Thursday, February 20, 2020

2020 Houston Cougar football schedule released

The 2020 campaign will look like this:

     Thu Sep 03     Rice
     Sat Sep 12      at Washington State
     Sat Sep 19      at Memphis
     Sat Sep 26      North Texas
     Sat Oct 3        (off)
     Thu Oct 8       Tulane
     Fri Oct 16       at BYU
     Sat Oct 24      at Navy
     Sat Oct 31      Central Florida
     Sat Nov 7       at Cincinnati
     Sat Nov 14     South Florida
     Sat Nov 21     at SMU
     Sat Nov 28     Tulsa

I have five thoughts about this schedule:

1. It's easier than last year, but still pretty tough. Last season's schedule began with a ridiculous run of four games in 19 days, including an opener on the road against eventual CFP participant Oklahoma. This year's schedule isn't nearly as adverse; in fact, in many ways it sets up pretty well for the Coogs. They have two home Thursday night games that give them an extra couple of days to prepare before going on tough road trips, and the off week in early October gives them a breather after the first third of the season. That being said, the road schedule is still pretty tough (more on this in a moment), and the four-game stretch in the middle of the season - at BYU, at Navy, Central Florida and at Cincinnati - is especially nasty.

2. This schedule probably isn't going to sell a lot of tickets. The home slate features no "Power 5" opponents that will attract casual fans. The closest thing the Cougars have to a "marquee" opponent at home is Central Florida, and the fact that it's on Halloween is a probably attendance killer. The two Thursday night games are also attendance killers, as is the Saturday-after-Thanksgiving game against Tulsa. UH football needs to break its three-year attendance slide, but this is probably not the schedule to do it with.

3. At least all the early home games will be at night. The Thursday games against Rice and Tulane are by definition night games. North Texas is unlikely to be televised and therefore will probably be a night game streamed on ESPN+. This means that all of Houston's home games in September and October will be night games, and that will come as good news to anybody who suffered through the "stupid" heat of the Rice and Arizona games a couple of years ago. I maintain that forcing players to play in, and fans to sit in, Houston's September heat and sun is cruel and unsafe; fortunately that won't be an issue this fall.

4. The road schedule is brutal. It features two sets of back-to-back road games, and requires the Coogs to travel to all four time zones. With one exception, every team the Cougars play on the road this year is a team they lost to at home last year. The exception: a physically tough BYU team in Provo. Ouch. (That would actually be an awesome roadie, though...)

5. I'm having trouble finding six wins on this schedule. In order to show progress, sell tickets, and validate the decision to hire Dana Holgorsen away from West Virginia (as well as his own decision to redshirt much of last year's team), the Cougars must make significant improvement over last season's 4-8 disappointment. Right now, I'm not optimistic. The home games against Rice, UNT, Tulane, USF and Tulsa are must-wins, because the roadies against Washington State, Memphis, BYU and Cincinnati are probable losses. If the Coogs can knock off back-to-earth Navy and SMU programs on the road, and maybe even upset Central Florida at home, they could achieve an eight-win season. If not, they're looking at 5-7 season, an empty stadium in 2021, and a program that has fallen back into oblivion.

Ryan Monceaux, who describes the schedule as "much more friendly" than last year's, shares his thoughts in his podcast.

UH medical school receives accreditation

I've been following this saga for the past thirteen years (see here, here, here, and here), so I'm pleased to report that it has a happy ending:
The University of Houston has received the green light to move forward with its recruiting and enrolling its first class of 30 medical students for the first new medical school in Houston in over 50 years. 
The University of Houston College of Medicine has received its preliminary accreditation from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, the authority on medical education in the United States and Canada that is sponsored by the American Medical Association and the American Association of Medical Colleges.
This accreditation means the school can begin enrolling its inaugural class of 30 students and begin classes on July 20. Each of these new students will receive a $100,000 four-year scholarship thanks to an anonymous donor.
To be sure, preliminary accreditation simply means that the new medical school is in a "probationary" period; the school now has to prove that it can meet the LCME's standards and, assuming it does so, will receive full accreditation in about four years.

Otherwise, the University of Houston College of Medicine is now officially a thing. I remember the days when the idea of UH having a medical school would have been considered a laughable fantasy, so this is a huge step forward for both the university and the region as a whole.
The school will focus its curriculum on primary care, behavioral and mental health, and preventive care, per the release, and create a household-centered care program that involves connecting a student with a family in an underserved community. According to the release, UH med students will be required to spend four weeks in a clinic in a rural part of the state. 
"At full staffing we will have 65 full-time faculty teaching on campus, but there will be also be a large number of community-based faculty teaching in the outpatient and inpatient clinical settings," says Dr. Stephen Spann, founding dean of the medical school, in the release. "It is imperative that we place our medical students and faculty directly in the communities with the most need."
The school will initially operate out of the Health 2 Building on campus, but will eventually move to an $80 million facility at the corner of Old Spanish Trail and Martin Luther King Jr Blvd. That facility will break ground this summer and is expected to be completed in 2022.