UH Steps Up With Sumlin Contract Extension; Will The Fans Do Their Part?

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Let's hear it for UH Athletic Director Mack Rhoades. He got one of the nation's hottest coaches, Kevin Sumlin, to put his signature to a new six-year contract which is a rather a good deal for the Sumlin and the Cougars. The deal is for six years and $6.8 million with another $1 million in deferred compensation if he stays through 2012 and another $1 million if he stays through 2015. And if Sumlin should decide to depart before January 2, 2013, he will have to pay the university $600,000.

But now that Rhoades has done his part, it's time for the Cougar fans to start doing their bit. It's time for them to actually to start buying tickets and showing up for football games.

There's no justifiable reason why a Top 25-ranked team should play a home game before a stadium that's not sold out. Yet the Cougars sold out only one home game last season, and for that, they needed the assistance of Texas Tech fans to make the sell-out happen.

I've spoken with Mack Rhoades on several occasions since I've been covering the Cougars. He's a guy who has big plans for the Houston Cougars. He got a stadium at Akron, and he wants to get one at Houston. But his wishing isn't going to make it happen.

And I've got to question his desire for that stadium. Sure, it would be nice for the football team to finally play in a modern facility -- it would be nice to sit inside a press box with some elbow room -- but if the team's so-called fans can't be bothered to show up for the games, then why even bother?

I'm a UH graduate, from way back. I was a student for the last years of Bill Yeoman and the first years of Jack Pardee. The excuse back then was that nobody wanted to drive out to the Dome and see the games. The story then was that if the games were played on campus, then people would attend the games because it would be like a true college experience.

Then there was all of the crap about the neighborhood and more crap about the stadium. Then there's the excuse that the teams in C-USA are awful and you don't think that watching the Coogs play Memphis is worthy of your money. Get the team in real conference, with real competition, then you'll show up.

But more than anything, the excuse from my fellow Cougars was that they didn't come to games because the team wasn't any good. Except they didn't come to games when the team was good under Yeoman or Pardee. They didn't come to the games when Art Briles started reviving the program. And now that Sumlin has fielded a team that wins games with one of the most exciting offenses in football, and with a Heisman-quality quarterback, the fan response is the same as always.

They don't show up.

This isn't directed at you real Cougar fans. Those of you who showed up for games during that infamous 0-11 season under Dana Dimel in 2001. Or who showed up during Kim Helton-era (24-53-1). You deserve a better environment as much as Sumlin, the players, and Rhodes. You deserve it because you lived through hell and you made it back, just like the football team.

But now it's time for the rest of you so-called Cougar fans to finally start putting your money where your mouth is. Enough with the bitching about the stadium, and the neighborhood, and the competition. Enough with whining about Richard Justice mocking you or John Lopez telling lies about your coach.

The people running things at the University of Houston have done their job. They've gotten you an excellent coach and a superb athletic director. They've delivered to you a winning football program. If you want that bigger, better stadium, then it's time for you to actually start forking over some money for tickets and showing up at the stadium. If you want the team in a better conference, then you're going to have to give that conference a reason to want the Cougars, and a team that can't sell out a stadium for a highly-ranked team just isn't going to be reason enough.

I've been listening to the excuses since I was a student. And I'm sick of hearing them. Mack Rhoades is doing his job, so get off of your ass and do yours. Buy tickets. Donate money. Show them that you're proud to be a Cougar and that you appreciate the efforts that he, the administration, the coaching staffs, and the players have made.

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