Review: Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles vs U. of Houston Cougars, 9/5/2015, 7pm
Weather: Warm 76; Ticket Price: $20 Face $20; Parking $10
“Not too bad for a Cage.” by Tree
The Houston Cougars play the Cougar Cage on the University of Houston campus in Houston, Tx. The stadium is very new, built in 2014 and they did a very good job. It is just the right size for the program. It seats 40,000 and it was three quarters full even for a cupcake opener. It was built with the ability to expand to 60,000, but I wouldn’t recommend that. We parked in a cash lot for $10 of which we saw only a little tailgating. However, I would attribute that to the fact that we arrived about 15 minutes prior to kick off and parked in the one of the farther lots. As we walked to the stadium, we saw evidence of a fair amount of tailgating residue. Additionally, the have a tailgating zone set up next to campus, called Shasta Square. It is has tailgating for students, attractions for the kids, and for a price, one can get a fully catered tailgate with the works. Undoubtedly, it is a nice little money maker for the campus. I am a bit torn about this growing trend at college games. On one hand they are well organized, safe and an effective way to mix students, fans and families. On the other hand, it takes away the personal aspect of tailgating and it is probably too expensive for the average joe (the tailgating – anyone can just walk around for free).
I ultimately paid $20 at the gate for a face value ticket (see more about that saga in the Personal Notes section). It was for a general admission seat which I thought were only for the end zone as per the U. of H. But when we didn’t see any signs in the stadium, we asked the usher who told us it was any seat on the upper deck. If that’s the case, it is a great deal because with a stadium that size there are some great seats in the bottom of the upper deck. We sat around the 40 yard line. The upper deck seats are standard aluminum bench design, and I regretted forgetting my stadium seat. Every year, my back becomes less accepting of the bench seat. There is a nice video board on the one end of the stadium but it is a bit light on stats and scores during the game. The concessions are of the standard, garden variety, mass marketed fare. The souvenir soda was, I think, $5 with one refill. They also, surprisingly, sell beer which is unusual for a pure college stadium. It is always a bit of a double edged sword. It is nice to get a beer at the game. It is not so nice sitting next to a wobbly, drunken student who might throw up on you at any moment. I witnessed one student at the stadium concourse first aid station passed out and covered in vomit. I took a pass on the nachos after that.
Thankfully, this was a night game and a balmy 76 degrees. I would not recommend going to any Houston sporting event during the day until at least mid-October. The combination of the heat and humidity can make you melt like cheese on a burger. However, on this night, the weather was great and the crowd was jumping, especially the student section. U. of H. has a nice diversity to the campus. The population ranged from raucous Latinos to hipster Asians to good ole boys and girls in dresses and cowboy boots. It was an impressive mix and not without its share attractive young men and women. But as I like to say, you are never going to look better than what you look like in your twenties. It is the reward for getting through the trauma of being a teenager. I couldn’t necessarily identify any particularly cheers or traditions except perhaps for counting off the total score every time they scored a point. They have a pair of Cougar mascots running around the stadium. They are a couple, but the male one is awfully androgynous. It would not surprise me if that cat swings both ways; not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Getting to the Coog Cage was initially less difficult than I thought it would be. Houston traffic is notoriously bad but we sailed through the downtown freeways and there was clear signage for the stadium exit. Note that there is a light rail line the runs right by the stadium and that is an option is you are staying downtown. Downtown and midtown Houston is slowly and surely improving so that may be a viable option. Once we got to campus, however, the signage just disappeared and we got a little lost finding the cash lots. After a couple of reroutes, we found the lots and paid $10 to park. It was a short ten minute walk through the campus to the stadium from there. Exiting the stadium after the game was easy enough and we breezed on home.
The University of Houston is a middle tier program. They have certainly had a couple of nice runs in their history highlighted by the Run and Shoot offense in the late ‘80s. It was in 1989 when Andre Ware won his Heisman winner for the Cougars. In general though, they are a subordinate to UT and A&M in the state. When I put this game down on my schedule, all I saw was TT at U. of H. Little did I know that the TT stood for Tennessee Tech and not Texas Tech. I discovered that little nugget about two weeks before the game and I was awfully tempted to skip the game entirely. I was about to bag it, but with the weather being so nice and my son offering to join me for the game, we decided to catch the game despite the likelihood of a blowout.
The Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles are a FCS team, coach by the losingest college football coach, Watson Brown. So yeah, the Coogs were setting themselves up for the “W”. And I will give this to them, they did take it to the Eagles. Yet, it was not exactly a stellar display of football prowess. U. of H. made enough mistakes that the Eagles kept it fairly close for some time. At half time the score was 24 – 10 (verify) and it was pretty well in hand. The Cougar Band halftime performance was impressive. The students racing in sumo suits during a classic participation event at the end of the half were not. It was entertaining though as one face planted racing across the goal line.
Overall, I would describe the Coogs performance as downright sloppy. They gave up a couple of big plays in the secondary and seemed to put the ball on the ground a lot. Luckily, most of the time they recovered their own fumbles. I can’t say for sure, but I would guess the Coogs are still of the middle tier caliber of FBS football.
Personal Notes from the Game:
I knew this game was not going to be a sellout so I was torn on whether to buy my tickets at the gate or try to get them electronically beforehand. Face value tickets were $20 but I found some cheaper seats on line from Vivid Seats for $16, all in. They were comparable in location plus it offered the convenience of not stopping at the ticket booth. I have bought lots of seats online from various vendors, including Vivid Seats, and never had a problem. So I hit the confirm button, printed off the tickets and my son and I jumped in the car an hour before kickoff. As we walked by the gate, I was glad I already had my tickets because there was a big line at the ticket office. We went through security, got to the gate, had our tickets scanned and were promptly told to go the ticket booth because there was a problem with our tickets. It was five minutes before kickoff.
We waited about 30 minutes in line during which I call Vivid Seats. They asked me why the tickets didn’t work. I told them I have no idea why the tickets work and that I am sitting in line waiting to find out. The representative, who was very nice, says “call back when you find out what the problem is and we will see what we can do.” This is where an organization with great customer service would step in and say “we are going to email you some new tickets immediately”
Instead, I had to wait until U. of H. could confirm that yes, somebody had already used those ticket codes to get into the game. At that point it was halfway through the first quarter and so I just bought two tickets at the gate. By the time we got to our seats, it was already 10 -7 and the first quarter was nearly over. I then called Vivid Seats and explained what had happened. It was at that point that offered to send me new tickets. Sorry I said, that was a little late. The rep was smart enough to realize that all I really wanted to do at that point was watch the game, so she let me go and said Vivid Seats would call me back tomorrow. I ended up calling Vivid Seats on late Sunday afternoon after I had not heard from them. Since my event had already occurred, they dumped my call and I had to email them. They did call me back on Monday, Labor Day, to resolve the issue. I had to re-explain the issue for a second time. I then had to fill out an affidavit that I wasn’t able to use the tickets and send a photocopy of the ones I bought. A day later I got confirmation that they would refund my money. They were courteous and friendly, but it did feel a bit like being pulled through a 10 inch pipe, particularly since the problem was on their end. If they really wanted to make things right, they would have refunded my money for the tickets and the $40 I paid at the gate. Or at least covered the overage I had to pay, $12. And of course, this all could have been avoided if they had just sent me new tickets when I called the first time. I understand clearly how purchasers of a ticket could cheat them, but in the same instance, I am buying those tickets on the on the assurance that they are good tickets. I have always expected that at some point, I would get a bad ticket. It is just surprising that it came from an outlet rather than some scalper selling them on the street.
However, all this is not germane to the review of the University of Houston experience which I would say was a slightly better than average one. The stadium is new and clean. The fans are loud and get into the game. While I wouldn’t go out of my way to see a game with the Coogs, I would recommend a visit if they are playing your school or if you find yourself in Houston in late fall.