Bill Yeoman became Houston Football’s head coach in December 1961. Introducing the veer offense that revolutionized college football, Yeoman led the Cougars to a 160-108 record with 17 winning seasons, four Southwest Conference championships, 11 bowl game appearances, and 11 ranked teams until his retirement in 1986. Coach Yeoman was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, Class of 2001.
The University of Houston welcomed its first African American student, Charles P. Rhinehart, in 1962. Within the next two years, running back Warren McVea joined Coach Bill Yeoman’s football program while Elvin Hayes and Don Chaney competed for Coach Guy V. Lewis’s men’s basketball team as Houston became one of the first schools in the South to integrate its intercollegiate athletics programs.
The UH Board of Regents recommended in 1959 that the university become a state-funded public institution. The Texas Senate introduced a bill to do so in 1961, but it faced opposition. After an eleven-day filibuster from three senators, a compromise was struck and the bill won approval by one vote. The final bill passed by a vote of 107-35 in the House delayed the transition to 1963.
When UH officially became a state university, tuition dropped from approximately $700 per year to $100, and enrollment jumped 28 percent to 17,430 in the fall semester. To accommodate the growing number of students, a building boom began, with 25 buildings constructed during the next 10 years.
The University of Houston became the first state school to dedicate one percent of new construction building costs to works of art, some to be commissioned and others to be purchased. The first work, Orbit I by Masaru Takiguchi, was installed in the Science and Research Building in 1968. Almost 300 pieces of public art can be found on the UH campus.
UH dedicated the long-awaited University Center on March 11, 1967. The UC’s statement of purpose indicated that it would be a “living room” or “hearthstone” of the university and serve as a unifying force to cultivate enduring regard for the university’s highest ideals. The iconic, untitled sculpture in the atrium was chosen as a commentary on student life.
On January 20, 1968, the Cougars faced No. 1 UCLA inside the Houston Astrodome in the Game of the Century. Played in front of more than 52,000 fans and broadcast to millions, it was the first nationally televised regular-season college basketball game in prime time, setting the stage for how today’s NCAA Tournament fans enjoy the games every year. In a match-up against two college basketball legends, Houston forward Elvin Hayes scored 39 points with 15 rebounds to outduel UCLA's Lew Alcindor (later Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) in a 71-69 Houston victory.
The Afro-American Students Association (AABL), founded in 1967, was an active social and political organization that gained notoriety when one of its members, Lynn Eusan, ran for homecoming queen and won. The event made national news, and Eusan was featured in Ebony as well as several newspapers, adding to AABL’s respect in the university community. UH beat Tulsa in the homecoming game 100-6.
At the insistence of AABL and in conjunction with support from President Phillip G. Hoffman, the university established the African American Studies Program, the first area studies program at UH, opening the door for others to follow. Course offerings focused on African American history, literature, and culture.