DJ - Tom... thanks for taking the time to spend with us... We all know that you are the new voice of the Coogs this year on Star 790 KBME, but you are hardly an new voice in Houston, or the Cougars for that matter... can you tell us a little about your broadcasting background?
TF - I came to UH in the fall of 1970 as a Radio/TV major. In the spring of 1971, I was introduced to KUHF-FM, which at that time was run by the students, and not a professional station like it is today. I did news, sports, and was a disc jockey. In the fall of 1971, I was named to do play-by-play for the UH freshman football team, back in the olden days when freshmen were ineligible for the varsity teams.
I continued doing mostly DJ work at KUHF until 1977, when then legendary Paul Berlin hired me to be his overnight personality at the old KQUE-FM. There I was able to move back into sports reporting for KQUE and KNUZ-AM.
In 1981, I was hired to do sports at KTRH, and in 1983, began a lengthy association with Rice on their football and men's basketball broadcasts. That led to getting the Oilers job for four years, 1990-93.
Then it was back to Rice from 1994 through 2001, and now UH once again, so the circle is completed.
DJ - A lot of us remember those days with the Oilers.... You saw it all... Any memories from the booth that you'd like to share?
TF - Some of the more memorable games... 1990, Warren Moon throwing for over 527 yards versus Kansas City.
1991, winning their first AFC Central title with a 17-10 win over the Jets, only to lose in the conference semifinals at Denver 26-24, on a last second drive engineered by John Elway. I'll always remember the press box swaying as the fans cheered his 4th down conversions, and then Gary Kubiak doing a sensational job of getting a rolling football up in time for David Treadwell to kick the winning FG.
1992, actually it was 1-3-03, the choke in Buffalo, where they blew a 35-3 lead in the wild card game.
Finally, 1993, Cody Carlson filling in for an injured Warren Moon and leading the Oilers to a key 10-7 win over the 49ers in San Francisco on Christmas Day. That joy was tempered a few weeks later when Joe Montana guided the Kansas City Chiefs to a come from behind win over the Oilers in the playoffs.
DJ - The Coogs were flying pretty high in those days too... any special memories from those days when the Dome's endzones weren't columbia blue?
TF - I had the privilege of doing the UH-UT game in 1989 on what was then HSE, now Fox Sports Southwest. The Coogs won it 60-to-40 in a game that featured a great razzle-dazzle play by UH. Starting inside their own 20, the Coogs came out with Andre Ware at QB and David Klingler as the "superback" in the run-and-shoot. Andre made like he was calling an audible, going first to his right and then left behind the line of scrimmage. As he got behind the left tackle, the ball was snapped to Klingler, Andre ran a go pattern down the far sideline and made a fingertip catch at the UT 40. The Dome just erupted!
DJ - Remembering your time in the booth with the Houston Oilers and listening to you, mornings on News Radio 740 KTRH... your attention to detail and passion for sports is evident... What can we expect from the booth this season?
TF - I think Coog fans will be in for some entertaining afternoons and evenings. First, games are always better to broadcast when your team is competitive, and Art Briles has seen to that. Second, Tony, Chuck and I are not strangers to each other, so we have some built-in rapport even before we take to the air. They know the game, and it will be my job to bring out their expertise between plays. I will tell you what happened; Tony and Chuck will tell you why it happened. And I suspect there might be some friendly "digs" taken at the other crew members along the way. It will be my goal to make fans "want" to listen to each game and then after the game or the next day get with their friends and say, "Did you hear what Tony said about.... or what Chuck said about..." I want to make listening to the Cougar games a necessary part of the entire game experience.
DJ - Speaking of Fitz... yes, there's a lot of combined football experience up in the booth this season... you guys know the x's and o's... but there's going to be a lot of fun up there, isn't there?
TF - Yes there will be. Tony has never been bashful about speaking his mind or giving the needle, and I can assure you that I won't be sitting there idly when he does. Our first obligation will be to provide the fans with the necessary information, but we will have a good time while doing that.
DJ - After a breakout season and bowl appearance last season, Coogfans are fired up about the fast approaching 2004 campaign. Coach Art Briles' debut last year has whet a lot of appetites for more... You've been around a lot of winning clubs, programs, and coaches... have we seen the beginning of something special at the University of Houston?
TF – Yes, I really do believe that. Coach Briles is the right man at the right time to restore the UH football program to the high levels we got accustomed to under Coach Yeoman. His offense scores points. His defense will be aggressive and fly to the football, and when you do that good things often happen. There could be somewhat of a "sophomore jinx", if you will, this season, due to the extremely taxing start to the season -- four games in 19 days and matchups with Oklahoma and Miami in that span. Getting through that stretch healthy will be a key toward how well they perform in the C-USA season. But I am totally convinced that with each passing season, and more and more of "his" players putting on the UH jersey, things are only going to get better each year.
DJ - Kevin Kolb... an unproven, true freshman out of Stephenville, sets the college football world on its collective ear last season. 2,799 yards, 23 touchdowns and only four interceptions while rushing for 339 yards and seven touchdowns... the nation is going to be following this kid right along with you guys in the booth... You're going to be answering a lot of questions about this guy to the out of town press this season aren't you?
TF - I would certainly think so, because he's on pre-season watch lists for the Heisman and quarterback awards as a sophomore. That means he already has their attention, based on what he did last year. I can honestly say I have never been more impressed by a true freshman's performance than Kevin's debut in the Bayou Bucket last year. But in spending some time with Kevin now, this young man is very wise in football years, despite what the calendar says.
DJ - A family affair this year.... after sitting out last year, Kendal's looked really sharp at practice hasn't he?
TF - Kendal is a very good athlete, who has inherited a great deal of football savvy from his father. Because of his versatility, I think we will see some very interesting things happen when he gets on the field. Because he grew up in this offense, he gives Coach Briles an opportunity to give Kevin a breather every now and then, plus give the opposing defenses something else to think about.
DJ - Who else have you got your eye on this season?
TF - I really will be watching for the defense to develop. Everyone saw that the Cougars are capable of scoring points. But in order to get to the next level, you have to stop people. How the defense progresses this year will be critical to the number of wins and losses. We don't have to have eleven All-Americans on the field, but we do need eleven guys who play as a group and do their assignments each and every snap. If that happens, things will be okay.
DJ - Coach has a tough schedule this year, some say the toughest out-of-conference schedule in the nation... you have any games circled in red?
TF - Like I said before, the first four games are critical, not from a won-loss stand point, but from the health factor. There is not much time for bodies to rest and heal between games, and the OU and Miami tilts will especially be difficult. If the Coogs get through those four games healthy, then the first two conference games with Memphis and Southern Miss become key to setting the tone for the rest of the year.
DJ - After Miami and Oklahoma... there's still a very tough conference schedule to finish up... C-USA isn't going to lay down for us... and we certainly aren't going to sneak up on anyone...
TF - Nope, the element of surprise is definitely gone after last season. Still, with the brand of offense the Cougars run, people will still be trying to figure out the best ways of trying to stop it.
DJ - That Louisville game is looking like it could be a big one isn't it?
TF - Last year's game got away from the Coogs in the second half, so a little payback would be nice, especially if it were to have conference title and bowl implications attached to it.
DJ - It's going to be a great season... You've got a show on Monday nights with Coach Briles on 790... can you tell us a little about that?
TF - It will be a chance for the fans to get some insights from the coach, as we first look back on the previous week's game and then ahead to the next opponent Fans will be able call in with their questions, and we'll also have an e-mail question of the week, through the "Ask the coach" link on "uhcougars.com". We hope the fans will join us for the show each week on Star 790 KBME, or in person at Irma's Southwest Grill downtown on Texas Avenue.
DJ - Tom, thank you for taking some time for CoogFans to give us your insight on the upcoming season... we all look forward to your call from the booth on 790...
TF - Thanks, Dave, and I look forward being a part of the Cougar family this season.