The University of Houston Cougar football program has long been the stepping stone for coaches eager to show their coaching IQ and prowess by reshaping the program and spitting out wins that errantly bring Cougar football into the limelight. Soon after a few winning seasons and promising recruiting classes (along with promises made to new recruits about what is in store for them and their future at U of H under the program being built), and long before that fiery path cools, another power conference football program swoops in and steals that coach away.
This hasn’t always been the plight of Cougar football, but it’s the modern-day rollercoaster that most U of H alumni recalls.
We have a few strong seasons, get our hopes up, channel our excitement over the mumbles and rumors of power conference invites, and then some bigger, more powerful and wealthy football program comes crashing in like the koolaid man and extinguishes all the hype. The brilliant coach jumps ship, the program halts, and what’s left of the scorched earth policy that has become the rule of the Cougar football program is a trail of broken dreams. One may thing this is a quite dramatic display for a football program, but it’s a fact of life for today’s Cougar alumni.
And we’re getting pretty weary.
Many of us look fondly to the Yeoman and Pardee eras (in clips, articles, and youtube footage, because a growing portion of us were mere children (or worse – not even born)) and wonder, with each short era, if this one is going to be the one that takes us back. Ironically, it was the Pardee era that also broke the ground on the present landscape of the football program. In fact, since Pardee was plucked from the program in 89, U of H hasn’t seen a winning coach stick with the program for longer than four years. Art Briles set that record back in 2007, before taking off to Baylor before the season’s end.
The Art Briles decision still hurts, 9 years later.
In the interim, the program has been given a patchwork of interim coaches that can’t keep the promises of the previous program, and it leaves jilted players and fans. The players, after dedicating themselves, are left in jeopardy, not knowing if the next man up is going to have the same plan for them. Usually, the program sinks back into mediocrity after getting a taste of that cusp. Recruitment stalls, and alumni hold their breath to see if their cable provider is even going to broadcast the games in between super star head coaching recruitment.
I really don’t want to sign up for DirecTV, Mr. Herman.
Kevin Sumlin soon came knocking on the door, rescuing the team once again (during the Keenum era), and brought the program again to the brink of breaking through. Big East called, and we accepted. And then the football Big East dissolved, U of H became the charter school for the AAC, and was pitted back to the depths of achieving a perfect season in order to be nationally recognized. Once again, the head coach couldn’t be bothered to stick around for the Bowl game (literally, as he left the team without a head coach on the sideline to interview with A&M), and the program was left to die.
But you, Mr. Tom Herman, you came in to the picture last year and breathed new life into Houston and the U of H Cougar football program. You ignited the city with a fervor that hasn’t been seen since the 80’s, and continue to do so this year. We all waited with bated breath, to see if you’d take the bait and stay a while after last year’s exceptional season, and you did! Big 12 came calling, and you set out to break ground on the single-greatest recruiting class the program has ever seen. It’s all coming together, it’s finally happening – we all thought. And still think.
But now both UT and LSU are trying to blow out our candles again.
I get it – we all do. The allure of either program is quite obvious, and the bidding war would almost be comical to watch if it weren’t such a bitter pill to swallow. And we wouldn’t tarnish your name, because either would be a well-deserved promotion for a talented head coach in the NCAA. You have more than earned that opportunity during your short tenure at U of H. But you’ve brought something magical to this school and this city. You’ve brought hope back to alumni all over the country. Your work here has channeled excitement and electricity that most of us can only be told about.
In essence, you’ve really created something special here at U of H, and we’d all really, really, really love for you to stick around to see it through. Cougar football is on the cusp again, and this time we want to break through. We’re hungry for it. Starving, even. Whatever it is, we’ll do it. We’re packing the stadium again. We’re getting involved. You’re actually forcing news coverage that has typically been dominated by UT, A&M, Baylor and a plethora of bigger, out of state schools. Even better, you’ve given a class of players the ability to reach beyond the college football syndicate.
We love the energy you’ve brought back into town. We cherish it. We want to see it endure. And we all know that it means a tenure longer than 2 years. You can build this program into a consistent winner. You can let it break through to one of the big power conferences (even if it’s not Big 12, the right suitor will come along soon enough) and give this city a long-lasting gift. This happens if you stay. If you see it through, and help us grow to that next level. We want to believe, Mr. Herman. We believe in you, so please, believe in us. Help us get there. Stay here.