A team leader

Published on November 18, 2011

Bauer Alumni President and Former UH Football Player James Hong
Scores Big with Little Coogs Program

For former UH football player and Bauer College Alumni Association president James Hong (’05), giving back is a big part of the game plan.

Hours before kickoff of the Nov. 19 University of Houston-Southern Methodist University football game, former Cougar offensive tackle James Hong (’05) will do a little tailgate shopping. On a two-hour Sam’s Club haul, he’ll walk out with nearly 3,000 hotdogs — plus hundreds of soft drinks and bags of chips.

Apparently, his tailgating crowd has a big appetite.

A graduate of the University of Houston C. T. Bauer College of Business, Hong runs Little Coogs, a program that gives Houston-area at-risk youth a taste of Cougar pride through tailgating excitement at every home game. When Hong and Jaron Barganier started Little Coogs as UH football teammates in 2002, they had 60 kids per game. Today, they average move than 1,500 youngsters per event. (That’s about two hot dogs per kid.)

And Little Coogs is just one component of Hong and Barganier’s Be A Champion, Inc., the non-profit community-service organization they founded in 2001 with the goal of using sports to educate, mentor and motivate youngsters. Hong — who serves as Be A Champion’s chief operating officer while running his own investment and insurance firm, Hong Financial — says Little Coogs exposes kids to a major college campus at an early age, an experience he never had.

“I never got to step foot on a college campus until I actually went on football visits my junior year in high school,” he says. “I didn’t even know what college looked like before then.” Today the Houston native holds dual degrees in finance and management and is president of the Bauer College Alumni Association (BCAA).

“What James is doing with the kids is truly heart-warming,” says Bauer Dean Latha Ramchand. “He is a role model and leader, and it is exciting to see him bring that same passion and energy to the Bauer College Alumni Association.”

Supported by generous alumni and facilitated by volunteers like Hong, Little Coogs provides Houston-area kids with a game ticket, food, a T-shirt and giveaways like wristbands — all at no cost to the youngsters or participating organizations.

Bauer Dean Latha Ramchand spends time with a group of Little Coogs during the UH vs. Marshall tailgate in October.

“It’s just a great tool to expose kids to what can be possible if you make good grades, stay in school and do all the right things,” Hong says. “It’s good to see a lot of these student-athletes come by and shake their hands and what not. The kids have something to look forward to.

“We couldn’t have a successful program like this without the support of UH Athletics and generous donors and sponsors that support this program year after year,” he adds. “We really have the best support base in the country.”

Home-game Saturdays are delightfully frantic for Hong, who works three different tailgating crowds: Little Coogs, the Bauer College Alumni Association and the “H” Association (as the university’s Lettermen’s Association is known). “From morning til night, I am running around left, right, every which way,” says Hong, who is also on the “H” Association board. “I enjoy every minute of it.”

As the new president of the BCAA, Hong wants to grow the 3,400-member base by reaching out to the 48,000-plus Bauer College alumni in the Houston area. He’s been a part of the alumni group since he was a student.

“When I graduated, it was sort of a no-brainer to instantly get involved, because I was already involved as a student,” Hong says. “I really feel that I got a lot out of my experience at UH Bauer, and it gave me a little bit more passion and pride to want to get involved as an alum. I feel blessed to have had those experiences, and now it is time to give back.”

By Wendell Brock

Posted Under: Alumni, Recognition, Service

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