Drexler and Young, along with Larry Micheaux and new recruit Hakeem Olajuwon (known then as Akeem Olajuwon), comprised the “Phi Slama Jama” basketball fraternity that gained national attention for its acrobatic, above-the-rim play. New players were “initiated” into the fraternity by having to stand underneath the basket as Drexler drove in from halfcourt and threw down a tomahawk slam over them. Houston made the first of Drexler’s two straight Final Four appearances in 1982, where they lost to eventual champions, North Carolina. He averaged 15.2 points and 10.5 rebounds (second in the Southwest Conference) per game as a small forward as Houston finished 25–8.
The 1982–83 campaign saw Houston return to the Final Four ranked No. 1. They were matched up against No. 2 Louisville and the “Doctors of Dunk” in the semifinals, which Houston won 94–81 following a brilliant dunking display by both sides, including a double-pump slam by Drexler that Sports Illustrated writer Curry Kirkpatrick called “your basic play of the century.” He finished with 21 points, seven rebounds, and six assists, but in the championship game against North Carolina State, Drexler failed to make an impact after picking up four fouls before halftime and scored only four points on one-of-five shooting and two free throws in NC State’s upset victory.
Drexler declared for the NBA draft as a junior, leaving Houston with career averages of 14.4 points, 3.3 assists, and 9.9 rebounds in three seasons. In addition to being named the Southwestern Conference Player of the Year and a first-team All American his final season, he remains the only player in school history with combined totals of at least 1,000 career points, 900 rebounds, and 300 assists, in addition to being Houston’s all-time steals leader with 268.
Ware grew up in the Galveston, Texas region, hoping to play football at the University of Texas. He said “I was going to Texas. All they had to do was lie to me and tell me I was going to play quarterback once I got there. Thank goodness they told me the truth [that] they were going to move me to the defense.” After graduating from Dickinson High School, Ware instead played at the University of Houston, where he won the Heisman Trophy in 1989, along with the Davey O’Brien Award, the latter award given to the most outstanding college quarterback of the year. That year, his junior year, he threw for 4,699 yards, 44 touchdowns, and set 26 NCAA records. Many of the records were thanks to the innovative use of the run and shoot offense, which his successor, David Klingler, also used to great effect. The Cougars ended the season ranked the #14 team in the nation by the Associated Press. He then declared for the NFL Draft, foregoing his senior year.
The official school colors of the University of Houston are scarlet red and albino white, and the mascot is a cougar named Shasta. Houston’s traditional rival has been Rice with whom the Cougars shared a conference for thirty-three non-consecutive years (see also Houston–Rice rivalry).
Houston has had notable sports teams in its history, including Phi Slama Jama and the sixteen-time national champion men’s golf team. The university’s campus is home to many on-campus athletic facilities including TDECU Stadium (on the site of the former Robertson Stadium), Fertitta Center, and Darryl & Lori Schroeder Park.
College Sports Established
University of Houston
1973 – Present / NCAA Division 1
1927 – 1973 / University Division of the NCAA
2013 – Present / American Athletic Conference
1996 – 2013 / Conference USA
1971 – 1996 / Southwest Conference
1960 – 1971 – Independent
1951 – 1960 / Missouri Valley Conference
1949 – 1950 / Gulf Coast Conference
1945 – 1949 / Lone Star Conference
Cougars – Houston’s nickname was suggested by early physical education instructor of the university and former head football coach, John R. Bender after one of his former teams, Washington State later adopted the mascot and nickname.
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