UH in Sweet Sixteen brings Phi Slama Jama era echoes

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The University of Houston's basketball team is heading to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since the university's legendary "Phi Slama Jama" era.

Center Chris Harris is humbled.

"Knowing that we're bringing back the tradition of this program," Harris explained. "Putting this program back on the map."

The last time the Cougars advanced to the Sweet Sixteen was back in 1984.

Phi Slama Jama: Fast facts about the legendary Houston Cougars team

Ronald Reagan was president then. Apple had just released its first personal Macintosh computer. And Phi Slama Jama mania was taking over the country.

"It was just so exciting to watch them," explained Associate Provost Dr. Jeff Morgan. "That's how they ended up with this nickname, Phi Slama Jama. Everybody watched their games because it was just such high excitement."

Dr. Morgan was a graduate student back then.

"The campus was a lot different back then in the mid-80s," said Dr. Morgan. "It was predominately students commuting."

All of Houston cheered as the team made it to the Final Four every year from 1982 to 1984.
Players like Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler were kings on campus, and both of them eventually joined the Houston Rockets, elevating the university and city to legendary sports status.

"You don't hear people say things like "Cougar High" anymore," Dr. Morgan said. "This is a tier one university and people treat the University of Houston with much more seriousness than they ever have before."

This year, students and faculty are getting a reminder of what it's like to have a nationally known basketball team.

"I have gotten calls and texts from all over the country, so people really do notice," said President Renu Khator. "They say athletics are the window to the university, and people say, 'Oh, Houston!' Then they learn a little bit more about Houston."

"My dad went to school here during the Phi Slama Jama," said student Dwayne Snider. "It was really cool, me going here now and my dad back in the day."

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