The legendary Houston Cougars basketball teams of the early 1980’s are getting the “30 for 30” treatment from ESPN. The documentary was directed by Houston native Chip Rives and will air on ESPN later this fall.
As a sports fan, the “30 for 30” series is done incredibly well and it’s always good learning about different sports stories. I recommend watching every episode on Netflix if you haven’t already, even on sports you don’t normally follow… they’re that good. I can’t wait to see the Coogs on the screen!
Tom Paciorek, a two-sport athlete for the Houston Cougars, was announced as a member of the 2016 National College Baseball Hall of Fame inductee class. This honor, which is determined by the College Baseball Foundation, marks the first Cougar to enter its hallowed halls in Lubbock, Texas.
Paciorek played both baseball and football during his time on campus. From 1966-1968, he played outfield for the baseball team, bringing the program to heights it had not reached before, and in many ways, hasn’t since. In 1967, he led Houston to their only appearance in the College World Series Championship game. Though they came one game short of winning it all, Paciorek made his mark in annals of Houston athletics when he was the first Cougar to ever be named a First-Team All-American in 1967. He repeated this feat in 1968.
He was also the first Cougar to play in the MLB. A dynamic athlete, he was selected in both the MLB and NFL draft, by the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Miami Dolphins, respectively. He chose the Dodgers and spent more than a decade and a half in the majors. Although he spent time on six different teams, he was an All-Star in 1981 and twice played in the post-season in his long MLB career, which ended in 1987.
After his retirement, he spent the next two decades as a baseball commentator for multiple teams.
Paciorek’s illustrious sporting career left an extraordinary impact on the athletics of the University of Houston. He was a trailblazer, leading the baseball program into national prominence, and an integral part of the football team as a defensive back. His mark on the university is significant, and his induction into the College Baseball Hall of Fame is recognition of this fact. But the university has known this, as they already had retired his number, elevating it to a status achieved by only two others in the history of Houston baseball.
CFN recently ranked the top ten quarterback/head coach duos in college football. Houston’s Greg Ward Jr. and Tom Herman came in at #7 and I think they’re easily deserving of top five. Here’s the blurb on Houston from the article:
Herman is one of the hottest young head coaches in college football. In Ward, he has the ideal multi-dimensional threat to help carry out his offensive plans.
In their first season as partners, Herman and Ward helped lead the Cougars to 13 wins, an American title and a New Year’s Six bowl upset of Florida State. And the best may still be ahead in 2016, even after Ward accounted for 38 touchdowns by vexing defenses with his quick feet and his improving passing skills.
Houston safety Trevon Stewart helped anchor the Coogs’ stingy Third Ward Defense during his time on Cullen Boulevard. A month away from the NFL Draft, the Patterson, Louisiana native’s parents made the four-plus hour drive from their home to watch Trevon’s workout at last Thursday’s Pro Day. Stewart hoped his performance was strong enough to impress the NFL scouts in attendance. Full story from Anthony Oppermann here.
On Tuesday night, Schroeder Park was brimming with fans of two Texas baseball programs, both of which were hoping to see a top 15 matchup of heavyweights. Red and maroon filled the stands, and two schools that are only 100 miles apart battled it out, with the away team, the Texas A & M Aggies, coming away with the victory in front of a near sold out crowd, dropping the Cougars to 16-8 and improving themselves to 22-3.
The Houston Cougars struggled against the #1 ranked team in the nation, who looked the part. The struggles stared early. John King got the start on the mound for Houston. He is usually the Sunday starter, but due to the strange Thursday start to the preceding series against George Washington, he didn’t make an appearance then, and instead pitched in this midweek matchup.
But he quickly allowed four runs in the top of the first inning. Granted, two errors were committed, but he also allowed three hits and a two run home run from Nick Banks.
While this four run lead wasn’t exactly insurmountable, the bottom of the first, and the top of the order, didn’t instill a sense of confidence. A & M pitcher, Corbin Martin, threw a 1-2-3 inning against Houston’s best hitters.
A sense of hope did return in the bottom of the second, when the Cougars cut their opponents lead in half. Justin Montemayer and Corey Julks both singled to get on base. A wild pitch scored Montemayer. Julks scored on a Connor Hollis bunt that led to a fielding error on the pitcher.
John King also began to appear more comfortable. After his rough start, he threw three scoreless innings. After four it was a relatively close game, at 4-2.
But King couldn’t sustain this momentum. He allowed a run in the top of the fifth and was replaced by Bubba Maxwell in the following inning. Maxwell, however, allowed a run in the top of the seventh and was replaced by Trey Cumbie after only two innings. Cumbie similarly struggled. But the run he eventually allowed was on a Wong throwing error.
Nathan Jackson then took over on mound in the ninth. He, however, walked two straight batters, and usually high achieving relief pitcher Nick Hernandez came in to minimize the damage, which he did successfully. He got out of the inning without allowing the Aggies to inflict any more damage. But they led 7-2 by this point.
The Cougars had one more chance in the bottom of the ninth. And they made it interesting, loading the bases with Michael Pyeatt at the plate. But he grounded out to end the game.
Houston left nine players on base and committed three errors. There is a very slim margin of error when playing against teams of A & M’s caliber, and the Cougars didn’t do enough to stay out of trouble. They went through five pitchers and most of them struggled to at least some degree. The A & M pitching, on the other hand, did what it had to do to win the game. While they put out six pitchers on the mound throughout the game, they combined for only two walks, and after the second inning, allowed no runs.
While the Cougars did get on base, they left nine stranded. This wasn’t enough, especially considering they trailed the entire game. Leading hitter, Joe Davis had only one hit. No other Cougar had more than one hit, either.
While the 7-2 final score appears disconcerting, one must remember that A& M is the top ranked team in the nation. Also, this midweek matchup features neither Houston ace, Andrew Lantrip or Seth Romero, who start on Friday and Saturday, respectively. While this may speak to a lack of bullpen depth, it could also just be indicative a team that is still growing. Remember, they started the season 4-5, and despite this loss, have won 12 of their last 15. And they will likely win many more down the line, especially in weekend series when they have Lantip and Romero pitching.
It would have been nice to beat a top ranked Aggie team, but the sky is not yet falling, and the Cougars are still a good team going forward.
Aaron Wilson reported last week that Houston cornerback William Jackson III had dinner with Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and GM Kevin Colbert the night before Houston’s Pro Day. Now, Wilson is reporting that Jackson will be visiting with the Miami Dolphins today. Jackson had an impressive combine and pro day and is a likely first round NFL Draft pick.
After a dominant series sweep of the George Washington Colonials, the 16-7 Houston Cougars return to action on Tuesday, against arguably the best team in the nation, #1 Texas A & M.
While the Cougars outscored the Colonials 24-2 throughout the three game series, and have won 12 of their last 14, the Aggies will present a considerable challenge. Their record is an impressive 21-3. While the first two-thirds of their schedule was against a fairly soft schedule, in the last few weeks they have beaten their arch rival, Texas, and won series against conference divisional foes Auburn and LSU.
The series victory against #15 LSU, a perennial baseball powerhouse, was particularly impressive, and, ultimately, what catapulted them to #1 in the nation in multiple polls, including Baseball America and D1Baseball.com.
Houston and A & M met once last year, in the College Baseball Classic at Minute Maid Park. The Aggies triumphed, 6-0. While they were 50-14 last season, reaching a Super Regional, they could be even better this year.
The Cougars have struggled against good teams this season. They went winless in this year’s College Baseball Classic, losing to three ranked teams. Granted, Seth Romero was still suspended due to a disciplinary issue. Since his return, though, the team has improved, especially in pitching consistency. While they did get an impressive series victory over an up-and-down Alabama team, they lost to Rice last Tuesday in a hard fought battle that saw head coach Todd Whitting get ejected for a heated protest of a questionable strike call.
But they are coming off of an emphatic series sweep, and likely want to defeat the team that plays only 100 miles away and also happens to be the best college baseball squad in the nation quite a bit. A win over this recent SEC arrival would really give the Cougars momentum going into conference play the following weekend. But, it won’t be easy.
The Aggies have significant pitching depth. They have had multiple midweek starters on the mound. Brigham Hill has some has made some, but also comes out of the bullpen. He has an ERA of 1.38, with 26 strikeouts and 4 walks. But in their last midweek game Stephen Kolek got the start on the mound. He has a 1.64 ERA in three appearances.
A & M is also hitting well, at .336 as a team. Boomer White has the highest batting average, at .404, but their depth is apparent. Seven other starter are hitting above .300, including J.B. Moss, at .396 with an accompanied 23 RBIs.
This talent on both sides will be difficult for the Cougars to stifle. But it is possible. Houston’s pitching is a bit top heavy, with superstar aces Andrew Lantrip and Seth Romero. While neither is likely to pitch in this game, they have won a lot of games this season. Others will have to step up in this one.
Usual midweek starting pitcher, Marshall Kasowski, has a 4.32 ERA on the season. He struggled against Rice last week, allowing four runs in a little over three innings pitched. But the oddness of the Thursday start to the last series altered the lineup a bit. So we could even see a pitcher like Sunday starter, John King, who didn’t see the mound against George Washington. But whoever gets the start will be tasked with an extraordinarily difficult task. They will need the Cougar offense to play as well as they have this season so as to allow some breathing room.
Houston’s offense is led by freshmen phenom Joe Davis, who is hitting .402 on the season, with 6 homeruns, and 31 RBIs. Connor Wong and Michael Pyeatt follow, hitting .365 and .349, respectively. But these three are usually at the top of the order. The bottom of the order has struggled at times, and includes Jose Reyes, at .206 and Zac Taylor at .200.
If the Cougars can pull of a more consistent performance at the plate, and improve their .279 team batting average, they could, potentially win this one. It would be a statement game for Houston and give them significant momentum going forward, along with bragging rights and warm fuzzy feelings.
Houston football coach Tom Herman made headlines Friday when he publicly spoke out in favor of changing NCAA player transfer rules to better favor student athletes.
Under most circumstances, the NCAA requires student athletes to sit out one season when transferring between Division One programs. The theory is this keeps the total number of transfers down and hopefully forces the student athlete to not transfer willy-nilly and thoughtfully consider transferring. One of the drawbacks of this policy is coaches are frequently fired and frequently change jobs, often times long after high school seniors have decided to attend a university. Herman thinks if a coach leaves a program, players should be allowed to transfer and play immediately.
In case you missed it, Houston’s dynamic junior wide receiver Demarcus Ayers will be working out with the Houston Texans, Dallas Cowboys, and New England Patriots. Ayers, who declared early for April’s NFL Draft, is hoping to impress NFL scouts enough to get drafted and earn a roster spot in the fall.
Ayers was injured when he participated in the NFL combine but impressed scouts at Houston’s pro day last week and hopefully can continue on his momentum in his private workouts before the draft. Be sure to check out his highlights here!
With the college football offseason in full swing, I thought now is the perfect time to start some endless speculation and discussion on conference realignment. This post is not about whether the Pac 12 would expand in the near future, but if they were to expand, who would be a good fit. And given that this is a Houston Cougars blog, I’ll be discussing if the Coogs would fit in as a conference member. This article is, like, my opinion man, so don’t misconstrue it for something it’s not.
Schools With Zero Chance At Pac 12 Membership
First up I’ll write about the schools that I don’t believe have a legitimate shot at Pac 12 membership. With the Colorado Buffaloes as a recent addition five years ago, I don’t believe the Pac would add Air Force or Colorado State as members. Both are solid mid-level football programs but wouldn’t really do much to improve either the Pac’s academic reputation or expand the conference into new major television markets.
Boise State is arguably the best non-Power Five football program but the school doesn’t really have much else. Boise is a small media market and the school isn’t known for being strong academically. Too bad for the Broncos because they’ve always been a very fun team to watch.
BYU has had some excellent football success and has one of the strongest fan bases in college football. The problem is the Cougars are a very religious institution and, culturally speaking, I don’t see any chance university leaders at Berkeley, Los Angeles, or Palo Alto would ever want to deal with BYU. Also, BYU is rumored to be hard to deal with and very demanding (like the Longhorns in the Big 12). The fact that the Pac invited Utah over BYU speaks volumes.
San Diego State, Fresno State, and San Jose State are all located in solid media markets and are potentially sleeping (G5) giants, but don’t have as strong as football history… though Fresno State is respectable. None of these schools have very strong academic reputations.
Teams That Might Be Bn The Pac’s Radar
The Pac was close to adding Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, & Oklahoma State back in 2011 before the four pulled out of consideration to remain in the Big 12. There’s lots of chatter from fans online about Texas and Oklahoma still both being candidates for the Pac but frankly I don’t see it happening. I think Texas burned that bridge in 2011 and I don’t see any way in hell they give up the Longhorn Network in order to join the Pac. I also don’t see Oklahoma following UT to another conference, given how focal OU has been with their displeasure about the Big 12 in recent months.
If the Pac 12 wanted to be very aggressive, it would be interesting if they offered the Houston Cougars in addition to Oklahoma. Or, a combination of Houston, Oklahoma, Kansas, and a fourth addition… possibly SMU, New Mexico, or UNLV. SMU doesn’t have a strong football program but Larry Brown is showing that the Ponies can compete on the hardwood and the ginormous Dallas market may be too big for the Pac to pass up. Also, by bringing in SMU, the Pac 12 schools would have a chance to increase their brand in front of the huge amount of Dallas area recruits.
Oklahoma would bring a traditional, blue blood power of a football program and a very strong basketball program which is currently in the Final Four. The Sooners also bring near-AAU level academics and they also have a strong presence in the Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and Dallas markets. Kansas is a blue blood basketball program, an AAU member, and brings the Kansas City market. Both programs would be huge additions to the Pac 12 and would generate a lot of press coverage for the conference in a part of the country where the Pac isn’t even close to being on anyone’s radar.
Houston has shown the past few years that the Coogs can win in football and also, this season, that there’s a ton of potential in basketball. Houston would open up a gigantic media market for the Pac and also give each team a better chance to recruit the incredible amount of high school talent in the city. Houston vs Texas would be time match-up in the Bayou City, but Houston vs USC wouldn’t be too far behind, especially if the Trojans get to winning again like they did during the Carroll era.
New Mexico is tied for #180 on the US News list of best colleges and would bring a large amount of fans from both Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Even though they don’t have a ton of recent football success, they’ve got a decent basketball program and would be an interesting pairing with Houston in the Pac if they didn’t like SMU.
Another interesting candidate would be the UNLV Running Rebels. Even though UNLV isn’t strong academically or on the football field, the basketball program has some solid history and the Las Vegas metro area with over two million people might be too big to pass up. If the school ever gets their billion dollar football dome built and increases the wins on the football field, the major power conferences may take much greater notice.
If the Pac 12 were to expand by two more teams, I would expect Oklahoma and Kansas to be at the top of their list. A more likely landing place for OU & KU would be the Big Ten. If the Sooners and Jayhawks are out than I would expect the Pac to either strongly consider a duo of Houston+SMU/UNM/UNLV or they decide to hold tight at twelve teams.