Herman championing student involvement with the team
When the Cougars open their season at home against Tennessee Technological University, head coach Tom Herman expects great things from students.
In fact, Herman expects the students to continue showing up at a high level for the entire year.
“There better not be an empty seat in that student section,” Herman said. “That would be disappointing. To me, that’s a very realistic goal.”
Since arriving on campus, Herman has worked tirelessly to build a relationship between the football team and the student body, the likes of which UH has never seen before.
“We’ve been trying to do such a good job of spreading the word to the students that we truly do play for them,” Herman said. “We try to do as much as we can to give back to them.”
But Herman goes beyond just talking about involving the students, he’s putting his words into action.
A new addition to the locker room this season will be a sign with a number of student names upon it, starting a new tradition for the team.
“I thought it would be a neat deal for our guys,” Herman said. “The last thing that they look at and touch before they run out on that field is a representation of the student body.”
And that’s not the only new tradition for the team this year, as Herman says the players have worked up something special to get the students excited before kick-off.
“We’ll have a little whooping and hollering with the student section right before we leave the field for the final time during pre-game warm-ups,” Herman said. “It’s something to really make them feel like they’re part of the game, because they are.”
Senior offensive lineman Alex Cooper, one of the teams four captains this season, knows how important it will be.
“It was a kind of secret song we had going on in the locker room that was never said outside of the locker room,” Cooper said. “I think it’s going to be a great tradition, and that’s one thing I’ve really wanted since I’ve been a student here: some more traditions.”
Herman has coached in some of the best fan environments in the country, and knows the impact the students can have.
“It’s an unbelievable source of motivation, pride and energy,” Herman said. “And if you can get it noisy enough, the distraction and the intimidation of the opposition.”
Another senior captain of the team, linebacker Elandon Roberts has seen the effects first-hand and wants to see that at TDECU Stadium this season.
“Your student body will sometimes win you games,” Roberts said. “Just that excitement, staying in the game, they play a big role…we need our fans. We need them. When we’re out there at the same time, we’re grinding, but we need our fans.”
One thing Herman has had a strong investment in since arriving at Houston is the Fan Appreciation Days, where students and fans get a personal look at the team, and even get to participate with them.
Roberts thinks it helps the students gain a new appreciation of just how hard the team works for them.
“It’s really good, getting the fans involved, showing them what we do on the field,” Roberts said. “It makes them want to come and support us more by showing them that we’re not just some stuck-up scholarship players, we want them to say ‘they really want to be involved with us, so let’s go show them our support.’”
While the students have been the main focus of this team, they’re not just limiting themselves to campus and the alumni, but they want to appeal to the entire city.
“It’s the University of Houston, we represent Houston. Why wouldn’t you want to take over the whole city?” Roberts said. “We want to give them a college team that they can be proud of.”
“We are the hometown college football team of the city of Houston,” Herman said. “If you’re itching for live college…really good quality football, winning football, championship football, then I think it’s a great way to spend your Saturday.”
All the work that Herman and the team have been putting in to building the excitement seems to have worked, both outside and within the program.
“It’s the highest it’s ever been,” Cooper said. “Guys are so tired of hitting each other, we just want to hit somebody else finally…Saturday is going to be a big party.”
Herman knows the team has put in the time and work to build the relationship between the team and the students, and is ready to show that off.
“We actually go out there and literally bleed and sweat and we put our bodies in harm’s way…” Herman said. “Everything we do is for them, we’re a representation of the 44,000 students here…”
Additional reporting by Efren Diosdado.