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Wednesday, October 4, 2023


Khator, Rhoades set goals at groundbreaking

Justin Tijerina/The Daily Cougar

Justin Tijerina/The Daily Cougar

President Renu Khator didn’t stick to the script at the groundbreaking for the University’s new stadium Friday — but then again, she almost never does. If she had stuck to the original plan for Robertson Stadium, a groundbreaking ceremony might not be necessary.

When Khator first arrived at UH, the original plan was to build an end zone facility because of financial constraints, but that didn’t meet her standards, she said.

“”That’s all we could do’ wasn’t good enough for us. We needed to do what is best, what is cutting edge, what is deserving of our student athletes, our program and our dream,” Khator said. “I have a motto on my desk, it says ‘Dream big and persist.’”

UH president Renu Khator shares a light-hearted moment with Board of regents chair, Nelda Blair. | Justin Tijerina/The Daily Cougar

UH president Renu Khator shares a light-hearted moment with Board of Regents Chair Nelda Blair. | Justin Tijerina/The Daily Cougar

It takes more than one person to make a big dream a reality, said Athletics Director Mack Rhoades. He and Khator both believed an end zone facility was not enough progress for the changing face of college athletics.

“When I arrived, it really felt like an end zone facility wasn’t going to serve us well,” Rhoades said. “Just knowing everything that might transpire in terms of college athletics with all the conference realignment, if we were going to do something, we needed to do something special — something big. We want to be a top 25 program consistently.”

Five years later, Khator and Rhoades were both featured speakers at a groundbreaking ceremony for a $105 million stadium, which will open August 2014. At the ceremony, the Board of Regents, the Student Government Association, individuals who donated more than $1 million and the student body, who had a record turnout when voting on a referendum that approved fees for the new stadium, were all recognized.

Rhoades also announced an additional $5 million gift from the John O’Quinn Foundation, which will keep the name, John O’Quinn Field, on the turf.

The groundbreaking was held where Robertson Stadium used to be and where the project will stand. Soon, the construction team will begin to put foundation for in place and work on the stadium’s concourse.

Rhoades said he wants UH to have a nationally competitive program and regain the prominence it had 20 years ago, and the stadium is a big part of that. Khator agreed.

“We are on a mission to build a nationally competitive and internationally recognized university,” Khator said. “I think athletics is a very important part for our dreams for our future.”

For the program to attain Rhoades and Khator’s goal, winning is necessary. The construction of a new stadium has already helped head coach Tony Levine in recruiting. The future will tell if that leads to wins.

“There’s a lot of questions that young men ask, and one of them that comes up is to be able to play next season in Reliant — an NFL stadium — and to come back on campus their sophomore year and play in one of the best stadiums in the country,” Levine said.

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