Houston Cougars Football
The University of Houston Cougars football team has had a storied history of accomplishments. During the 1970s, the program was a powerhouse in the Southwest Conference, winning five conference titles and five bowl games. But in the 1990s and early 2000s, the Cougars suffered a steady decline in both attendance and performance. In fact, they went winless in 2001, the only season in which they didn't qualify for a postseason game. It was also the first time in the program's history that it had failed to crack the top 25. Houston Cougars Football
While the Cougars did manage to reach the Coaches Poll in each of the following two years, they never made it back to the top. In the late 1980s, the UH offense was one of the best in the nation, scoring a record number of points in both of those seasons. Yet, their defense was often too weak to keep up with their high-powered offensive attack. This stumbling offense squandered its chances against more powerful teams on its schedule.
By the time of the 1999-2000 seasons, the UH athletics administration had been working to remake the football program. They hoped to do so with sound discipline and an emphasis on transparency. With a recruiting class stocked with high-quality talent, Dimel brought in the highest-rated recruiting class in Conference USA. He also made sure that the UH team had a balanced, no-nonsense approach to the game. However, Dimel's tenure ended on a sour note when he was fired after a mediocre 4-7 season.
The program's next head coach was Major Applewhite. He was a former offensive coordinator under Tom Herman. After a successful season at Texas State, the Cougars had to settle for a 3-8 finish in 2000. That season, the Cougars reestablished positive relationships with local high school programs.
Major Applewhite was given a five-year contract to coach the Cougars. He became the eighth head coach in program history. As a native of Houston, he was expected to return to the city and help revitalize the local football community.
After the breakup of the SWC, the Cougars joined the newly created Conference USA. Their offense benefited from a second chance, as their defense ranked fifth in the league in total defense. Despite their shortcomings, the Cougars still qualified for the C-USA Championship game. Unfortunately, they lost to East Carolina.
The Houston Cougars' offense was again a force to be reckoned with in the 2002 season. Heading into the playoffs, the Cougars were ranked to start the season. Despite the disappointing results, they defeated a top-five opponent for the first time in 25 years. In the Coca-Cola Classic in Tokyo Dome, they defeated Arizona State.
Following a three-year hiatus, the rivalry between the Cougars and Rice Owls was renewed. However, the Cougars didn't qualify for a conference championship in 2006.
Throughout the 1990s, the Cougars had trouble keeping up with an often weak defensive line. This was a problem that only grew worse during the following decade.