Alma Mater Fidelity

 

Freshman David Piland Gets "Baptism Under Fire" at QB for UH.

 

The Houston Cougars ended their 18-game home winning streak last night before 32,067 fans at Robertson Stadium by falling decisively to the bigger, faster, more experienced  and hungrier Mississippi State Bulldogs, 47-24.

UH Coach Kevin Sumlin continued his search for a successor to the ill-fated and career-finished hopes of former star Case Keenum by inserting his other true freshman QB prospect into the game in the form of young David Piland. Piland did OK, but his two TD passes were more than off-set by two interceptions, one of which led to a fatal touchdown run back near the halftime mark that left the Cougars in a 33-10 hole at the mid-game break.

The other freshman QB, Terrance Broadway, got in the game long enough near the end to throw a 17-yard TD pass to Isaiah Sweeney with 4:36 to go, preventing the game from become the most lopsided loss in Coach Sumlin’s three-year history at UH.

We Cougars took the disappointment in stride and moved on. After case Keenum went down forever as a UH Cougar in the UCLA game of Sept. 18th, none of us were really surprised by last night’s outcome. Few clubs at the college level are deep enough to survive the loss of their only superstar with any hopes of the season playing out as the final realization of their  once great expectations.And UH is no different from the rest in that regard.

For UH, major victory on the gridiron remains more of a hope and a distant memory than it is an actual realization. UH’s 37-7 win over Michigan State at East Lansing in 1967, that 30-0 shutout of UT at Austin in 1976, and the 17-14 thumping of Nebraska in the 1980 Cotton Bowl jump to mind, but none of those wins happened recently and all were against big name teams that aren’t likely hot to play the UH Cougars again anytime soon.

 

A few UH plays worked well early against MSU last night.

 

Today’s piece isn’t really about last night’s game, or even about becoming a team that is perfect enough to to win a national championship or stay in the hunt for one at any cost, every year, including especially the cost of young futures that sometimes get thrown into the fires of  ambition fanned by the universities and their wealthy alumni.

Today’s question is simply: Why be loyal at all to the universities that gave so many of us a good start in life? And, more complexly, why celebrate that loyalty by throwing so much of our support into paying for the athletic programs, especially the lucrative football and basketball programs?

From a money standpoint, the first question speaks for itself and the second virtually answers itself. We are indebted to the university as one of the great givers in our lives. We are loyal to our university’s sports teams because of the complex identity we share with the university and all others who gone there as we did and who have also come out into the world as Cougars, Longhorns, Aggies, Owls, and the like. We carry it even further by incorporating the colors, emblems, hand-signs, and slogans of our group into a ritual show of affiliation by our mode of dress and behavior.

Has anyone ever heard the guy whose luxury care horn plays “The Eyes of Texas?”

Look! I’m not going egghead on you this morning, but for me, it works something like this. I can’t really speak for anyone else: (1) I not only did my undergraduate work at UH, but I also grew up only two miles from the campus. UH always was, and always will be, part of who I think I am – a kid from the East End of Houston who caught an early  break and worked his way into a slightly larger world of possibility and opportunity through a door-opener on higher education. And that open-door, as long as I was willing to both work at my studies and also support myself by working at whatever honest student job I could find, was the University of Houston.

(2) My affiliation with UH’s athletic programs was an easy fit for me. Sports are a way of defining our successes and failures in measurable terms that often are blurred or simply expunged from everyday life matters due to certain politically correct factions that would prefer we behave as though “winning does not matter.” Of course, winning matters. If it didn’t matter, we wouldn’t have all these companies, including NASDAQ, manufacturing scoreboards and all the other kinds of scorekeeping equipment.

(3) I say the scoreboards are for measuring progress, not perfection. If they are merely measurements of perfection, than all college sports fans are doomed to the disappointment that Alabama suffered yesterday because of their 35-21 loss to South Carolina. Perfection says: “So what if you won the national championship last year? You didn’t win yesterday! And that makes you imperfect and, de facto, no good!”

By my standards, the UH loss to Mississippi State last night was simply a toll both on the road to progress, just part of the price of getting better as the team searches for somebody who has a chance of growing into Case Keenum’s shoes at Quarterback. Our UH goal is always, “in time” (our longtime university motto) to get better. – We show improvement by learning from everything that turns out painful on the road to progress – just as we hope to learn from our disappointments in everyday life.

(4) We watch college sports also because they are fun to watch. It’s not much fun watching researchers working on a new health care vaccine, or math theory., but I also believe that our dedication to pure progress includes financial donations to our universities and their academic programs to the extent that we can afford to do so.

 

"All Hail to Thee, Our Houston - University!"

 

(5) Alma Mater. Always Faithful. Everything hinges on the important ongoing relationship of fidelity and trust between a university and its alumni. Both should be conscious of the need to take care of each other by mutual effort – and not be turning the entire reciprocal act of mutual caring into another wasteful play of institutional entitlement.

The only entitlement here belongs to the students. Students are entitled to the best academic opportunity the university can provide them without any exploitation of the student’s funds or talent resources,

At any rate, that’s how I see my relationship to my alma mater, the University of Houston. Last night’s football loss to MSU was simply another painful toe-stumper on the road to progress with larger goals and accomplishments for us all in the wider, deeper scheme of things to come.

Have a happy 10-10-10, everybody!

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4 Responses to “Alma Mater Fidelity”

  1. David Munger Says:

    It is sad when the worth of a University is gauged on the strength
    of its football program. The season is 6 games deep and I already
    have ULCERS, GEAUX TIGERS.

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      David:

      If you can survive watching LSU win as they did over Tennessee and Florida, my hat’s off to you. Hope the rest of the schedule doesn’t make you GEAUX nuts.

      Regards,

      Bill

  2. tom murrah Says:

    Thanks again for the special “reads.” An Uncle of mine,
    Jerome Peschke, worked at the University of Houston for years. I do
    remember going from their home over on Dewberry Lane to the campus
    often when we visited from San Antonio in the early 50’s. Then, in the
    early 60’s, we (A&M) played U of H every season…home and home.
    Yes, I recall Jeppesen Stadium “way back then.” I’m amazed by the
    growth in the business side of athletics, but I do recall the impact of those
    road trips to big opponents. With a nod to David Munger, our AD back then was questioned as to “Why do we Geaux to Baton Rouge to open
    the season every year? ” He quickly replied “because we get a big check, and it balances my budget.” I agree that the support of the
    athletic programs is costly, but it remains important to schools all across
    the country. I often shake my head in wonderment.

    Thanks again for the great columns.

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      Tom, indeed, it is a small world. Your uncle, Jerome Peschke, served as one of the most generous faculty advisors to our Phi Kappa Theta fraternity while I was at UH. He gave of his time and wisdom to all of us – all of the time. As for A&M, I would love to see UH renew their annual series with the Aggies. The Aggies were always good about playing the Cougars back in the day and I’m not really sure why that stopped.

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