Falcon Points

UH's rise to prominence can be traced to Fertitta's involvement with the school

Among Houston sports owners, there appears to be a clear power broker emerging.

Jim Crane brought a World Series to Houston, which will forever endear him to the Houston sports fan. Cal McNair has just recently taken over for his late father as the owner of the Texans, so he has yet to build a profile in the city.

That brings us to Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta. In a very short time, he has made an incredible impact on the Houston sports landscape. The Billion Dollar Buyer's Rockets damned near knocked off the Warriors in his first year as owner. If the team can stay healthy, maybe they make another run this year.

He also holds the keys to a potential NHL team in Houston, controlling Toyota Center.

But Fertitta's real impact has come as chairman of the board of regents at the University of Houston.

Fertitta was instrumental in the school raiding a power five program for head football coach Dana Holgorsen. He was responsible for the shiny new Fertitta Center, perhaps the best sports experience in the city. He is the kind of high profile, high energy personality that was sorely needed at UH. He is good with the media and not afraid to step into the spotlight.

Along with president Renu Khator, Fertitta has brought big ideas and a big vision to the school. And he has put his money where his mouth is by funding the renovation of the basketball arena.

The result? When it comes to the two biggest revenue sports, UH has become one of the most successful Group of Five programs, and is better situated than most of the non high profile Power Five programs.

He has also shown is he not willing to accept mediocrity. When Major Applewhite was hired to coach the football team, it made sense. It was an attempt to continue building on Tom Herman's success. It failed.

Rather than trying to ride it out, he went after Holgorsen, who should be a big winner at UH. Fertitta and company also appear to have made a strong hire in AD Chris Pezman.

Of course, the high profile sport at the moment is Kelvin Sampson's basketball team, ranked in the Top 10 with a 26-1 record, a projected No. 3 seed in the tournament and a dark horse candidate for the Final Four. They have turned the Fertitta Center into the place to be, with stars like Chris Paul and Alvin Kamara sitting courtside.

Not every move has worked out, but the school's bigtime vision has been fun to watch. The Cougars pursued the Big 12, but were rebuffed. Instead of folding up, they spent more money on facilities.

Keep winning, and at some point UH will be valuable to a bigger conference, perhaps the Pac-12, which is lagging behind the other Power Fives. It would bring a major market to help boost a flagging TV Network, as well as a high profile program that will only get better. Or they will simply help build the AAC into something even bigger.

The key is to keep winning and people will notice.

Fertitta gets that. His name recognition alone is helping to raise the profile of the school. But he continues to dream big, and push for more for UH.

Yes, a lot of other people are responsible for what is going on at UH. This is not to diminish their impact. But Fertitta's profile and money have been a driving force. His involvement has made them relevant.

So yes, Fertitta might be the biggest management name in Houston sports right now. Rockets owner. Perhaps soon to be NHL owner. But most importantly, the leadership face of UH athletics.

Oh yes, and Billion Dollar Buyer.

How far will UH go? That remains to be seen. But it would be silly to bet against the school or Fertitta.

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This week the NASCAR cup series heads to the world center of racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, for the inaugural fourth of July version of the Brickyard 400. This is unprecedented for NASCAR considering over the course of 50 years they are usually in Daytona around this time. While this move was met with a lot of criticism from fans, there is a positive to come from this move though, as the sport will hold their first doubleheader with Indycar. This has been talked about for many years and now it has finally come to fruition. Another new facet of this weekend will be the Xfinity Series running on the road course configuration. This could very well lead to the cup series transitioning from the oval to the road course next season should everything go well when the Xfinity series does it. It will definitely be an interesting weekend.

Last week, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin dominated the first-ever doubleheader at Pocono. The two drivers finished first and second in both races with Harvick taking race one and Hamlin winning race two. Both of these races came down to pit-road strategy as Harvick was able to eke out a victory by taking two tires and fuel while his teammate Aric Almirola took four. The next day Denny Hamlin pretty much had the whole field covered as he went on to claim his fourth victory of the season. Overall, the idea of two races in a weekend went over well but for the racing itself, it was hard to watch. One of the main issues I had was how the drivers didn't have to shift this week. In my opinion, that was what made this track so unique. It was an oval that had road course characteristics and it usually produced some pretty good finishes. Hopefully this will be addressed when the new car makes its debut in 2022.

One of the big stories going into this week is the announcement a couple of weeks ago that NASCAR will be moving their all-star event to Bristol Motor Speedway. Over the past couple of weeks, there has been a whirlwind of news from the Bubba Wallace story at Talladega, to the doubleheader races last week. A lot of this has put this announcement on the back burner but this is a huge story. The race will be held on Wednesday, July 15th as NASCAR continues with midweek races. This is the first time since 1986 that the race will not be run at NASCAR's home track in Charlotte back when it took place at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The format will be pretty much the same as all the winners from 2019 and 2020 will all have an automatic birth into the race while the rest of the field will run in the open event the day before. The main event will feature four stages including a 15 lap closer around one of NASCAR's most popular race tracks. I think this move was long overdue and I hope that they continue with it in the future. Don't get me wrong, there isn't anything wrong with the race at Charlotte but I think a change of pace would be welcomed. I look forward to seeing how this turns out.

As we move on to Indy this weekend, the driver I have winning is Kurt Busch. This weekend will be the 2004 Cup Series champion's 700th career start, and he's won just about every race that there is to be won except this one here at the Brickyard. This week, that is going to change. It hasn't been the most consistent season for the Vegas native, but he still sits tenth in points and right in the thick of the playoff battle. This track isn't his best as he currently has a 19.42 average finish, including a dismal 30th place finish last year. But this week, I think he gets back on track with a victory as he starts second. The veteran has flown under the radar this year, but he has definitely shown spurts where we think he is going to break-out. He also has runs where it seems like him and his team are mid-pack, but there aren't many drivers out there that have the experience he has. And a talented driver like him always finds a way to bounce back. Look for Kurt Busch to take the #1 Monster Energy Camaro to victory lane.

All stats and information used in this article are brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com, the best websites for all NASCAR stats.

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