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Monday, September 25, 2023


Maggard set UH in right direction

Well done, Dave Maggard.

You may not have achieved all the goals you set out to when taking the job as UH’s athletics director in January 2002, but you easily did more in your seven productive years than your 11 predecessors did in their short-lived stints at UH.’

Most importantly, you did it your own way, staying the course even in the face of mounting criticism from media and fans who spent more time complaining than showing up for games or opening their wallets.

Not since the late Harry Fouke, who started the UH program in 1946 and ran it for 33 years, has a Cougars’ athletics director gotten down in the trenches as much as Maggard did.’

Maggard, 69, laid a foundation for future success that will greatly benefit his permanent replacement and which fans will appreciate, should the program ever reach the plateau it’s been aiming for.

Maggard, who announced his retirement Wednesday, leaves the program at a time when it is once again relevant.’

The football program advanced to postseason bowls in five of the last six years. In February, it landed its best recruiting class in some time under second-year head coach Kevin Sumlin.’

The men’s basketball program, which still awaits its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1992, has won 20 or more games in three of the last four seasons.’

The softball and baseball programs both reached the NCAA Tournament last year, with the softball team advancing to its first super regional while the track and field and swimming and diving programs have continued to rank among the best in Conference USA.

The graduation rate for athletes is up to 59 percent.

No doubt, Maggard leaves the program in much better shape than the one he inherited.’

When Maggard arrived on campus, the Cougars’ athletic program was a laughing stock. The football program was fresh off a winless season and hadn’t been to a bowl game since 1996.’

The men’s basketball program hadn’t made a postseason appearance since 1993, having suffered through three of the worst head coaches in its history.’

Attendance was dropping across the board, nearly as fast as the graduation rate for athletes, which was at 27 percent when Maggard arrived.

Maggard understood he wasn’t going to revive an ailing program and fan base by maintaining the status quo.’

At the time, UH sports included poor coaching performances, inadequate facilities, weak attempts at marketing and fundraising, little national exposure and apathetic alumni.

So, Maggard went to work, taking a harder stance with coaches left from previous regimes. He set high standards for all sports, including the revenue-generating sports of football and men’s basketball and got rid of coaches who couldn’t meet those standards.

Maggard fired football coach Dana Dimel after a lackluster 5-7 season in 2002, replacing him with up-and-comer Art Briles.’

Men’s basketball coach Ray McCallum was given the boot after a ridiculous 9-18 campaign in 2003-04 and replaced by Tom Penders, a guy with 10 NCAA Tournament appearances on his r’eacute;sum’eacute;. ‘

For the most part, the moves paid off. Briles took the Cougars to four bowl games in five years and won a C-USA title before bolting to Baylor.’

Penders led his program to two National Invitational Tournament appearances in his first two years, notching three upsets on Top 25 opponents during that span.

When Briles left, Maggard hired Sumlin, a co-offensive coordinator at Oklahoma. Only one year later, Sumlin led the Cougars to their first postseason bowl victory since 1980.

Lately, however, Maggard has come under fire for refusing to fire Penders, who managed only appearances in the lowly College Basketball Invitational in the last two seasons.

Some media and fans were hoping Maggard would hire former Kentucky head coach Billy Gillispie, or someone else who could bring in better recruits after last season, but the athletic director stood by his guy.

It remains to be seen whether Maggard’s faith in Penders will pay off, but there’s no doubt the athletic director hit the jackpot with his other moves. He accomplished most of what he set out to do.

Well done, Maggard.’

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