The Houston Cougars championship run came to an end last week but the extension of Kelvin Sampson’s deal opens a new door. Here’s why that’s a good thing.
Houston Cougars fans — back in 2016, during the Tom Herman-era and the beginning of the “H-Town Takeover,” Tilman Fertitta and the University of Houston lobbied for a spot in the Big 12. Obviously, they were denied entry and ended up being relegated to the American Athletic Conference.
Since then, they have remained a respectable football program post-Herman and recently hired former West Virginia coach Dana Holgerson; but, as a counterpoint, the basketball program under Kelvin Sampson has propelled into a powerhouse (pun intended).
For two straight years, the men’s basketball team has been a threat in the NCAA tournament, their losses have been against Michigan — which was a heartbreaker in the final seconds of the first round — and this season was a close, feisty loss to Kentucky.
They have proven they can hang with the big powerhouse schools like Michigan and Kentucky with NBA-caliber talent. As far as conferences go, Kentucky is a SEC school and Michigan is in the Big 10. That’s pretty good since the Houston Cougars are an AAC school right? Even if they had beat Kentucky, they likely would’ve been defeated in the later rounds. But let me tell you — this team is set for the long term and here’s why:
The Houston Cougars are building up an impressive resume to finally get the green light to get into the Big 12. A lot of money has — led by the backing of Fertitta — poured into the school and its facilties are top-notch starting with the $128 million TDECU Stadium coming online back in 2014. This also included the $60 million rebuild of Hofheinz Pavilion, morphing the 50-year-old building in a state-of-the-art hoops mecca.
Although those projects were the centerpiece, renovations as well as the rebuild of various training and performance facilties across the campus has elevated the quality of the experience for student-athletes.
With the strong push to ensure the Houston Cougars were on the leading edge, this now catapults
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the school to be compared to TCU in terms of facility size.
But here’s the major key. Sampson was just extended amid all the rumors about him leaving for the University of Arkansas, an SEC school, the Houston Cougars were able to lock up fiery head basketball coach with a six-year, $18 million contract extension.
According to the Houston Chronicle, with an average annual salary of $3 million, that would have ranked 21st nationally this season among the ranks of college coaching salaries. Sampson had two years remaining on his deal that paid $1.6 million annually and included deferred compensation.
Unlike Tom Herman, the Houston Cougars were able to secure Sampson and prevent him from bolting to a Power 5 school that would’ve gladly forked over the cash to poach him.
Sampson is one of the top basketball coaches in the nation and $3 million per season is a good deal for the Houston Cougars and their fans.
Now that Sampson is inked-up long-term, UH is primed to make another run in the NCAA tournament again and will hopefully be cutting down the nets at the beginning of April next year.
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With a championship trophy in hand, the Houston Cougars would be an irresistable option as a new member of the Big 12.
Congrats Coach Sampson and Go Coogs!