Inevitably, when you support a school that has success in college sports, they get categorized into one of two categories: football school or basketball school.
For many colleges, what category they fall into is abundantly clear — Alabama and Texas, for example, will always be football schools; Duke and North Carolina are basketball schools.
At other schools, there is more of a debate. At Michigan and Michigan State, both the football and basketball programs have recently been Top 25-caliber, and both have rich histories.
And that brings us to the Houston Cougars.
Just a few short years ago, the UH football program was ignited by new head coach Tom Herman’s “HTown Takeover” movement and won a New Year’s Six bowl game (the Peach Bowl) in Herman’s first season at the helm.
A few years before Herman’s arrival, quarterback Case Keenum was setting all sorts of school records with head coach Kevin Sumlin leading the team. UH’s run-and-shoot offenses of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s pushed Cougars football to the national forefront and made a Heisman Trophy winner out of Dickinson product Andre Ware in 1989.
For a long time, UH has been considered a football school, but for the first time since the Phi Slamma Jamma days of the early ‘80s, the basketball program is making an emphatic argument that the Coogs are better at hoops.
After Herman left for the Texas Longhorns job at the end of the 2016 season, the Cougars’ football program has been in a steady decline. Meanwhile, under head coach Kelvin Sampson, the Cougars basketball team posted its first Top 25 finish since 1984 last season. But that was just a prelude to what has been a remarkable run this season.
With Sunday’s win over No. 25 Cincinnati, No. 12 UH improved to 23-1 on the season. The Cougars are just one of three teams (with the others being No. 1 Tennessee and No. 6 Nevada) in the Top 25 with fewer than two losses on the season.
Showing its commitment to the basketball program, UH this season opened the $60 million Fertitta Center, where the team is 17-0 on the season, in which to play its home games.
Right now, it’s pretty clear UH is a basketball school. It’ll be up to new head football coach Dana Holgorsen to make UH into one of those schools like Michigan and Michigan State where there’s at least a debate. And that would put the Cougars in some rare and prestigious company.