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Monday, July 26, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 64, Issue 159

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Heated SWC rivalries renewed thanks to Gladchuk's efforts

Jason Caesar Consolacion
Sports Editor 

When the Southwest Conference was disbanded in 1996, it not only marked the end of one of the most competitive conferences in the NCAA, but it also put a screeching halt to some of the best rivalries in college sports.

It seems to have hit hardest among those closest to home. UH, Rice, Texas and Texas A&M, to name a few, spent years without seeing each other in NCAA events.

At UH, DePaul and UNC-Charlotte became more familiar competitors than Rice and Texas Tech. For the past three years, the Cougars played championship games against South Florida and Syracuse rather than the Longhorns or the Aggies.

Where did the rivals go? Conference USA has been successful for UH in volleyball, baseball and football (for at least one season), but why were the Cougars forced to compete for a title against a conference "rival" whose home court is in a different time zone?

Those worries have been short-lived thanks to the planning of one Chet Gladchuk. After being hired as UH's athletics director in 1997, he has made a conscious effort to renew those rivalries. He can't bring back the SWC, but he can at least allow UH to visit its old friends at some point in the schedule.

In 1998, the UH basketball team opened its regular season with a game against Texas. After point guard Gee Gervin's heroics, the Cougars escaped with a two-point win at Hofheinz Pavilion.

Sure, the Cougars kicked off head coach Clyde Drexler's first season with a stunning victory, but more important, a rivalry was renewed. It was the first time the Cougars had seen Longhorn burnt orange since the demise of the SWC.

Cougar Baseball has seen rivalries renewed between the Longhorns, Aggies and Owls, among others. This past season, the Cougars played 12 games against former SWC rivals.

Finally, when Cougar Football opens the 1999 season, it will do so with a home game against Rice University, the first meeting between the two schools since 1995. The rivalry between the two schools also renews what was once known as the Bayou Bucket game, a series in which the stakes were Houston football bragging rights.

As if Cougar fans needed more to get excited about, this game bears even more meaning since UH narrowly escaped the Owls 18-17 the last time the teams met at Rice Stadium.

Gladchuk has renewed the rivalries, and in the process has made UH Athletics exciting again. The Cougars may have to go through boring series after boring postseason series -- otherwise known as the C-USA Tournament -- but at least the regular-season schedules include something to be excited about.
 

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