New TSU football coach on program, NFL, and Houston ties: 'I'm excited'

Brandon Hamilton Image
Monday, February 5, 2024
New TSU football coach excited about opportunity with program
Texas Southern University football head coach Cris Dishman discusses role with the program, his coaching staff, and Houston ties with ABC13.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- When Texas Southern University kicks off its football season in a few months, there will be a new face leading the program.

While new to TSU, Cris Dishman is no stranger to Houston. Last month, the university named the former Houston Oiler legend its next head football coach.

"It feels great. My family's back here, Dr. (Kevin) Granger and the committee...they gave me a chance to be a head coach," Dishman told ABC13. "So, this is my first one. I've been coaching almost 19 years, but in order to be a head coach, you have to have great people surround you."

Dishman believes he's built that in his coaching staff.

"I know I have built a solid staff there with me. Steve Smith... Coach Smith is going to be the offensive coordinator. Coach Wilson, who was on the staff before, he stayed over. We were lucky to keep Coach Wilson. He's, he's our recruiting coordinator. And then I have Coach Parker, who I've been knowing for a long time," he said.

Being back in Houston is a full-circle moment for Dishman. He was drafted by the Oilers in 1988 and spent eight years with the team.

Overall, the cornerback was in the National Football League for 13 years.

The two-time NFL Pro Bowler is taking over for a program that has not seen recent success. This past season, the Tigers finished 3-8 with a 2- 6 Southwestern Athletic Conference record. TSU decided to part ways with then-head coach Clarence McKinney.

"First goal is to win game one. And then from game one, we move on to the other games," Dishman said. "You we wanna win a championship? Of course. Do we wanna win multiple championships? Yes, we do."

While walking down TSU's Tiger Walk, Dishman says he's excited to be back on campus but also calling on the community to support.

"I can't do it alone, though. I need the community. I need the alumni. I want the alumni to get back here on campus. I want everybody's support from the administration to alumni to the fellow students," he said.

The Kentucky native recounted memories of his Houston playing days up until the Oilers franchise relocated to Nashville, Tennessee.

"The Houston community always had open arms to me. I always considered Houston, the Third Ward area here as my second home."

He credits his friend and former teammate Alonzo Highsmith for getting him into coaching in 2005.

"I went out training guys and then all of a sudden he said, 'Well, you need to get into coaching. So I went over to NFL Europe, that was my first coaching job over there. Um, Berlin, you know, which was crazy. But I was over there coaching with the Berlin Thunder with Coach Lantz and Jim Tomsula was the defense coordinator. I was defensive back coach," he said.

Dishman comes to TSU after nearly two decades of coaching on the pro and collegiate levels.

He's hoping locals stay in Houston and come to the university on Cleburne Street.

"This is your backyard, you know, you don't want to go out the backyard and go down the street and play football. Come in your backyard and play. You're familiar with the city, you're familiar with the school. Why go to a Prairie View, excuse me, Bubba," Dishman said laughing. Dishman and Bubba McDowell, the head football coach at Prairie View A&M, are longtime friends and former teammates on the Oilers.

Dishman says the team can win now. They're also going to look at options in the transfer portal.

"I try to take off the coach hat and put on a dad hat, but my son now is playing football over a Second Baptist. So I'm constantly coaching him. You know, I'm not really the dad of him, I'm coaching him and telling him the ins and outs of what recruiters are looking for. So I try to sometimes be the dad, where we don't talk football. He and I go out and eat, talk about his grades, talk about how he's doing in life mentally and physically, and just try to be that person," he said.

He has a simple message to the TSU community and his players.

"What you see is what you get. I'm gonna be very upfront and honest," he said. "Our staff is gonna be upfront and honest with you."