Unfortunately, there is no reason for the Houston Cougars to have an oil derrick on their helmet and trademark law wouldn’t permit it anyway. Still, the nostalgia was clear as a cloudless blue sky as the program elected to don the old Houston Oilers colors for its first game as a member of the Big 12 on Saturday against UTSA. Week 1 won’t be played at the Astrodome, but Houston will be doing its best to conjure memories from those old enough to have them of Haywood Jeffries and young Bruce Matthews.
Just like the NBA’s Seattle Supersonics, the Oilers employed a Rookie of the Year in the franchise’s final season in their original hometown. Unlike Seattle, however, Houston did not get to keep the history of its departing professional franchise. With the Sonics, new ownership moved the team to Oklahoma City. The NBA franchise separated itself from the history of the Sonics and became the Thunder. If Seattle ever gets another franchise, the Sonics history will pick up right where it left off following Kevin Durant’s ROY season.
The Houston Texans have their uninventive nickname because the family that founded the Oilers took Offensive Rookie of the Year Eddie George and the franchise history with them to Nashville. For two seasons, the team was called the Tennessee Oilers. The late Bud Adams realized that the name wasn’t clicking with his new fanbase and, in 1999, he renamed the franchise the Tennessee Titans. The Titans are even donning the Oilers throwbacks for home games against the Atlanta Falcons and — in what should be considered an insult to the people of Houston — the Texans.
Tennessee may hold claim to the logo and name, but it cannot own a color scheme. That columbia blue, white, and scarlet uniform is as synonymous with a city as the purple and gold is to Los Angeles and the scarlet, gold, and white is to San Francisco. Outside of reruns of Thea and people wearing Earl Campbell jerseys, Houston’s color scheme is not seen that often. Now that the Cougars are taking their rightful place in the conference that they were blocked from for decades, breaking out the Oilers’ colors is an ideal way to stir up some civic pride.
For one day, at least, the University of Houston isn’t about the Cougars, it’s about the city. On Sept. 2, Houston football will be presented in a way like it hasn’t been seen since 1996. The city can stiff arm that steer made from the Texas state flag for a few hours, and remember football the way that it used to be in H-Town.
A time when Buddy Ryan threw a straight right hand at Kevin Gilbride and the Astrodome was considered the eighth wonder of the world. It is a shame that Houston lost its original NFL franchise and the history as well. But maybe if the people in the city squint hard enough when Houston plays UTSA on Saturday, they will see something that looks like Ernest Givens streaking down the sideline.