Houston, we have a solution…to your conference realignment concerns.
In the spirit of continuing lame introductions for each new Big East school (check the Boise State post here), I decided to go with the good ole’ “Houston, we have a problem” pun.
Truthfully, though, the other Big East football teams — especially ones that give up 400+ yards passing to Western Michigan — might have a problem starting in 2013. The Cougars can really sling it. Let’s take a look at Houston’s football program with the help of Cougars beat writer Sam Khan Jr.
City: Houston, TX
Academic standing: NR in U.S. World and News Report
Football Academics: 57 percent graduation rate (student-athletes who enrolled between 2001-04).
All-time record: 365–326–15
BCS Bowls: None.
Best season: The Cougars came within one game of running the table this season, but lost to Southern Miss in the Conference USA title game. As a result, they fell short of that elusive BCS bid. Houston beat writer Sam Khan Jr. says you can make arguments for teams from 2011, 1990, 1989 and 1976, when the Cougars finished fourth in the AP poll, their highest ranking ever.
“Because of the loss to Southern Miss, you have to rank those other teams — maybe 90 and 76 — ahead of them,” Khan said. “But this is the best we’ve since 1990, which is quite a long time.”
Best known for: The run-and-shoot offense.
In the late 80s, Houston overcame some potentially damaging NCAA violations — it was limited to 15 scholarships in the 1989 season — to put up some gaudy numbers. Andre Ware threw for 4,299 yards and 44 touchdowns en route to the Heisman trophy.
The following year, David Klingler set a record by throwing 11 touchdown passes (11!!!!!!!) in a 84-21 win over Eastern Washington.
Since then, Kevin Kolb and Case Keenum have added to Houston’s quarterback legacy.
Style of play: See above.
“It’s been the same since at least 2003,” Khan said. “It’s been a wide-open, fast-paced, up-tempo type of system…it’s fun to watch. There’s a lot of throwing, maybe not as much as people think — they’re not throwing it 60 times a game — but it’s a pretty exciting style of ball.”
Heisman History: Andre Ware took home the hardware (awkward sentence) 1989. Klinger, who held the NCAA record for touchdown passes in a season (54) for 16 years, was a third-place finisher in 1990.
NFL Draftees: Ware and Klingler were both top ten picks out of college. Both flamed out of the league relatively quickly. Kevin Kolb, another highly-touted Houston quarterback, has been up-and-down thus far.
History vs. UConn: None.
Big East potential: “I think the football team is going to come in and be competitive,” Khan said. “And when I say ‘competitive,’ I mean near the top. I think it’s going to be an annual battle — as long as (Houston) keeps the momentum they have now — I think it will be an annual battle for the West Division title between Boise State and Houston.”
All-time record: 1,125-764
NCAA Tournament appearances: 19
Final Fours: 5 (1967, 68, 82, 83, 84)
National Championships: 0
Best known for: Phi Slama Jama, the hoops “fraternity” led by Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. The Cougars ended the 1982-83 regular season with a 31-3 record and the No. 1 ranking. All that was great until…
Signature moment: Well, it wasn’t their signature moment, but the Cougars are forever a part of sports history because of this game.
Present day: Much has changed since the Phi Slama Jama days. There is no Hakeem Olajuwon or Drexler these days.
“Right now, they are getting better — they had a very tough year last year (11th in C-USA),” Khan said. “With the current recruiting class, one of the top 20 nationally for 2012, it is starting to look up. Right now, it’s a growing process.”
CT Connection: One of the best Houston players of the past decade, Rob McKiver, hails from New Haven. McKiver, a Hillhouse graduate, averaged 23.6 points per game as a senior in 2007-08. He scored 52 points (52!!!!!!) in a win over Southern Miss. It was the highest single-game output in C-USA history.
NBA draftees: McKiver went to the D-League, but Houston has produced its share of NBA stars: Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler and Elvin Hayes were Hall of Fame inductees.
Big East potential: The transition won’t be quite as smooth in hoops as it will in football.
“They have a lot of freshman getting playing time right now, if those guys stick around, with the guys they have coming in, they’ll get better,” Khan said. “Still, I don’t see them finishing in the top five or six in the conference when they come in. It certainly isn’t going to be easy. The Big East conference is very good at this point. Even though there will be a lot of defections, it’s still very good. I don’t see them on UConn’s level or anything like that. I would think they’ll be more middle-of-the-pack when they get in.”