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(All information as of July 1, 2006)
COACH AND PROGRAM
There's no doubt the University of Houston football program is better off than it was four years ago when coach Art Briles took over after three consecutive losing seasons.
Since then, the Cougars have produced two winning seasons and earned two bowl trips, with an increase in attendance and positive attention and improved recruiting, particular in the talent-rich Houston area.
"I think we've brought respectability back to the program," Briles said. "It was down really bad as a whole for about a decade and I think we've made it respectable again and I think the image of the University of Houston football program has changed among the high school coaches in the state of Texas and throughout the southwest."
There's also no doubt Houston still has a lot to prove as a program. Between finishes of 7-6 and 6-6 wrapped around a 3-8 season, as well as two bowl losses and some ups and downs that leave Houston fans scratching their heads, the Cougars must now prepare themselves for the next logical step.
"Win a conference championship. Win a bowl game," Briles said. "We've got a bunch of steps in front of us. We've made some big steps, but we've still got plenty to take."
The opportunity to reach those goals has never been more possible under Briles, who returns 17 starters and 48 letter-winners from a team with improving depth and experience across the board.