The University of Houston has many traditions, some time-honored and some relatively new. Here are some facts you may know, and some you may not, about our unique rituals.
The Official Class Ring
So many University of Houston traditions reside in the hearts of students and alumni, but the UH class ring is the only tradition that is always with you. The ring is presented each semester at a formal ring ceremony. Tradition dictates that current students must wear the ring facing inward, with only alumni wearing the ring facing outward.
Students and alumni receive their class ring at the Ring Ceremony, an event held prior to both the December and May graduations. Each class ring spends the night before the Ring Ceremony with our live mascot, Shasta VI, in the cougar habitat at the Houston Zoo.
Shasta and Sasha
The mascot of the University has been a Cougar since 1927. The mascot was selected by our then Professor John W. Bender. Coach Bender joined the faculty after having served as the Head Football Coach at Washington State University. During his tenure at Washington State, he became fond of the WSU mascot (a cougar). When he arrived here, the students were looking for a name for the student newspapers (the school’s first extracurricular activity). He suggested that they call the newspaper the Cougar because of the grace, power and pride that the Cougar embodies. The name was unanimously agreed upon. From that time on all University of Houston student groups and activities have been associated with Cougars. We may well be the only university in the USA to name its athletic teams after the student newpaper.
Shasta is the name of the very first cougar that ever represented the University of Houston. The name was chosen from the Alpha Phi Omega’s “Name the Mascot” competition in the Daily Cougar. The winning entry was from then student Joe Randol.
However, after the death of Shasta V in 1989, the university has not purchased another live cougar. There has been continuous debate & various attempts to resume the tradition, but none of the attempts has proven succesful. So, the debates rage on.
Today, Shasta has morphed into a costumed student, but still maintains the spirit of the Coogs. Shasta has been joined by a new “female” costumed mascot named Sasha. Many of the alumni were perplexed by this as Shasta was also female….
The Cougar Hand Sign
In Texas, all of the major universities have adopted a hand sign which signifies to all other Texans where your loyalties lie. The Cougar Hand Sign is no different. Although the original hand sign was the “V” for Victory until 1965, events conspired and a new hand sign was adopted. The inaugural football game between University of Houston and University of Texas during the 1953 campaign witnessed the birth of a blood rivalry between the state’s two largest universities at that time. However, it also led to the adoption of another Cougar Hand Sign. During her transport from Houston to Austin, one of the fingers on Shasta’s paw was severed when the cage door was closed. As the University of Texas partisans and players caught wind of the accident, they mimicked the animal by bending their thumb over the ring finger against their palm. This gesture implied that the Cougars were invalids. The Cougars would go on to lose the game 28-7.
The cougar faithful, still mindful of the stinging defeat suffered 15 years earlier, never forgot the taunting that they received. The next time the two teams faced off (1968… a whole 15 years later), UH tied UT 20-20. At that point, the students thought there might be a bit of magic in that sign, and the hand sign was adopted replacing the “V”.
In 1976, the Cougars first football season in the Southwest Conference, the Coogs & Horns met for the third time ever. The Coogs put a beating on the Longhorns that they have yet to forget 30-0 (a.k.a.the “Dad’s Day Massacre”) in front of the largest crowd to assemble in Memorial Stadium at that time. That victory ended the Longhorns famed winning streak, and the embarrassment also signaled the end of legendary UT Coach Darryl K. Royal’s career. After that victory, the Cougar Hand Sign became firmly entrenched.
Important Note: Only one hand is to be held aloft when making the Cougar Hand Sign.
Head Football Coach Jack Pardee, Heisman Trophy Winning Quarterback Andre Ware and former Quarterback David Dacus felt the University lacked a symbol for the football team. An oil field siren was chosen to represent the University’s ties to the petroleum industry and the “air-raid” style of offense at the time. A group of students, all members of Sigma Chi Fraternity, manned a manual crank siren that sounded after each score. In the summer of 1991, David Carl Blazek, a staunch supporter of the University and member of Sigma Chi Fraternity, passed away. His death was a blow to the original men who ran the siren. They named the siren “The Blaze” in honor of their fallen brother. In the of Fall 1991, through the efforts of the “H” Association, the Taxi Squad, Pleas Doyle and the Hruska Family, the purchase of a new siren was complete. However, the siren did not arrive until the day before Homecoming. To this day, every time that The Blaze is sounded, the University hears the voice of David Carl Blazek.
Cougar Red Friday
Wearing red on Friday is more than just a tradition; it is who we are. We wear red to show our pride and passion for the University. It is our visual identity. The color unites us, to live and to celebrate together, and behold our individual achievements as a singular legacy of the pride. We encourage our campus community and those all around the city to wear Red on Fridays.The UH campus community, alumni and the city of Houston are all encouraged to wear red on Friday to show pride and passion for the University.