Bauer and Cougar Football Making the Right Plays
Cougar football was top of mind for alumni and friends in attendance at the Bauer Alumni Association’s February Networking Breakfast sponsored by James E. Bashaw & Co.
Mack Rhoades, the new UH athletics director and head football coach Kevin Sumlin, back by popular demand, talked about the football team’s remarkable 10-4 season and future plans for Cougar Athletics.
UH has a lot to look forward to in 2010 says Rhoades, a season marked by new defensive leadership, promising defensive recruits and a renewed sense of energy brought on by talks of a new stadium. The team also has a challenging non-conference slate, headlined by match-ups with UCLA and Texas Tech. All of this, says Rhoades, will help align UH athletics with President Renu Khator’s Tier One vision for the university.
“When we talk about tier one status for the University of Houston, there’s no question we’re going to get there . . . but athletics has to do its part,” said Rhoades. “We are working hard to make sure we are a source of pride and source of national visibility for this institution.”
The definition of a tier one athletics program, says Rhoades, is being a Top 25 program across the board. To ready the program for the challenge, Rhoades compels his staff to adopt a new corporate culture.
“I liken it to football, that as an organization, we really need to have toughness, that relentless pursuit of excellence in everything we do. Whether it’s a letter that we write to an alumnus or the way we conduct ourselves in a meeting,” he said.
Rhoades also spoke about a leadership academy he plans to roll-out Fall 2010, a mentorship program for all incoming freshman players to develop ethical and responsible leadership, academic skills, teamwork, and civic responsibility. His goal is to help athletes build leadership skills they can use long after they hang up their jerseys. Programs like this, he says, create champions for life.
“The athletics department must make sure our student athletes have an unbelievable experience, so five years from now – just like those here today – our graduates feel good about their time at UH and feel good about giving back, not just with money but with their time and mentorship,” he said.
Cougar football has a strong kinship with Bauer College with 22 business majors on its roster and another handful of business minors, including Heisman hopeful and C-USA Offensive Player of the Year, quarterback Case Keenum. The program also holds claim to several successful alumni, including former quarterback Jake Ebner (‘08) who graduated with honors from Bauer College and works at Select Asset Management, LLC.
The college also forges strategic partnerships with athletics and the business community through the Bauer Business Leaders program. This season, two honorary guest coaches attended each home game and participated in activities with the athletes before the game and one the sidelines. (Read the story.)
“This meant a lot to our student athletes,” said Sumlin. “This gives players a vision of something to work toward outside of football. We take for granted what its like for a young man to see someone like Gerald McElvy (’76) or Jeff Allen (’72) in person, eating breakfast with them on game day instead of in a brochure or a magazine article. It’s tangible, it’s a big deal, and we really appreciate that.”
Arriving in Houston in 2007, Sumlin wanted to be aligned with Bauer College from the very beginning.
“My father always told me that ‘water seeks its own level.’ I respect how things are done at the college. Being ranked top of the country in a number of different categories and programs – I wanted to be a part of that.”
By Lori Reichardt