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by: Kris Gardner, United States Basketball Writers Association member. Credentialed media member since 1997. USBWA approved online journalist. Voter of Lowe's Senior CLASS, Naismith, USBWA, and Wooden awards.
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Kelvin Sampson: "This is really a big time, big time university with a big time campus."
November 8, 2018 -- 4:42 p.m. CST
This week is Homecoming Week for the University of Houston. This Saturday, the Houston Cougars men's basketball team begins its 2018-'19 season with a match-up against the Alabama A&M Bulldogs. Tip-off time is set for 2 p.m. inside the H&PE Arena on Texas Southern University's campus. (After the basketball game, UH alums and fans can make the quick trip to TDECU Stadium for the 6 p.m. kickoff between the UH football team and the Temple Owls.)
Since the match-up against the Bulldogs, concludes Homecoming Week, Coogs' Head Coach Kelvin Sampson would like the alumni to see how much the University of Houston's campus has changed within the last 5 to 10 years.
"There's a lot to be excited about for alumni," Sampson said. "I'm excited for alums to come back and just see the campus. There's just so much growth and excitement in so many areas: President Khator getting the medical school passed through. You can still say that we have a new football stadium. Our football team is still playing for an American Athletic Conference championship. Hopefully, on December 1st, the stakes will be higher: you got a chance to be playing for an American Athletic Conference Championship game at 11 o'clock in the morning; and, then, opening up the Fertitta Center at 8 o'clock that night."
Sampson continued, "But, anytime, you have an event where the alumni, regardless of how old or how young they are come back to campus, we want them to see the Fertitta Center and the Guy V. Lewis Development Center and the TDECU Football Stadium. Our Student Union is still relatively new. This is not the same University of Houston people saw 10 years ago or even five years ago. The growth is incredible. This is really a big time, big time university with a big time campus."
The game versus Alabama A&M is one of four games the Coogs will participate in as part of the Men Against Breast Cancer Cougar Cup. In addition to supporting Men Against Breast Cancer, the Cougar Cup provides the Coogs an opportunity to participate in 4 games which are part of an NCAA-exempt basketball tournament (multiple team event).
Coach Sampson enjoys the benefits of playing in a multiple team event -- especially an event which helps generate awareness for a worthy cause.
"The thing about playing in exempt tournaments is you have exempt tournaments where you can play three games; and, you have exempt tournaments where you can play four games," Sampson said. "The reason why we chose this tournament is because it's a four game tournament. We get to play three games at home; and, we go to BYU. And, the reason why we chose to go to BYU this year is because BYU will come back to us next year."
Coach Sampson says the Coogs will not schedule a non-conference opponent who will not agree to a home-and-home series.
"We don't play anybody unless they play us home and home," Coach Sampson said point blank. "This year, we have BYU on the road. We have Oklahoma State on the road; so, BYU and Oklahoma State will be at Fertitta Center next year. Last year, we went to LSU. They come back here this year. We went to Saint Louis. They come to us this year.
"Oregon was gracious enough -- because of my relationship with Dana (Oregon Head Coach Dana Altman) -- that they came here this year. We'll go back to Oregon next year.
"Scheduling is something that we work on. Not a day or week goes by that we don't stick our hand in the scheduling pie."
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