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No one stepped up in class like the University of Houston

Berry Tramel: Bill Yeoman's 1976 Cougars squad set the standard that TCU and West Virginia can follow as the enter a new conference.
by Berry Tramel Published: July 10, 2012

West Virginia and Texas Christian enter Big 12 football this September, and down in Houston, 85-year-old Bill Yeoman has a little advice for the newcomers: “Don't do anything other than what you have been doing. Just realize you have to squeeze a little harder for the entire game. Can't take any vacations.”

Probably wise to listen to Yeoman. Few football coaches ever have been so successful at moving their programs into a new neighborhood.

TCU and West Virginia are trying to replicate what the University of Houston did back in 1976. Yeoman's Cougars finally were admitted to the Southwest Conference, and UH didn't go in meek and mild.

The '76 Cougars won in Waco in their SWC debut. They beat Texas A&M, which was coming off a 10-2 season, in their SWC home opener. And on Nov. 6, they went to Austin and beat the Longhorns 30-0. In the virtual SWC title game, Houston beat Texas Tech in Lubbock 27-19.

A Cotton Bowl in Houston's first year.

Those 'Horns and Red Raiders and Aggies “probably didn't realize what they were getting into,” Yeoman said.

Houston had an all-world defensive tackle, Wilson Whitley, and a mean linebacker in Guy Brown. “Nobody had better players than that, in the country,” Yeoman said.

Houston had a savvy quarterback in Danny Davis. And it had a coach who had invented the veer offense and knew how to run it, and it would take him to the College Football Hall of Fame.

Maybe Yeoman's advice had best be directed elsewhere. Hey Sooners and 'Horns and Cowboys and 'Cats. Don't underestimate West Virginia and TCU, two programs that have done their fair share of winning in recent years.

“We had built up a pretty good football program for four, five, six, seven years before we went in there,” Yeoman said.

The Cougars had been playing quality competition. Over the years, Houston had played the likes of Alabama and Auburn and Arizona State.

“We knew what a football team looked like,” Yeoman said. “We were blessed with some youngsters that were pretty good. Going into it, our goal certainly was not to come in second. It was to try to win the darned thing.”

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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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