At UH, It’s Still the Same Old Story, A Fight for Love and Glory.

At UH these days, it’s still the same old story, a fight for love and glory, and maybe on the NCAA sports level, even a case of do or die, as well. The big UH sports question really is: (1) Will UH President/Chancellor Renu Khator and UH Athletic Director Mark Rhoades be able to recognize the historical entrenchment of the obstacles they each face and be able to martial the university’s fairly powerful alumni elders and legislative supporters behind them as they concurrently rally the diverse student body and general population of UH sports fans and ordinary peopled alumni to get behind this latest big push for excellence at the NCAA Division I level? The questions alone is a mouthful. The answers are far more mercurial than they always first seem. An this is not the first UH dance with this problem.

The UH fan support plight has been mentioned fairly often as a challenge in the past, but usually in far less sophisticated terms as a ticket “selling job.” It is that, but more too. We know better now. It comes down to selling tickets, but the job at hand is really so much larger.

In 1979-80, Babe McCurdy served as mascot of the UH Mad Dog Defense.

As a UH alumnus (1960), I dove in for a first hand look at what I might do individually to help sell the team back in 1979. Back then I owned an English Bulldog named Babe, whom I thought would make a great mascot for the UH Mad Dog Defense. I also had a hunch that UH could do something with an authentic football game jersey that no other university or professional team had ever tried. In my proposal, UH would retail the sale of real UH football jerseys to fans. All would bear the digit #1 that currently was in use by UH linebacker Danny Brabham. At the end of the season, we would hold a retirement ceremony for #1, reserving that number of singular sensation fame from there to forever for the exclusive use of fans who bought official jerseys from UH.

As the best laid plans of mice and men so often unfold, things didn’t happen the way I hoped they would. UH ran off an 11-1 season in 1979 that included a 17-14 win over Nebraska in the Cotton Bowl and a #4 finish in the final AP Top 25 Poll, but the university dropped the ball in the way they decided to handle this incredible success: (1) The Retirement of Jersey #1 for the fans never happened. When linebacker Brabham went out with an injury early in the 1979 season, he applied and received permission for another year of eligibility in 1980. The retirement ceremony was postponed, but still never happened because the importance of the event was not communicated to the football coaching staff – who promptly promised the #1 to another recruit. And that was that. (2) Mad Dog Babe had become a darling of the fans, but the presence of the feisty and talented bulldog on the field had aroused some jealousy among members of the Cougar Guard students who took care of Shasta, the live Cougar, on the sidelines. There wasn’t much they could do with Shasta, who came to each game under heavy sedation for the safety of one and all. Meanwhile, the Mad Dog Babe was roaming the sidelines, tearing up jerseys and replicas of the opposition’s mascots and leading the Cougar defense on the field prior to games. As her owner, trainer, and good buddy in ridiculous mayhem, I got to be there with her for every game, even getting to kick a 35 yard field goal in an after midnight half time ceremony in a game with Texas A&M that had to be postponed until later in the evening due to a baseball playoff game between the Astros and Phillies back in 1980. It was simply a wonderful time for the two years (1979-80) that it lasted.

Babe was trained to move the football anytime she heard the Cougar Fight Song.

(3) The worst misunderstanding by former AD Dempsey fell hard upon Cougar Nation in 1980. Instead of grasping and flying with the jersey retirement-fan inclusion plan after that successful 1979 season, Dempsey decided to add a $100 per ticket personal seat license on sales to all UH season ticket holders. The crashing sound that followed was the clatter of UH fans, including yours truly, allowing their season ticket options to fall and hit the pavement. Babe and I were gone from UH after 1980 – and it took another twenty years and former AD Dave Maggard to get me back as a season ticket holder again.

The spirit of Mad Dog Babe is as long as her teeth.

Cedric Dempsey was simply the worst thing that ever happened to UH Athletics. He never really understood UH or the people of Houston. We cannot again afford to have anyone at the helm who either thinks or acts as Dempsey once did.  If UH athletics are to rise again to their SWC football and Phi Slama Jama basketball glory days, the Cougars are going to need (1) an infusion of new blood into the body of season ticket holders. When we remove our Cougar game caps, our current alumni bunch pans out like a field of aging cotton tops;  (2) first class facilities for football and basketball are a must; (3) more season ticket holders who are willing to pay more because they’ve been clearly told what they are paying for; (3) exceptional recruits and better salaries for ket staff that will allow us to keep coaches like the intelligent and classy Kevin Sumlin; and (4) membership in a first tier BCS football conference.

It’s a tall, tall order, but it either has to be done or we Cougars have to stop complaining. It’s put up or shut time at UH.

Tags: , , ,

3 Responses to “At UH, It’s Still the Same Old Story, A Fight for Love and Glory.”

  1. Randy Says:

    No school has achieved more in the history of college sports with the same set of challenges that UH has had to face.
    In fact I am not pushing the point to say there is no school that has operated school remotely close to the tightrope-without-a-net existence such as has faced the red and white.
    There are enough factors to discuss that have been a part of this to write a substantial compendium. But this point is for sure. After suffering miserably to the point of apathetic walk-throughs as a team/program, we can point to Art Briles and now Kevin Sumlin as laying the groundwork for one more ‘ol rally for alma mater. But the billion dollar world of college athletics will have its’ say.
    Speaking of which, without the late resurgence of UH football where is the new stadium or Robertson ultimate makeover?
    Not only does Kevin Sumlin have his fingerprint all over the Texas recruiting scene, but with a city of 3.5 million bandwagon jumper-would be’s at the door, a big splash on the football scene in the next 2-3 years, i.e., going to and/or winning a BCS Bowlgame can turn this city upside-down. While the Houston market can drown you in a sea of competition, when you are on top of the market ,and all in the news, you can rule with an iron fist. And the pipeline of players just keeps filing through.

    The issues about money in hand and backsides in the stands has to do with a couple of things. One, one of the most underrated events in this city are UH tailgate parties. When you mix in a new fanbase of 15,000 to 25,000 more than before, and their exposure to the tailgate experience, it can escalate to a higher level. The other thing is that this time let’s not take our fans for granted. Let’s treat them as people who have lives and histories involving their communities, family and UH. Don’t treat UH people as a measured number of repeonse to “another” “slick ad gimmick”. Actually, if you just get on the phone and talk to UH people, you’ll find you can probably fill the stadium several times over with UH people only if the effort is made to get to know them and find out what their involvement (or lack thereof) with UH is. If the relationship has been severed, you’ll be surpised at the support one can foster if a bridge is built “out” to those UH people.

  2. Bruce Biundo Says:

    Please add me to your listserv

  3. Coaching Frankfurt a.M. Says:

    Coaching Frankfurt a.M….

    […]At UH, It’s Still the Same Old Story, A Fight for Love and Glory. « The Pecan Park Eagle[…]…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: