Sep 30, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Cougars running back Brandon Campbell (20) runs the ball while under pressure from Tulane Green Wave linebacker Nick Anderson (1) during the second half at TDECU Stadium in Houston, Texas. Mandatory Credit: Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports
Houston Cougars football is benefiting tremendously from the incoming move to the Big 12 Conference.
With less than 71 days until UH officially joins the league, the buzz around the program is setting new records, even surpassing the Tom Herman years in 2015 and 2016, UH athletics director Chris Pezman told Gallery Sports.
Houston announced Wednesday that it has sold 5,000 new season tickets, a TDECU Stadium record. It has already accumulated north of 15,000 total season ticket sales before the calendar turns to May. Pezman attributes the main driving force behind the sales to Houston’s Big 12 schedule.
“Those are the things that get our fans excited, and they’ve missed for frankly decades,” Pezman said. “We just didn’t have that for the last couple of years or decades, and now we are able to carry off, draft off that energy and excitement and we are seeing it manifest itself in a very, very positive way with our season ticket sales.”
Pezman spoke with Gallery Sports over various topics surrounding the imminent jump to the Big 12, such as the university’s facilities, marketing, administrative operations, and how it capitalizes on the momentum of the conference move beyond this season.
Longtime Houston supporters and fans are excited to face off against intrastate opponents TCU, Baylor, Texas Tech, and on 2023’s schedule, a home game against the Texas Longhorns. All of these universities were once members of the Southwest Conference with Houston.
UH athletics is excited about having already reached 5,000 new season tickets because they feel they are barely scratching the surface of what is possible ahead of the 2023 football season.
Pezman told the Houston Chronicle last July that the goal for Houston Cougars football was to get to 25,000 total season tickets within two years. Under that timeline, two years would be in 2024. Pezman is confident UH will achieve that objective.
Pezman said that to track the program’s performance, he receives constant reports on ticket sales for the upcoming football season. The former Houston football captain wants to know daily where the program is with sales.
“I continue to feel the positive pressure from the market of people that are really excited about what is going on,” Pezman said.
With the excitement surrounding the football team at an all-time high, UH is aiming to capitalize on that demand to rebuild its season ticket base, which had fallen from its recent peak during the 2016 season, said Pezman.
“We have atrophied a great deal for a lot of reasons,” Pezman said. “You can go back and we can come up with excuses or whatever it is, but we haven’t been good enough, and we got to be a lot better as we prepare to transition to the Big 12.”
Pezman is confident UH can rebuild its season ticket base and elevate it to a new level for football. He used the success of the Houston Cougars men’s basketball team under Kelvin Sampson as an example of what the athletic department can accomplish.
Pezman pointed out that when he first became the athletic director at UH in 2017, men’s basketball had less than 1,000 season ticket holders. Fast forward to 2023, and Pezman said the program has sold out its season tickets with a waitlist of more than 1,000 accounts.
“There is a positive story there that shows that we can do it,” Pezman remarked. “It is very likely and possible, and we are more than capable of doing it. We got to reflect that with the product on the field [and] the way we deliver the game day experience … combine those two things and sustain them for years.”