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.

Composite photo by Brandon Strange

The Texans and the Rockets are dealing with tough off-seasons and there are some big decisions that need to be made.

The Texans have fired their GM and are finding it difficult to find a quality replacement, and the Rockets still haven't signed Mike D'Antoni to an extension.

Meanwhile the Astros are enjoying another terrific season. ESPN 97.5's Joel Blank discusses why the Astros are having more success than the Texans and Rockets.

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