Houston Cougars to get new stadium
Houston is celebrating its upcoming move from Conference USA to
the Big East on Friday despite speculation that coach Kevin Sumlin
could be leaving for another job.
Hundreds of people attended an on-campus event Friday to applaud
the move. Sumlin said he’s excited about the conference move, but
wouldn’t address the possibility he could leave to coach somewhere
”I’m not talking about it anymore,” he said. ”It doesn’t
really matter what I say … people are going to write what they’re
going to write.”
Sumlin wouldn’t say he wasn’t considering leaving, but when
pressed about whether he could see himself taking the field with
the Cougars next season, he offered a response that seems
encouraging for Houston.
”I’ve always seen myself that way,” he said. ”I don’t think
that anything I’ve said or anything I’ve talked about has been any
Athletic director Mack Rhoades said the Cougars are working to
keep Sumlin, but that if he leaves ”we’ll move on and hire the
next great coach.”
”When you have success people are going to come after your
coaches,” Rhoades said. ”We’ll continue to monitor it. We’ll
continue to make sure that coach Sumlin understands that we want
him to stay.”
Nelda Blair, chair of the school’s board of regents, announced
that Houston plans to build a new football stadium and officials
hope to break ground within 10 months.
Rhoades said they have about $60 million pledged for the stadium
and that they’ll need between $80 million and $85 million to build
The Cougars currently play in Robertson Stadium, a 32,000 seat
stadium which opened in 1942.
They’ll demolish that stadium and build the new one on the same
site, which could leave the team without a home stadium for as long
as a season. Where they would play during construction hasn’t been
determined, but Rhoades said they’ve had discussions with officials
of Reliant Stadium, home of the NFL’s Houston Texans.
They expect the new stadium to be ready for the start of the
Rhoades is looking forward to the increase in revenue that will
come from their conference switch. He said the Cougars currently
garner about $3 million a year and expect that number to jump to at
least $10 million in the Big East.
While Sumlin was reticent to discuss his job status, he had
plenty to say about Houston’s new conference and plans for the
stadium. He’s looking forward to joining an automatic qualifying
BCS conference, which C-USA is not.
”Anytime as a coach you have the ability to move from a non-AQ
conference to an AQ conference that’s a big deal,” he said. ”And
any coach in America they say new stadium to, he’s going to get
excited. All those things add up and they really make a difference
The Cougars had a chance to qualify for a BCS bowl this season
after starting 12-0, but a loss to Southern Mississippi in the
C-USA title game left them in the TicketCity bowl against Penn
Houston and other new members Boise State, San Diego State, SMU
and Central Florida will join the conference in 2013. Big East
commissioner John Marinatto said on a conference call Friday that
Houston was an attractive addition for many reasons.
”The overall brand, quality and competitiveness of its athletic
programs, the large media area and recruiting base it represents
and the alumni base and fan following were all factors,” Marinatto
Marinatto believes the addition of the new schools will allow
the Big East to get a more lucrative television contract when they
begin negotiations next September.