Renovation Earns Praise From Cougar Fans
On this day in 1999, the Houston Cougars opened a renovated John O’Quinn Field at Robertson Stadium with a 28-3 win over Rice. It was the first Bayou Bucket game in the post-SWC era.
“Bringing back this rivalry between Houston and Rice is very important to us,” UH AD Chet Gladchuk said at the time. “It’s important to the fans and to the city of Houston.”
Thanks to O’Quinn’s $6 million gift, the school was able to remove the old track, dig down to lower the field, and build a ring of seating around it. New concession stands and restrooms were built in each end zone and, eventually, palm trees would be added.
In addition, the renovation included new fencing, sidewalks, and landscaping, and a scoreboard was also installed. The stadium’s official capacity was listed at 33,000 but the 31,784 in attendance was called a sellout.
A year before, the school added 18 suites at the top of each grandstand and replaced the press box and elevators.
The Cougars also used the day to unveil a new, Nike-inspired fatter UH logo on the helmets. It was the first change from the “skinny UH” that had been on the helmets since Coach Yeoman’s first season in 1962.
The only thing to go wrong all day: a stadium-wide power failure caused a 20-minute delay at the beginning of the second half.
On the field, UH had another debut: the 4-2-5 defensive scheme implemented by new DC Dick Bumpas. It resulted in eight forced fumbles and six turnovers for the Owls. An early Rice field goal kept them from being shut out.
“Any time an option team goes into its first ball game, they’re really not going to be greased up, and we’ve had lots of time to prepare for them,” Bumpas said.
UH only managed 203 yards of offense in the game. QB Jason McKinley managed the game well and was 10-of-13 in the air for 107 yards and a TD. That scoring pass went to Orlando “O4H” Iglesias. Iglesias caught seven of McKinley’s 10 completions for 82 yards.
UH scored all four touchdowns as a result of Rice turnovers.
“I thought we dominated the game defensively and the kicking game was great,” UH coach Kim Helton said. “We played real well offensively. We didn’t turn the ball over and that’s what we want to do against the wishbone. It was a good win, a very good win.”
The 1999 season was the first since 1949 where UH played its entire home schedule on campus. At that time, the stadium was called Houston Public School Stadium.