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Final Four Comes To Houston, What Happened To The Cougars?

The New York Times has a fairly interesting piece up about the fall of the Houston Cougars basketball team. Once a trademark of the Southwest Conference and a last-second shot away from being NCAA Champions, the Coogs are now an afterthought in the national picture while buried in Conference USA.

Different theories emerge on the problems with Cougar basketball in the piece: a failure to recruit in the city, outdated facilities, and the end of the Southwest Conference. The recruiting argument comes off as silly to me, as Tom Penders had much better success than Clyde Drexler ever did on the court, and the coaches before Drexler were just as irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. You win by recruiting great players, wherever they're from. Would you rather have local kids, all things considered? Yes. 

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So how does a once-great school rebuild it's image with younger recruits? Well, it all comes down to the money. I know, try not to be astonished by that conclusion. Facilities are important (and are on the way), but the most important thing for a lower-level team like the Cougars in today's NCAA world is to hire a coach who can go recruit talented players. Houston has managed to snag a plethora of three star recruits in TaShawn Thomas, Jevante Thompson, and Jherrod Stiggers. But the real blue chippers continue to avoid programs like Houston. 

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The only way to get players like that to consider the Coogs while the new facilities are still being funded, in my view, is to hire a top recruiter. Like say Billy Gillispie. Or Josh Pastner. But it's a little too late for should'ves now. 

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Images by eflon used in background images under a Creative Commons license. Thank you.