Fertitta Center

The new Fertitta Center proves to be a fortress for Houston basketball

Tilman Fertitta boasts brand new Fertitta Center Houston Cougars Men's Hoops Facebook

Tilman Fertitta reminisced about his times in the old Hofheinz Pavilion as he dribbled out a basketball to center court during the pregame ceremony in front of a sold out crowd of 7,035 at the new Fertitta Center.

“I have the memories of Hofheinz Pavilion as a kid watching basketball games here and it was a great arena back then. Now, to be here 40 years later and to be such a big part of this is special.” said Fertitta.

Judge Roy Mark Hofheinz was a man who shared a similar vision as Fertitta. “We’ll build a stadium that will make Emperor Titus’s playhouse look like an abandoned brickyard.” he exuded. Titus’s playhouse is better known as the Roman Colosseum. The staunch Houston weather made sporting events a drag for locals, but his idea was even bigger than the city itself. In 1965, the completion of the Astrodome revolutionized how we watch sports throughout the world by being the first climate controlled indoor stadium.

Hofheinz was a man that loved the city of Houston as much as Fertitta does. If he were alive to see the old Hofheinz Pavilion transform into the new Fertitta Center, it would be difficult for even him to disapprove. The University of Houston has an adequate successor, while a statue of Judge Hofheinz stands triumphantly on the new grounds.

Fertitta donated $20 million dollars to the University of Houston to rejuvenate the new home of Cougar Basketball, nearly a third of the facility’s final cost. His eagerness to help the athletics program at the university has earned him the immortalization that comes with naming the building after him, and an induction into the UH Athletics Hall of Honor alongside UH President Renu Khator.

Exactly 48 years later to the day of when Hofheinz Pavillion first opened its doors, the Fertitta Center did the same and received the promising NBA prospect 7’2 Bol Bol, and the then No. 18 Oregon Ducks.

As UH won the tip off, you could gauge how tough it will be for other schools to come in and steal a win. The intimate arena does not have a single bad seat, and its low ceilings seemingly offers a huge acoustic home team advantage. That advantage was confirmed as Jr. Guard Armoni Brooks opened up the scoreboard by hitting back to back 3-pointers. With the help of Senior Guard Corey Davis Jr. and Preseason AAC Freshman of the Year in Guard Nate Hinton, UH would go into halftime with a 37-18 lead.

There were zero lead changes in the entire game, but that doesn’t mean the Ducks didn’t come close to one. Bol Bol and company began to rally back into contention, where they even had a 10-0 run halfway through the second half. Houston began to give up rebounds, turnovers, and missed some important free throws. Coach Sampson even took off his tie, as he typically does when his team begins to lose traction in games. The score got as close as 63-61 with 11 seconds left, but Brooks closed the game out with two clutch, game sealing free throws.

Houston won its inaugural game at the Fertitta Center 65-61. They improve to 6-0 in the season and will play Lamar (Beaumont, TX) next. The Cougars extend their home win streak to 20 games, which is tied for second longest active streak. Oregon falls to 4-3, where they previously lost to another Houston school, TSU. The AP Poll came out Monday morning and dropped the Ducks, while UH remains unranked but is lingering to make a future appearance. The Coogs are also one in eleven teams who remain undefeated in all of college hoops. 

Improvements and renovations to TDECU Stadium, Guy V Lewis Development Facility, Schroeder Park, and Fertitta Center all came within the last four years. As a result, we’ve seen the baseball and football programs continually improve and land better recruits year after year. Undoubtedly, the UH basketball program will follow and more than likely surpass the success of the other programs.

"One of the ways you build brand awareness is through your athletics department. It's a proven fact that if you have winning athletics, money pours back into the university." explained Fertitta.

Are Buzz Williams and the Aggies No. 1?

Fresh off a run to the championship game by Texas Tech and some high profile recent coaching hires in both football and basketball, the state of Texas appears to be in great shape when it comes to Division I college coaching duos. We ranked each sport, then took the total. The lower the score, the better. It's a pretty impressive group. We stayed with the six biggest programs (SMU would be No. 7, but there simply is not enough to go on to rank beyond that). Here is how your duo stacks up:

6) Baylor (10 points)

Baylor v Syracuse

Getty Images

Scott Drew (fifth in the basketball rankings) has built a perennial tournament team at Baylor, but they have never been able to get past the Elite Eight. Still, he has been very good. Matt Ruhle (fifth among football coaches) took over a mess of a program and after a one-win season got the Bears to a bowl game last year and could take another step this year.

5) TCU (9)

TCU football coach Gary Patterson Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Gary Patterson (3) has been one of the best coaches in the state for a long time and the Frogs are lucky to have him. Jamie Dixon (6) put up a resume as impressive as anyone's at Pitt but has missed the NCAAs twice in two years at TCU.

4) Texas Tech (7)

Chris Beard. Sarah Stier/Getty Images

It's hard to argue with Chris Beard (1) as the top coach in the state, considering he was just minutes from a title and there is no reason to think he can't continue to thrive. Matt Wells (6) was an off-season hire who came off a 10-win season at Utah State but also had only three winning seasons in six years there and this is a tough step up.

2t) Texas (6)

University of Texas football coach Tom Herman Tim Warner/Getty Images

The Longhorns might have found the right guy in Tom Herman (2) for football, as Texas already has a New Year's Six win, his second as a head coach in the state. Shaka Smart (4) has been a mixed bag at the school, but is one of only three coaches in the state with a Final Four appearance.

2t) Houston (6)

Kelvin Sampson. Bob Levey/Getty Images

Kelvin Sampson (2) has engineered a remarkable turnaround with the basketball team with two straight appearances and a bright future. He also has a Final Four in his past. He has taken four different schools to the tournament. Dana Holgorsen (4) did well in a tough place at West Virginia and should thrive at Houston. He remains one of the best play callers in college football.

1) Texas A&M (4)

Jimbo Fisher and the Aggies debuted with a win. Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Jimbo Fisher (1) has scoreboard with a football national title at Florida State. He did a nice job in his first year at A&M and the future looks incredibly bright, although there will always be that pesky Alabama, LSU and Auburn to deal with. Buzz Williams (3) was a home run hire who had success in a tough Big East and then the rugged ACC. Aggie basketball should be a factor for years to come.

The basketball rankings

1) Beard

2) Sampson

3) Williams

4) Smart

5) Drew

6) Dixon

I had a tough time ranking 4-6, so I went to college basketball A.J. Hoffman, and this is how he ranked them.

The football rankings

1) Fisher

2) Herman

3) Patterson

4) Holgorsen

5) Ruhle

6) Wells

This one seemed a lot more clear cut, although you could make arguments among the top three. Would you trade your duo for any of these?

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