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Friday, July 1, 2022

Commentary

Athletics quickly gains ground on the elite


WEB-Justin-Tijerina-IMG_1751

Men’s basketball is having a resurgence all its own in the second season of Kelvin Sampson’s rebuilding project. | Justin Tijerina/The Cougar

Ask the average Texan what the best college athletic programs are and the answer will likely be either the University of Texas at Austin or Texas A&M University.

But it looks like it might be time to consider UH one of the elite few.

The 2015-2016 season has proven to be a culmination of projects many years in the making. Football had its highly touted 13-1 season, ending with the biggest bowl win in school history in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.

Men’s basketball is 18-7 on the season, and with five games left, all of which the team has proven it can win, it has a chance to post one of its best records since the 1991-92 season, in just the second year of a rebuilding project under head coach Kelvin Sampson.

But for UH, it’s been the success of the less-talked about programs that contribute to raise the stature of the athletic department.

One of those programs is track and field, which have consistently been competing for and winning team and individual American Athletic Conference or Conference-USA titles for the past few seasons, as well as sending athletes to the NCAA Nationals.

The men’s and women’s golf programs have thrived over the past few years. The men’s program is storied, with noted PGA-Tour winners such as Fred Couples, Steve Elkington and Fuzzy Zoeller emerging from their ranks.

They’ve also made the NCAA Championships each of the past two seasons, finishing 10th during the 2013-2014 season with a strong chance to achieve such heights again.

The women’s team, in just its third year of existence, already has one team championship to its name in its first event of the spring and is looking to build off of the 2014-2015 season, where it reached the NCAA San Antonio Regionals in just its first year of team competition.

The women’s tennis team, despite a rough start to this season, is no stranger to success either, having reached the NCAA playoffs the previous two seasons, including the team and singles championships last season.

The baseball team has also been thriving under head coach and UH alumnus Todd Whitting. The Cougars have made back-to-back NCAA Regional appearances, including hosting the regional last season and reaching the Austin Super Regional two seasons ago and amassing an impressive 101-38 record over those two years.

UH is also making improvements off the playing field, as a recent effort to improve facilities for multiple teams have resulted in a new football stadium, a state-of-the-art basketball development facility, ground-breaking on a new baseball clubhouse and development facility and imminent plans for an indoor football practice facility.

All of these facets of the athletics program have contributed to UH standing out among the crowd, with hopes of a Big 12 invitation soon.

While UH may not have one of the elite programs in the nation and isn’t yet on par with UT or A&M, it’s quickly gaining ground on the rest of the major universities in Texas, and it doesn’t appear they’re slowing down any time soon.

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