode Publishers, Inc. ISBN 0873971221. 
  2. ^ "Sports Shavings". The Dallas Morning News. 1945-08-23. p. 6. 
  3. ^ "Lone Star Conference Invites U. of Houston". The Dallas Morning News. 1945-10-26. p. 15. 
  4. ^ "Facilities: John O'Quinn Field at Robertson Stadium". University of Houston athletics. http://uhcougars.cstv.com/facilities/hou-robertson.html. Retrieved 2008-04-08. 
  5. ^ "Houston Thumbs Down". Amarillo Globe-News. 1946-01-04. p. 12. 
  6. ^ Carpenter, Tom (2003-09-10). ""Cougar '48 alum was UH's first sports hero"". The Daily Cougar. http://www.thedailycougar.com/static/vol69/12/sports/sports1.html. Retrieved 2008-04-08. [dead link]
  7. ^ "Lee Houston Football Coach". The New York Times. 1948-02-18. p. 40. 
  8. ^ Ratliff, Harold (1948-12-12). "Southwest Conference Votes Down Expansion". Victoria Advocate. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=0MUdAAAAIBAJ&sjid=WloEAAAAIBAJ&pg=6752%2C6059069. Retrieved 2010-03-29. 
  9. ^ "Southwest Loop May Admit Texas Tech". St. Petersburg Times. 1954-05-04. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=2R4LAAAAIBAJ&sjid=Jk8DAAAAIBAJ&pg=4364,1621137. Retrieved 2009-07-22. [dead link]
  10. ^ "Starting Early This Year". Toledo Blade. 1949-07-31. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=7oITAAAAIBAJ&sjid=JgAEAAAAIBAJ&pg=6395%2C1525922. Retrieved 2010-03-29. [dead link]
  11. ^ "Houston University Joins Missouri Valley Conference". St. Petersburg Times. 1950-06-20. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=DsYKAAAAIBAJ&sjid=JE4DAAAAIBAJ&pg=4803%2C1977045. Retrieved 2010-05-29. [dead link]
  12. ^ "Houston Powers to 33-19 Win". St. Petersburg Times. 1952-11-30. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=CxkLAAAAIBAJ&sjid=LE8DAAAAIBAJ&pg=3706%2C7564673. Retrieved 2010-05-29. 
  13. ^ Nelson, Lindsey (1953-07-26). "Michigan State Again Picked As Top Grid Power". Toledo Blade. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=NeMSAAAAIBAJ&sjid=qgAEAAAAIBAJ&pg=4637,4237545. Retrieved 2009-07-22. [dead link]
  14. ^ "Meek Takes 3 Assistants to Houston". The Miami News. 1955-01-20. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=sn4yAAAAIBAJ&sjid=zuoFAAAAIBAJ&pg=2873%2C2912601. Retrieved 2010-05-29. 
  15. ^ "Lahar Named Grid Coach at Houston". Reading Eagle. 1957-01-18. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=e5IhAAAAIBAJ&sjid=KJgFAAAAIBAJ&pg=3675%2C176240. Retrieved 2010-05-29. 
  16. ^ Fullerton Jr., Hugh (1957-01-19). "Lahar Quits Colgate in Favor of Houston". The Gadsden Times. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=b7kfAAAAIBAJ&sjid=ddcEAAAAIBAJ&pg=2648%2C1801832. Retrieved 2010-05-29. 
  17. ^ "The Southwest". Sports Illustrated. 1958-09-22. http://vault.sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1002856/2/index.htm. Retrieved 2009-06-01. 
  18. ^ "On Television". http://grfx.cstv.com/photos/schools/hou/sports/m-footbl/auto_pdf/hou-09-mg-section8.pdf. Retrieved 2009-08-10. 
  19. ^ "Houston Is Placed on Probation". The New York Times. 1988-12-17. http://www.nytimes.com/1988/12/17/sports/football-houston-is-placed-on-probation.html. Retrieved 2009-09-16. 
  20. ^ Reed, J.D.; Coleman, Carolyn-Lawrence (1988-11-14). "The N.C.A.A. Calls "Foul!"". Time Magazine. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,968927,00.html. Retrieved 2009-02-22. 
  21. ^ Schlabach, Mark (2007-12-06). "Yellow Jackets, Wolverines, Midshipmen earn high marks". ESPN.com. ESPN. http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/columns/story?columnist=schlabach_mark&id=3158996. Retrieved 2008-11-17. 
  22. ^ "Cougars Seek Help From Facility". Victoria Advocate. 1994-08-31. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=XzsKAAAAIBAJ&sjid=c0sDAAAAIBAJ&pg=4962%2C6540578. Retrieved 2010-05-29. 
  23. ^ Loh, Zaneta (2008-09-02). ""Cougars trample Jaguars"". The Daily Cougar. http://media.www.thedailycougar.com/media/storage/paper1206/news/2008/09/02/Sports/Cougars.Trample.Jaguars-3410792.shtml. Retrieved 2008-09-02. 
  24. ^ Griffin, Tim. ""Sumlin ideal to recruit fertile Houston landscape"". ESPN. http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/news/story?id=3276092. Retrieved 2008-04-07. 
  25. ^ ""UCLA Adds University of Houston To Future Schedules"". UCLA Bruins athletics. 2008-05-16. http://uclabruins.cstv.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/051608aaa.html. Retrieved 2008-07-16. 
  26. ^ "UH Football Inks Two-Year With UTSA". University of Houston athletics. 2010-05-05. http://www.uhcougars.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/050610aaa.html. Retrieved 2010-05-05. 
  27. ^ "2010 Non-Conference Slate Set For Cougar Football". Houston Cougars athletics. http://www.uhcougars.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/010410aaa.html. Retrieved 2010-01-10. 
  28. ^ ""Texas Tech, Houston Announce Two-Game Series"". Texas Tech Red Raiders athletics. 2008-07-11. http://texastech.cstv.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/071108aaa.html. Retrieved 2008-07-16. 

Further reading

  • Wizig, Jerry (1977). Eat 'Em Up, Cougars: Houston Football. The Strode Publishers, Inc. ISBN 873971221. 

External links








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