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Volume 68, Wednesday, August 6, 2003


Era of good feelings over, Briles begins

Cougar Pause

Ed De La Garza

For the second time in four years, the UH football team is preparing to begin a "new era." In 2000, former head coach Dana Dimel promised to bring more excitement to the program with a new offensive scheme. At the time, he was one of college football's up-and-coming coaches. Three years later and Dimel's just another name in the post-Bill Yeoman log.

It seems like UH football began -- and to some extent ended -- with Yeoman. But as great as he was for the University, the Cougars haven't been the same since he left. Some of the blame for the Cougars' lack of success in the past 17 years should go to Jack Pardee.

He installed a run-and-shoot offense that racked up the yardage, but he still couldn't draw the fans to the Astrodome for anything other than a Texas or Texas A&M game. Running up the score on opponents left a bitter taste that worked against UH when the Southwest Conference disbanded.

Sophomore signal-caller Blade Bassler comes from a long line of Cougars. His father, Miller was tight end at UH during the 1970s, while his older brother and sister both lettered in track in field. Blade is expected to be the starting QB for the Cougars this season.
Brian Viney/The Daily Cougar

Pardee wasn't a Cougar; he was an Aggie using the UH gig to get back into the NFL. It worked since he bolted for the Oilers after just three years here. That's hardly enough time to leave an impression on a program. Successor John Jenkins may have been an offensive mastermind, but he was a nut off the field. A scandal involving a former assistant and spliced game film put an end to the Jenkins era after just three years. Again, it wasn't enough time to build a program.

Kim Helton didn't win a whole lot, but he kept his job by winning the first Conference USA Championship. The pressure to win forced Helton to stock his teams with plenty of junior college transfers. That plan could have worked if the team had actually won, but fielding just two teams with winning records was enough to end his tenure.

Dimel's fate was sealed when former Athletics Director Chet Gladchuck left UH the same season the Cougars failed to win a single game for the first time in school history. Seeing the state of the department and having to deal with a deficit approaching $11 million, there was no way a new AD could allow what is supposed to be athletics' moneymaker to continue to lose.

Dimel may have begun to properly rebuild the program, but Dave Maggard had to act decisively. Looking back on the program's golden era and listening to an ever-dwindling fan base was his best course of action. He may not have had to hire a former Cougar, but getting the alumni to support his decision was a must.

Art Briles may say all the right things and make the same promises Dimel did three years ago, but he says it with a Texas twang, so by God, it must be the gospel truth. It has to be for UH football to ever approach the success it achieved from 1962-'86. It has to be if the football program is to survive.

He knows full well that the program can't afford to keep falling on its face. Maggard continually talks about the need for better fundraising efforts, more attendance and reducing the deficit. But it can't do that if the Cougars aren't even the best C-USA team in the state.

With all the conference movement going around these days it's imperative the Cougars put themselves in a favorable situation. The Houston market is appealing, but not when the school wins only eight games in three years.

Briles will draw fans early, but the Cougars will enter the 2003 season with a third-stringer at quarterback. Winning half of their games this year is a bit of a stretch, but this year isn't key to Briles' success. His ability to improve is. The fans will come around -- and stay -- if the team improves. That means no more winless or bowl-less seasons. And no more new eras.

In just 24 days, the Briles era will officially begin at the University when the Cougars face Rice at 7 p.m. Aug. 30 at Robertson Stadium. A simple grin and a promise won't be enough anymore. As soon as the ball goes up in the air, Briles will either join Pardee, Jenkins, Helton and Dimel in the post-Yeoman list of infamy or he'll be the first coach in the last 17 years to create his own legacy.

Go Coogs!

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