Cougars contribute to Black History
Hall of Fame coach Guy V. Lewis accomplished more than the 592 wins he accrued during his 30 years at the University. Lewis, along with former football coach Bill Yeoman, also helped push forward social change in the South.
When Lewis signed UH greats Elvin Hayes and Don Chaney and Yeoman inked former running back Warren McVea, both became the first coaches at programs in Texas to sign a black player. Neither player had easy transitions to life at UH, but their inclusion pushed other schools toward integration too. It wasn’t until later that Baylor, SMU, TCU, Texas Tech, Rice, Texas A&M and Texas opened their doors to black football players.
“They’d have never done it until someone forced them to. I know them. If we hadn’t done it, I don’t think the Southwest Conference (would have done it for) another five or six years,” Yeoman said to The Daily Cougar in 2008.
McVea became a great player for the Cougars, earning All-American honors twice.
Lewis’ decision changed basketball in the South, Hayes said.
“There were no schools in the South, basically, recruiting black athletes,” Hayes said in an Associated Press article. “He paved the way in basketball. You watch LSU, Kentucky, Alabama now, they have all these great black athletes. These schools weren’t even looking at them back then.”
Hayes holds school single-game, single-season and career records in scoring and rebounding, averaging 31.0 points and 17.2 rebounds per contest in 93 games during his career.
Andre Ware, one of the greatest quarterbacks in college football history, paved the way for big-time black quarterbacks. Since his selection as Heisman Trophy winner in 1989, five African American quarterbacks, including three in the past four years, have earned the honor, but Ware was the first.
During his Heisman trophy season, Ware passed for 4,699 yards and 46 touchdowns. He was also a consensus All-American and Davey O’Brien award recipient. Ware said he takes pride in being the first African American quarterback to win the award.
“It was about a university that gave me the stage to do what I loved to do and trusted that I would do it the right way. Coaches that not only coached me but played a father figure role to a young man that lost his father at a very early age,” Ware said to ESPN. “It was my turn to give thanks to all who helped me. I am also proud to say I was the first African American quarterback to win the award.”
Former coach Kevin Sumlin made history when he became the first black head football coach at the program in 2008. Sumlin guided the Cougars to a 35-17 record and three bowl appearances in four seasons at UH. During his tenure, former great Case Keenum set NCAA records in his offensive system, and the Cougars won 13 games in 2011. Sumlin made Texas history again when he became the first black head football coach at Texas A&M in 2011. The Aggies have went 55-23 since he arrived.