On Saturday morning at NRG Stadium Tom Herman did exactly what he was hired to do: Let the rest of the college football world know that the Houston Cougars are for real and not a one-hit wonder. The Cougars beat Oklahoma 33-23 but the score was a little closer than indicated, with the Sooners getting manhandled on both sides of the ball by a ferociously hungry Coog team playing hotter than wearing a fur coat in Houston in August.
From Bill Yeoman, through Jack Pardee and John Jenkins, to Art Briles and Kevin Sumlin, the Cougars have always been known for having a high-flying offense. Herman is the first coach to force opponents to fear Houston’s defense while also their offense. No longer can opponents’ game plans focus solely on shutting down Houston’s passing game.
Give Tony Levine credit where credit is due: Levine made an excellent hire in defensive coordinator David Gibbs in 2013 giving the Coogs a stingy defense known as the “Third Ward D”. Levine’s problem was making terrible choices at offensive coordinator (Mike Nesbitt and Travis Bush) who were both in over their heads. At least Doug Meacham had a solid year in 2013 but left to TCU after one year and the wheels fell off in 2014 when Bush was re-promoted to OC.
Herman has let the whole world know Houston can still air it out with Greg Ward Jr behind center, but these Coogs are just as likely to smack you in the mouth with their stout running game. Derek Warehime can strut sitting down with the work he’s done along the Houston o-line, and dc Todd Orlando picked up last season where Gibbs left off and the defense seems to have cranked it up to eleven.
Why Would Herman Leave?
As some of the large college football powers continue to choke games away (*cough* LSU *cough*) look for Herman’s name to continue to pop-up for openings all over the country. Honestly, why would he leave at this point? Even forgetting a potential Big12 invite in the works, if the Coogs can run the table (*knock on wood*) they’d likely have a spot in the college football playoffs. Where else would he have such an easy route to the playoffs? In the SEC? In the Big Ten? Not likely. Even making the playoffs would put Houston’s program visibility in the stratosphere and would be cause for parades down Main Street. At Alabama just making the playoffs is a letdown.
Herman has already shown he and his staff can out-recruit half of the Power 5 programs. A few more 11-12 win seasons and more huge wins (like FSU & OU) and Herman may be able to get Houston to the top-25 in the recruiting rankings in spite of whatever the Big12 decides expansion-wise.
The University of Houston has some of the best leadership in the country (Fertitta, Khator, Yurchek, & Dickey). I’d hang my hat on the fact that Herman knows this and doesn’t take it for granted what he has at Houston. Just because a program is P5 doesn’t mean they have the same support from the school’s administration and faculty (looking at you Cal). Plus, if Herman is in fact Urban Meyer with a diamond grill and cowboy boots, there will be plenty of openings in a decade if he so chooses.
Not To Toot My Own Horn, But Allow Me To Toot My Own Horn
I started posting back in the 2014 offseason that Houston would be a candidate for the Big 12 whenever the conference decided to expand. I can’t even begin to tell you the amount of derision and hatred I got from people who knew no more about Texas politics than a box of rocks. I’m not going to rehash everything here, but as David Sittler (formerly of Tulsa World) noted, Houston was rumored back in summer of 2015 to be a strong potential candidate for the Big 12. As an Oklahoman, Sittler has no dog in this fight and is simply relaying what he hears on the street.
It made sense back then before Herman had coached a single game and it makes even more sense now that Houston has won a conference title, the Peach Bowl over Florida State, and put the smackdown over #3 Oklahoma on national television on Saturday. In attendance was Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby who saw his conference embarrassed by a team from the allegedly inferior “Group of 5”. Would love to wonder what’s going on in his mind…. maybe relief because Houston already has the support for an invite later this fall. Forget what the uninformed think, the Big 12 needs to make a splash and needs someone to come in and compete right away and make headlines. That’s Houston. Imagine the laughs the Big 12 would get if they skip Houston and add a school like Cincinnati who proceeds to go 4-8 their first year in the Big 12 while Houston is in the top 25.
Putting The City On The Map
One of the coolest things about having a football program getting national recognition from fans and the media is what it’s doing for the city of Houston. LA has Hollywood, SF has tech, New York is New York, even Chicago has a certain cachet. Houston is the forgotten middle child that nobody realizes is getting excellent grades and is on-track to have an excellent career: Our foodie scene is second-to-none, we’re a huge international city, we’ve got more theater seats anywhere outside of Manhattan, etc. Not just cowboys and crude but culture too. Our diversity, inclusiveness, and innovativeness are a glimpse into the future of America. Yet, people still don’t know much about our city, so it’s good UH can put the city on the map. Houston’s University indeed.
Everything Is In Place, But Will Coog Fans Care?
Sure Coog fans will show up in full force when Oklahoma comes to town, but will they pack TDECU on Saturday for FCS Lamar? Will Coog fans fight their way through traffic after work on Thursday nights this season to watch games against UConn and Louisville? Everything that we can possibly need is in place: The facilities, the administration, the coaching staff, the players, the national respect. If Coog fans don’t show up we have nothing to bitch about if the Big 12 decides to pass on Houston and if Herman heads elsewhere. I don’t care about how much potential he thinks we have, nobody likes to coach in front of empty seats.
My career has been accelerating and I’m working far more hours than I was back when I started this blog. I’m working for a Silicon Valley based startup remotely from Houston and startups are a hustle, they aren’t a 9-5 culture. So I will be writing less (as you may have noticed) but I will write whenever I can. I don’t have the bandwidth to write a blog post about every single thing that happens with the Coogs, but I am very active on Twitter. Also, be sure to check out these awesome resources to stay on top of everything UH related: Coog’s House Facebook Group, CoogFans.com and on Twitter, and @htowntakeover.
Stay trill and see y’all Saturday! #1-0