HOUSTON (AP) — Houston's biggest offseason addition wasn't a player or coach.
The Cougars will christen $120 million TDECU Stadium on Aug. 29 against UTSA. The on-campus, 40,000-seat venue comes with all the amenities — a 2,584-square-foot video scoreboard, 42 luxury boxes and a 5,000-square-foot locker room. The northwest corner is open to offer a clear view of the Houston skyline.
During construction, Houston played five home games at Reliant, now NRG Stadium, and two at BBVA Compass Stadium where the MLS Houston Dynamo play. Coach Tony Levine said just having a permanent, on-campus home will give the Cougars a psychological lift. Houston plays four of its first five games at home.
"Last year was interesting and challenging, in terms of not having a real home," Levine said. "It's so good to be back on campus. Any time you're talking about 18- to 22-year-olds, it's important for them to get into a routine. It's also nice when you're talking about the energy of the fan base and a place where students can easily attend the games. It's all positive."
The weekly travel last season had its snags, and the Cougars took them in stride. When the team traveled to San Antonio to play the Roadrunners, the team buses dropped them off at the wrong hotel. The players simply picked up their bags and walked two blocks to the right hotel.
"People talk about how going on the road every week was a negative," Levine said. "We took it as an additional chip on our shoulder. That experience, at least in their minds, and finding a way to win eight games, that will help us this season."
The Cougars will hold their first practice in their new home on Saturday night.
Here are five things to look for as Levine begins his third full season at Houston:
OK O'KORN: John O'Korn took over the starting quarterback role when David Piland went down with a concussion in the second game. O'Korn threw for 3,117 yards and 28 touchdowns and was named the American Athletic Conference rookie of the year. Levine says O'Korn has shown during training camp that he's ready to handle a larger load.