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.

James LaCombe: 409-683-5242, james.lacombe@galvnews.com or on Twitter @JamesAtGalvNews

(1) comment

Rusty Schroeder

Houston is in a basketball conference, not a football conference. Winning in the conference they are in right now in basketball is a big accomplishment. Winning in the conference in football competition is not that big of a deal, however they have played well against non conference opponents outside the AAC. This years bowl game was a wake up call for UH, the team quit on their coach, and the coach got fired. Now Houston, Tillman Fertitta, just paid the #43 ranked coach in the country $4 Million a season for 5 years to make them a football school in a non-Power 5 conference. So your answer is, Houston wants to be a football school and play with the big boys. When in reality, they have a good basketball program, team, and coach that will be better every year than the football program. They are a nationally ranked Top 10 program right now that has potential in the NCAA Tournament. The football team will not be in the playoff system in the next 5 years, even with a ridiculously paid head coach. So Houston is a basketball school, for now. Problem is now they need to pay their basketball coach like a basketball school, or someone else will.

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