I was sitting next to one of my fellow reporters at a UH football game last fall. I think the opponent was SMU, though it might have been Southern Miss. The Coogs were highly ranked, and they were getting lots of national attention. Yet Robertson Stadium was nowhere close to being sold out.
My colleague looked down at his computer, which was open to a Cougar fan page, and we looked at the topics, which were expanding with comments between and during plays. He looked at me and said something along the lines of "if these people were really Cougar fans, they'd be here at the stadium actually watching the game and not sitting around playing on their computers."
It was a bit harsh, but there's an element of truth to that statement. Cougar fans love to bitch about the lack of coverage the teams get, and the lack of respect. But while the fans love to bitch, they don't bother doing anything about it, because the one thing that would really bring the team respect, besides winning, is not people carping on message boards, it's people sitting their asses in the stadium and watching the game.
This is a topic because I've been hearing all of the talk and seeing all of the comments on the message boards from people asking for support the Cougars' attempt to get into a BCS Conference. And the people seem to think this is a possibility what with the possible implosion of several major college football conferences.
Steve Campbell did a good job of addressing why the Cougars aren't at the top of all of the lists the other day. And he's right. The Cougars bring absolutely nothing to the table that a major conference needs. There's no Ann Richards around to drag the Cougars into major conference relevance like there was when Baylor was allowed into the Big 12. Baylor had better alumni and student support and better facilities than UH, and they were flops when it came to being in a major conference. It's going to take a miracle for Baylor to get invited to join the Pac 10, and I'm not much of a believer in miracles.
I've written before that I'm a Cougar alum, and that I've attended games since the 1980s. And as much as people like to say that the Cougars attendance will increase once they face better competition, and that they'll get more support when they play major teams, we all know this a lie.
The Cougars used to play in a major conference in a modern facility that sat over 50,000. And how often did they sell out games? About once or twice a season, when the Longhorns and Aggies were in town. They couldn't sell out games when Bill Yeoman was coaching the team to the top of the SWC and going to the Cotton Bowl. They couldn't sell out teams when Jack Pardee and Andre Ware were running the most exciting offense in football. The Cougars could barely sell out last year when Texas Tech came to town. So why should the Pac 10 or the SEC or the Mountain West or the remnants of the Big 12 want anything to do with Houston? What should lead those conferences to think that things are going to change?
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I'm a Cougar alum, and I want nothing but success for my school. I like Mack Rhoades, and I like the energy and vision that he has brought to the campus. For the first time in years, athletics at UH are about winning and relevance, not about not being embarrassed. I want the football team playing big teams and in big bowls. But it's not just about the football team, it's about the fan base. And the Cougar fan base has a big bark and a non-existent bite.
I'll tell you what. Let's sell out all of the football games next season. Let's pack Hofheinz for the basketball programs. And how about some of you getting off your ass and showing up for baseball? Hell, how about you show up and support all of the Cougar sports teams? And go on the road and see the team play.
If you do that, I'll see what I can do to help the school. But I seriously doubt it's going to happen. I just have this feeling that UCF will be at Robertson this fall, and even though the Cougars are highly ranked and Case Keenum has the offense purring like a finely tuned engine, that I'll look around, and the stands will be half-empty, the message boards will be full of people commenting on the games, and somebody will be saying that they'll show up when the team plays somebody decent. And that's just not good enough.
I hope that I'm wrong. But I doubt it.