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

2014 season.

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

in recruiting.”

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.