UH Fans Need to Step Up and Start Showing Up

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Today is the official first day of the Houston Cougars as members of the American Athletic Conference. And while this isn't quite the conference upgrade the Cougars were hoping for when they signed up several years ago, the former Big East is still better than Conference USA.

Making the conference leap is one step towards the Cougars entering and staying in the national sports conversation. New and upgraded facilities, which the school is also working on, are another major step -- for all of its history, for instance, Hofheinz Pavilion has turned into a dump desperately in need of a facelift. And while I question some of the moves the athletic department has made with the programs in terms of coaches, etc, the argument can still be made that the school has seen a major upgrade since the end of the 1990s.

But if the Cougars are ever going to make that move back into a permanent place in major sports consciousness, the fans are going to have to start turning out for the games. Hofheinz needs to be packed for every men's basketball game, no matter the opponent. And it should be packed for all football games, whether UH is playing Memphis or the Cougars are playing Southern.

I'm a Houston native. I can still remember the struggle it was for UH to gain admittance into the Southwest Conference even though I was just a kid at the time. I've lived with the Cougar High wisecracks and the snide comments about how bowl games don't want the Cougars because the fans make day trips and shop at 7-11. I delight with every defeat of the Longhorns, and suffer the same agony every year when CBS replays the end of the North Carolina State game.

But I was amazed, as a student in the mid- to late 80s, how Hofheinz was never at capacity. And how the Dome was only packed when the Coogs were playing UT or A&M or Arkansas, and only then because the visiting fans had snapped up half the tickets.

At one time the argument was that attendance would improve when the Cougars moved all of their games to Robertson. Then it was that attendance would improve when the football team was better. And then the excuse was the caliber of competition and the lousy conference. And basketball fans didn't like the so-called watered-down level of teams UH faced in Conference USA. And then they said it was a dislike of Tom Penders and that they would return when a new coach was hired, only they didn't return, and they're now complaining about James Dickey.

At some point, UH fans, the excuses have to stop. Football attendance has improved because the football team has improved. But when the team started slumping last season, attendance began to dip. Now some fans are complaining about playing games in Reliant while others are complaining about playing a game at BBVA Compass. And I'm sure that there will be new complaints once the Robertson resurrection is completed.

The Cougars won't be playing Boise State. They're still stuck playing teams like SMU and Memphis. But that's the conference schedule. And despite what happened last season, there's no excuse for the games this season to not be packed because that's what a good fanbase does, it sells out the stadium no matter the opponent instead of threatening to stay home because they don't like the Reliant Stadium tailgating rules.

UH will be facing some major basketball squads this season. They'll have to deal with Memphis and Louisville and Cincinnati. So what will the excuse for non-attendance be this season? Will it be dislike of James Dickey? Will it be the departure of Joseph Young? Is it because Hofheinz is in bad shape and you don't like driving to campus during the middle of the week? There will be an excuse because there's always an excuse to not show up, that's just the UH way. It was the UH way before I was a student, when I was a student, and even now that I'm no longer a student and just a hack who writes about sports.

Am I a bit harsh? Maybe. But I'm tired of sitting on the back table of the press seating but still being able to hear James Dickey giving instructions to his players because Hofheinz is nearly empty. I'm tired of a fanbase that wears its Cougar red and packs the football stadium when the team wins, then finds better things to do when the team's experiencing a bit of a slump.

So here's the deal, UH fans. Do you really want to become part of the national consciousness? Are you still dreaming about that never-going-to-happen move to the Big XII? Then start showing up for every football and basketball game. Make sure the place is sold out every week. Make opponents fear coming to Houston because of the loud fans. Oh, and Todd Whitting is putting together a damn good baseball team, so show up for some of those games every now and then -- and no, attending that one game against UT last March doesn't count.



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5 comments
GlenW
GlenW

A-freaking-men John. The fans in Houston make no sense to me. You remind me of someone who is from out-of-town, like myself, and is stumped as to where are the Cougar fans? Never heard so many made-up excuses in my life.

If you're only willing to support a winning team, the find another one. We don't need a bunch of bandwagon jumpers.

DoctorHu
DoctorHu

How about ending the athletic programs? Schools should be about education, not sports.

cdwhite3
cdwhite3

Get a good Head Coach in basketball who knows how to win games then people will show up. The Athletic Program at the University of Houston is a joke. Every time we take a step forward, Mack makes a ridiculous coaching hire, and we take one giant leap backwards. Winning games, and new facilities will bring "fans". We live in the city of Houston which is more focused on Pro-sports and that's just how its going to be. "fans" would rather go to state of the art facilities like reliant, toyota center then The Rob, or Hofheinz. The new stadium improvements will bring "fans" for a short while, but if we dont begin to win, and make winning a tradition, im afraid we will return to our old roots.

Pipez
Pipez

I've been to every home football game since 2002 and been a season ticket holder since 2007. The big misconception among cougar fans is that there are a number of "fans" who don't show up. Fans that do not show up are simply not fans. UH needs to win more fans, the have to convince casual college sports fans that they are relevant. Attendance figures don't make a program relevant, just ask East Carolina why they are getting left in C-USA with better attendance figures than UH, SMU, et al. How did the football team go from an all time low in attendance in 2001 against Louisville to all time Robertson Stadium records in 2006 and again in 2009? Winning, and winning big games. Winning consistently, and playing in big games is what makes people care. If Dickey wants fans, play a schedule thats not one of the weakest in the NCAA, and win some games against good teams. People will notice

SG24
SG24

Awesome, just awesome. Time to step up!

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