UH Cougars men's basketball/Facebook

Hey Houston media: As we say in our business, you’re burying the lead!

Lately, I’ve been watching our local news … “and now here’s (fill in the blank) with sports.”

“Over at Toyota Center, the Rockets came up short and dropped another one to the Jazz or maybe it was the Pelicans or … does it really matter?”

It doesn’t matter. The Rockets have lost 10 games in a row, 15 of their last 16, and they’re in last place in the Western Conference with the NBA’s worst record. They’re on track to finish with an even worse record than last year, when they also had the worst record in the league. Their last three losses were all blowouts, dropping each game by 20-plus points. They’re terrible and getting terrible-er.

Meanwhile, in the shadow of downtown, there’s another basketball team with “Houston” on the front of their jerseys. That team is a different story.

And it should be the lead story.

Coogs House

The University of Houston is 17-1, undefeated in the American Athletic Conference, riding an eight-game win streak, ranked No. 1 in the country and the betting favorite (+550 at Fanduel) to make the Final Four and win the whole March Madness tournament.

That’s No. 1 ahead of Kansas, Duke, North Carolina and all the other traditional college powerhouses. The NCAA title clash essentially could be a home game for the Cougars on April 3 at NRG Stadium in Houston.

It all ties into a neat little bow for coach Kelvin Sampson and the red-hot Coogs.

And here’s another reason why the Cougars deserve our support and the sports section headline: every player on the UH team came here because they wanted to play for Houston. Rockets players are in Houston because that’s where they were drafted or traded, or in some cases because they couldn’t get a better deal with any other team.

UH players fell in love with Houston. Rockets players are arranged marriages.

So why are the UH Cougars relegated to a mere mention before the sports anchor hands it off to the weatherman for a final update on tomorrow’s forecast?

It’s would be understandable why the Rockets hold the media’s attention ahead of the Cougars if this were a typical big market. The pros are bigger, faster and better than college players.

But this is Houston, where the local college team is No. 1 in the country and the pro team is dead last in the NBA.

Even if all things were equal, which they’re not, the UH story is more compelling than the Rockets’ tale of woe. UH has a personable, inspirational coach, Kelvin Sampson, one of the most successful figures in the college game. The Rockets coach, Stephen Silas, has a low-key personality and, not entirely his fault, one of the most futile won-loss records in NBA history.

Case for the Coogs

UH has a legit superstar, Marcus Sasser, a first-team All-American pick, a team leader who’s playing in his final season for the Cougars. The Rockets’ top veteran is Eric Gordon, a sourpuss who wants off the team in the worst way and the Rockets are trying their best to accommodate him.

UH is on track to make a lot of noise on the road to the Final Four, like they’ve done six times, the most recent in 2021. UH holds the frustrating record for most Final Four appearances without a championship trophy. Another good storyline. This could be their year, and what better place than their own backyard at NRG Stadium?

It’s not like the Rockets have a serious shot at the NBA Finals, but apples to apples, the NCAA tournament is a bigger deal than the NBA playoffs.

Bring on the Madness

March Madness charges more for TV commercials than any sports event in the U.S. with the exception of the NFL playoffs. March Madness brought in $1 billion in ad revenue in 2021, more than the NBA playoffs and double MLB’s postseason.

Last year’s March Madness championship game had 18.1 million viewers. Last year’s championship game of the NBA Finals drew just under 14 million viewers.

It’s estimated that some 35 million Americans will fill out a bracket for March Madness contests. I’ve never worked in an office where everybody puts down $5 to buy a square in a pool for the NBA Finals. I know a guy who scheduled his vasectomy for the start of March Madness figuring he was due some serious couch time.

March Madness is a national passion. The NBA Finals are a sports event.

Bottom line: The Cougars are the No. 1 team in college hoops, and they’re taking aim at the biggest, most celebrated prize in basketball. They are the pride of our city.

So, let’s give the UH Cougars the respect they deserve. Give ‘em the top story.

Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images

The Houston TCU fans' guide to tailgating, parking, and parties at the CFP National Championship in L.A.

Frogs in the Natty

Thousands of TCU fans — many from the Houston area — will descend on the City of Angels this weekend to witness the Horned Frogs play No. 1 Georgia in the College Football Playoff National Championship. The game itself is at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California on Monday, January 9 (4:30 pm Pacific, 6:30 pm Central). As Dallas-Fort Worth fans scurry to secure flights, hotel accommodations, transportation, and those pricey tickets, details on the many festivities leading up the game may have been missed.

Here’s a quick overview of fan-friendly events happening all weekend long, including tips on parking, tailgating (is there tailgating?), maps, and more. Staying home for the game? Head over to Fort Worth for the 12 best watch parties at local bars and restaurants.

SoFi Stadium Quick Facts
The elaborate SoFi Stadium opened in September 2020 and is the centerpiece of a district called Hollywood Park, a 300-acre sports and entertainment destination located in Inglewood, California. It’s the home of the Los Angeles Chargers and the Los Angele Rams NFL teams. Fun fact: the stadium is slated to host the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 2028 Olympics. It can seat up to 100,000 people with expandable seating and is the largest stadium in the NFL.

At 70,000 square feet, SoFi’s Infinity Screen is the largest videoboard ever created in sports. It’s 120 yards long and holds about 2.2 million pounds of digital LED. It’ the only dual-sided, center-hung videoboard in the world. No matter where your seats are, you won’t miss one play.

Parking at SoFi for the National Championship
Parking is extremely limited with digital permits available for purchase only in advance for on-site and off-site lots. Stadium parking lots will open at 10 am and will remain open for two hours after the end of the game. Here’s a map for reference.

Another option is Inglewood Park & Go – remote parking with shuttle service that runs every 15 minutes. A bus rideshare service called Rally will also provide roundtrip transportation to the game from various districts around the Los Angeles area. A minimum number of riders is required.

To be clear, tailgating is prohibited for this game, so leave the coolers tents behind. (Apparently this is a College Football Playoff rule for the National Championship, not a rule of SoFi Stadium or California in general.)

But there is an official tailgate hosted by the College Football Playoff. Called the Allstate Championship Tailgate, the free event is open to all ticket holders. Running from 10 am-4 pm on game day January 9, the sponsored tailgate will be held in lots B and C outside SoFi Stadium. It will feature interactive games, sponsor activations, concessions, live broadcasts by ESPN, and performances by both TCU and Georgia marching bands. There’ll also be live concerts by Kelsea Ballerini and Yiera Kennedy.

TCU is also hosting a tailgate, but tickets are already sold out.

Playoff Fan Central
This three-day, family-friendly event, which runs Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 10 am-6 pm daily, is free to attend and will be held at the Los Angeles Convention Center South Hall. Go for games, clinics, band performances, special guest appearances, autograph sessions, and exhibits celebrating the history of college football. Note that TCU star running back and NFL Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson will appear on Sunday at 11 am for a live podcast recording for "Always College Football" with football commentator Greg McElroy. Here’s the full schedule of appearances.

Extra Yard 5K
Looking to burn a few calories before the big game? Sign up for the College Football Playoff’s family-friendly 5K race (that’s 3.1 miles) to held at 8 am on Sunday in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. Each participant will receive a t-shirt and a finisher medal. Registration is $50, or $40 for teachers and educators. Proceeds will benefit the College Football Playoff Foundation’s Extra Yard for Teachers initiative. Registration ends Saturday night at midnight.

Taste of the Championship
If you don’t want to mess with dinner reservations and still get an exclusive taste of everything delicious Los Angeles has to offer, buy tickets for Taste of the Championship, happening 4-7 pm Sunday at a chic LA event space called Hudson Loft. The fundraiser event will feature gourmet food and drinks be prepared and served by local chefs via meet-and-greet stations. Proceeds from the $300 ticket will benefit the College Football Foundation’s Extra Yard for Teachers initiative.

Other good things to know

  • Only clear bags are allowed inside SoFi Stadium and they should not be bigger than 12” x 6” x 12”. Small clutch purses are permitted, but they can’t exceed 4” x 6”.
  • There’s also a College Football Playoff app for those who want to keep updated with breaking news and game updates.

CFP National Championship

Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images

Horned Frogs will be painting the town purple.

Photo by Marco Torres

Clever new online guide tracks Houston's Latino art events and performances

latino proud

With Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15-October 15) now underway, a convenient new calendar courtesy of a local nonprofit dials Houstonians into a host of Latino arts and culture events to celebrate the occasion.

The calendar (find it here) is created and curated by Advocates of a Latino Museum of Cultural and Visual Arts & Archive Complex in Houston, Harris County (ALMAAHH) and is meant to showcase the myriad cultural offerings of the the largest population in Harris County.

Special attention is paid to under-the-radar Latino creators and creations, according to the organization’s board chair, Geraldina Wise. “We want to use this online tool as an opportunity to showcase events with artists you might not otherwise meet,” said Wise.

Users can navigate the calendar via several options, including by type of artistic endeavor, region, date, and more. Those interested can submit requests to include events or activities here.

While the one-stop guide was created specifically for Hispanic Heritage Month, Wise notes that users can visit the guide going forward to support the community.

“We have started with events happening during Hispanic Heritage Month to kick off the calendar,” she said. “But we will continue to add new events and to turn this into the most comprehensive online Latino arts and culture resource for the Greater Houston area.”

University of Houston chips in with upcoming moon mission with special Coog-crafted cargo

cosmic coogs

The University of Houston is are playing a role in the latest mission to the moon. The Artemis I mission Orion spacecraft will carry dozens of tiny microchips made at UH on Saturday, September 3.

The Coog-crafted microchips were created to honor the thousands of people who made the Artemis mission possible, according to the school and NASA. Artemis I is set to launch Saturday, after a failed August 29 attempt due to an engine problem.

Long Chang, a research associate professor in the Cullen College of Engineering and expert at the UH nanofabrication facility, answered the call when NASA was looking for a way to honor the thousands of people contributing to the Artemis I mission.

"NASA wanted microchips with everyone's name on them. But I had some creative liberties in the design because they didn't really know what we were capable of," Chang said. "I figured out how to do this so quickly that I decided to position the names so when you see it, it looks like the NASA logo, the Artemis logo, and the European Space Agency logo. Each logo is made of those 30,000 names."


Continue reading this story, with accompanying video, on our news partner ABC13.

Photo courtesy of Rice University

Rice University scores No. 6 rank among best colleges in the U.S. and No. 1 in Texas

Something to hoot about

Rice University is a star student among the top colleges in the U.S.

A new ranking from education information and review platform Niche ranks Rice as the sixth best college in the country and the best in Texas, with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology holding the top spot nationally. Rice’s ranking is one notch above its seventh-place showing on the list Niche released in 2021.

“We’re proud that Niche once again rates Rice not only one of the nation’s top universities, but also one of the nation’s best college values,” says Reginald DesRoches, president of Rice. “This is especially gratifying because Niche reflects the opinions of students and parents who know firsthand what outstanding education opportunities Rice continues to offer.”

Rice also appears at No. 6 on Niche’s list of the best private schools in the U.S. and at No. 7 among colleges offering the best value. Both of those rankings are the highest in Texas.

Notably for locals, the Universtity of Houston ranks No. 5 among the Top Public Universities in Texas.

Following Rice, here are the top colleges in Texas as determined by Niche:

  • University of Texas at Austin, No. 46 in the U.S. and No. 2 in Texas. UT also ranks eighth on the list of best public colleges in the U.S. and first in Texas.
  • Texas A&M University in College Station, No. 75 in the U.S. and No. 3 in Texas.
  • Southern Methodist University in Dallas, No. 82 in the U.S. and No. 4 in Texas.
  • Trinity University in San Antonio, No. 99 in the U.S. and No. 5 in Texas.
  • Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, No. 104 in the U.S. and No. 6 in Texas.
  • Texas Tech University in Lubbock, No. 148 in the U.S. and No. 7 in Texas.
  • Baylor University in Waco, No. 172 in the U.S. and No. 8 in Texas.
  • University of Texas at Dallas, No. 220 in the U.S. and No. 9 in Texas.
  • University of Houston, No. 232 in the U.S. and No. 10 in Texas.

To create the college rankings, Niche combines data from sources such as the U.S. Department of Education with user input — reviews and ratings from current students, alumni, and parents — in an analysis of factors such as academics, campus, and value for the financial investment. The rankings compare more than 1,000 colleges and universities across the country.

“We know that choosing where to go to college is a major life decision, and we’ve always been committed to helping students and their families make their choice with as much information as possible,” says Luke Skurman, founder and CEO of Niche. “With a mix of comprehensive data and millions of reviews, our 2023 best colleges rankings are a guide to the thousands of excellent institutions across the country.”

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'Wicked' games, wild Italian comedy, and little lies headline June theater in Houston

best june theater

It’s getting hot out there, Houston. Perfect timing for cool new theater and dance to chill out to this June.

From tragic swans to wicked witches, devilish deals, a new take on a comic classic, and two new-play festivals, we’ve got a lot on our must-see list this month. Plus, it wouldn’t be a Houston theater summer without a new musical dancing mayhem revue from Tamarie Cooper and the Catastrophic Theatre crew.

Here are the hottest stage productions this June in Houston.

Wicked from Broadway at the Hobby Center (through July 2)

The show that defied gravity — and Broadway conventions and expectations — when it first took to broomstick in 2003 is back for a nice long stay at the Hobby Center.

Wicked still flies high, with Houston – and world-wide – audiences never getting enough of this story that redefines who’s good and who’s wicked in the land of Oz. Before Dorothy landed via tornado, two witchy legends went on a whole other adventure of sisterhood, love, family, heroism and the occasional flying monkey.

"Thank Goodness" Elphaba and Galinda have returned to bring some magic to our summer.

Swan Lake from Houston Ballet (June 8-18)

National tour of Wicked
Photo by Joan Marcus

Witch team are you: Elphaba or Galinda? Memorial Hermann Broadway at the Hobby Center presents Wicked.

The exquisite tragedy makes a soaring return as the Houston Ballet performs one of the most beloved ballets of all time. This production has quite the history, as the Tchaikovsky-set Swan Lake was the first full-length story ballet that Stanton Welch created as Houston Ballet artistic director in 2006.

With costumes and set design inspired by John William Waterhouse’s painting The Lady of Shalott by the late Kristian Fredrikson, this Swan Lake has become a favorite of Houston dance lovers. It has also earned international praise after tour to the famed Tokyo Bunka Kaikan theater in Tokyo in October 2022.

Oh, and a 150-year-old spoiler alert: there’s no happy ending for this fairytale story of a maiden-turned--swan who falls in love with a prince, but what heights she flies along the way.

The Servant of Two Masters at Alley Theatre (June 9-July 2)

Alley Theatre artistic director Rob Melrose has translated and also adapted this Carlo Goldoni classic work of Commedia dell’arte that's both a world premiere — and a 200-year-old play.

Theater lovers might be a little more familiar with the modern adaptation, One Man, Two Guvnors, which the Alley also staged several years ago. But we hear Melrose, who also directs, will take his adaptation back to its original Italian roots with actors wearing the traditional costumes and masks of the traditional comedy style.

With the entire Alley resident acting company and additional Alley regulars in on the mayhem, expect lots of mistaken identities, outrageous disguises, star-crossed lovers with wacky, not tragic, destinies — and one hungry Harlequin.

Alley All New Festival at Alley Theatre (June 16-25)

The annual new play reading fest gives us the (free) chance to discover what may be the big theatrical thing.

This year brings the freshest new work from several up and coming and award winning women playwrights. Expect tales surrounding a love letter, rural girls and their horses, a DIY séance, a May/December romance, a medical thriller, and even a modern take on The Odyssey from Penelope’s POV.

This festival brings a multitude of voices and stories to the stage for a week of theatrical discoveries.

Thunder Knocking on the Door at Stages (June 16-August 6)

Stages closes out the ’22-’23 season with a bluesy deal with the devil that heats up into a unique love story across generations.

Weaving the music three-time Grammy Award winner Keb’ Mo’ into this family story, Thunder Knocking tells the story of a mysterious blues guitar-playing stranger who arrives in a small Alabama town with a musical challenge for the offspring of his late rival.

"Thunder Knocking on the Door is one of those magical experiences in the theatre where a simple family story transforms into an epic fairy tale,” says Stages artistic director Kenn McLaughlin. "There are so many theatrical surprises and so much joy, I still hold the first time I saw this show in 1998 as one of my favorite evenings in the theatre ever.”

Fade to Black Festival at MATCH (June 22-24)

Houston’s only national short play festival to spotlight the new works of African-American playwrights returns for its 11th year.

The guiding formula for the festival is 10-10, as it features 10 plays of 10-minute length that are all new works from a dynamic selection of playwrights.

Every year, the scripts go through an impressive selection process before the shows make it to full, 10-minute productions. Quite a few of the winning plays come from Houston playwrights, but also look for new works from exciting new voices from across the country.

Tamarie’s Totally True Revue (plus lies too!) from Catastrophic Theatre (June 23-August 5)

Tamarie’s back and daring us to discover the whole truth about her weird, wonderful world. As always, Tamarie brings a cool new musical theater revue to our sweltering summers.

Somehow, she also manages to get her crew of Catastrophic regulars into some of the most outrageous costumes, and dance routines of the year. We hear rumors that everyone from Tinkerbell, Pinocchio, Ben Franklin, Kenny Rogers, and Tamarie's psychic high school attendance clerk (!) will make an appearance to tackle the nature of truth, lies, and dental hygiene.

Smoke on the Mountain at A.D. Players (June 28-July 23)

Another feel-good summer show that brings a bit of music to our nights, this production transports audiences back to a 1938 Saturday night sing-a-long in a small community in North Carolina’s Smoky Mountains.

Smoke features two dozen rousing bluegrass songs played and sung by the Sanders Family, a traveling family music group making its return to Mount Pleasant Baptist Church after a five-year hiatus.

As each family member takes a turn sharing an important life event, one thing after another goes awry and they reveal their true — and hilariously imperfect — natures, endearing themselves to us and allowing us to share in their triumphs.

Phenomenal Woman at Ensemble Theatre (June 29-July 30)

Ensemble partners with North Carolina Black Repertory Theatre for a “rolling world premiere” of this biographical depiction of the life of acclaimed American poet and icon, Maya Angelou.

This Phenomenal Woman takes us on an epic journey through her astonishing life story. From the trauma that thrust her into mutism, to the awakening that inspired her to write “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” audiences will experience this monumental, poetic spirit and discover how she developed one of the most celebrated voices of all time.

Pioneering leader of Miller Outdoor Theatre announces curtain call after game-changing, 14-year run

standing o for cissy

Beloved Houston arts figure Cissy Segall Davis, managing director of Miller Outdoor Theatre, will retire at the end of the theater's 100th anniversary season, the organization announced. Segall Davis has helmed the cherished organization for the last 14 years.

Her retirement was announced at a June 6 gathering of arts leaders and Miller Outdoor Theatre Advisory Board (MTAB) members. MTAB oversees the theater and its chairman, Romulo Tim Cisneros, broke the news at the gathering.

"For nearly 15 years, I have had the extraordinary opportunity to follow my personal passion every day," Segall Davis tells CultureMap. "Sharing my love of the performing and cultural arts with millions of Houstonians and visitors has been the thrill of a lifetime. I am a very lucky woman."

A pioneer in Houston arts, media, and events, Segall Davis took on Miller Outdoor Theatre's managing director position in 2008, the culmination of a career that began in 1972 and has included the management, production, and promotion of theatrical, entertainment, and special event industries.

One of her first jobs was in concert promotion, and over the decades, she amassed a deep knowledge of promotions, public relations, management, and arts administration. Long a lover of theater and the performing arts, she's often called her position at the theater a dream job.

"This really was a dream come true for me,” said Segall Davis, in press materials announcing her retirement. “Miller Outdoor Theatre has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. First as a camp counselor gleefully leading kids up and down the famous Miller hill singing “the hills are alive with the sound of music,” then professionally during my 20 years with Theatre Under Theatre Stars, later as a client when I ran my own PR firm and now of course as its managing director."

Under her leadership of Miller's day-to-day operations across the last nearly 15 years, Segall Davis oversaw a grants program for Houston performing arts and community organizations.

She also created and oversaw an annual season of more than 120 artistically and culturally diverse performances, all presented free of charge to the public. Segall's support of the arts and dedication to Miller helped build the theater's series, which runs from March to October, into the largest program of its kind in the U.S.

“It is not easy to walk away from a job that has been career-defining and one that I have absolutely loved and that has provided me the opportunity to follow my passion every day," she added. "But, knowing when to exit is part of show business. It’s time to pass the torch and offer someone else the chance to bring a new perspective and make an impact on this program. Miller Outdoor Theatre is one of Houston’s best amenities…it is beloved and treasured. It has been an honor to work with the Miller Theatre Advisory Board, our staff, the many performing arts, and cultural organizations that perform here, and the remarkable Miller crew for so many years.”

Rita MorenoEntertainment legend Rita Moreno will headline MOT's annual gala honoring Segall Davis this year.Photo courtesy of Miller Outdoor Theatre

Another big announcement was made at the same gathering where the news of Segall Davis' retirement was shared. The 16th annual gala for Miller Outdoor Theatre will be held on November 16 and fittingly, will honor Segall Davis.

The event, chaired by June Deadrick, Robin and Danny Klaes, and Christine and David Underwood, Jr., will also feature special guest and Broadway and Hollywood legend Rita Moreno. The actress and activist is one of 18 people to hold EGOT status — winning Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony awards for her work.

Funds from the gala will contribute to the theater's $12.5 million capital campaign.

Plan a summer play-cation in Frisco for golf, pools, music, and more

The City That Plays

Looking to take a play-cation this summer? Obviously Frisco, The City That Plays, is the perfect fit. It offers so many activities to fit every interest, from sporting events and unique golf activities to kid-friendly attractions and pools.

Summer sports
Watch a Frisco RoughRiders baseball game like never before from the in-stadium lazy river, or tour The Star, the Dallas Cowboys World Headquarters, to take in some NFL history and see where the pros call home.

While you are visiting The Star, you’ll find shopping and dining, with everything from sushi at Sushi Marquee to sweets at Cow Tipping Creamery.

Pro tip: if you love America’s team, plan your trip in August to get a pre-season glimpse of the Dallas Cowboys at training camp, open to the public at Ford Center.

PGA Frisco awaits with its two championship courses, a short course and putting green that’s lit at night, an entertainment district full of shops and dining options for the whole family, and the newly opened Omni PGA Frisco Resort, where it’s easy to cool off in one of the four pools.

Frisco offers golfers a range of play options, including The Fazio Course at The Westin Stonebriar Golf Resort & Spa, Frisco Lakes Golf Club, Plantation Golf Club, The Trails of Frisco, and the unique indoor option of the Swing Suite Lounge by Topgolf.

Cool tunes
Now that Frisco is officially designated a Music Friendly Texas Community, there’s plenty of live music to enjoy over the summer.

Friday nights in June are for listening to live music at Frisco Square during the free outdoor Summer Concert Series on the lawn in front of City Hall.

Visitors can get into the groove anytime at one of Frisco’s many venues that host live music and entertainment throughout the summer.

Happy 4th
Frisco celebrates the Fourth of July big, too. Mark your calendar for two major events with food, music, games, and fireworks: Frisco Freedom Fest and The Independence Day Celebration at Omni PGA Frisco Resort.

Kiddo time
Escape the Texas heat with a visit to Frisco’s unbelievable new library. The bright, open design has spaces to inspire, create, innovate, and collaborate, plus you can say hi to Rexy, the 20-foot-tall T-Rex dinosaur skeleton.

Check out the high-tech Makerspace and active learning spaces like Tiny Town, for kids up to age 5, and Kid’s Club, for kinder through 5th graders.

Take a dip
Cool down poolside in Frisco. With rooftop views, cabanas, adults-only, splash pools, and the Frisco Water Park, families, couples, and friends can all find the right place to cool down during your visit.

Whatever your summer style is, rest your head at one of Frisco’s 26 hotels while experiencing a weekend play-cation with things to do for visitors of all ages.

Soak up all Frisco has to offer this summer — visit the website for more vacation ideas.

Lazy River at Riders Field in Frisco

Photo courtesy of Visit Frisco

See a baseball game from the water at Riders Field.