While families across the nation will pause to give thanks this holiday weekend, University of Houston fans, alumni, and friends will bid farewell to Robertson Stadium and give thanks to the many memories it has provided Cougar faithful throughout the years. The 2:30pm (CST) kickoff between the UH Cougars and Tulane Green Wave will be the last before Robertson Stadium is torn down in preparations for a new stadium that will be built on top of the current site.
Public School Stadium
Public School Stadium was constructed in 1942 with a capacity of 20,500 as a project of the Houston Independent School District (HISD) in collaboration with the Works Progress Administration (an agency of FDR's New Deal). HISD games were slated to be the primary tenant of the stadium with the first ever football game taking place on September 19th, 1942 between Lamar High School and W.H. Adamson High School (Dallas) in front of 14,500. The stadium would continue to host high school games while UH made Robertson its home field between 1946-50. During this period, UH compiled a record of 13-10-1 featuring its first home win in program history on October 12, 1946 over Texas A&I (34-0) in front of 6,500. In 1951, UH moved to Houston Stadium (Rice Stadium), leaving Robertson to serve primarily as a host to high school football events.
Public School Stadium was renamed Jeppesen Stadium in 1958 in honor of Holger Jeppeson the school board member who was a major force supporting the efforts to fund and construct the stadium. Jeppesen continued to be primarily a home for HISD football teams until 1960 when the Houston Oilers of the American Football League made the site their home field. Owner Bud Adams invested in significant upgrades to Jeppesen which increased stadium capacity to a listed 36,000. The Houston Oilers called Jeppeson home between 1960 and 1964 until, like UH in 1951, they left for Rice Stadium. The largest event hosted in stadium history came on December 23, 1962 when Jeppeson hosted the 1962 AFL Championship between the Houston Oilers and Dallas Texans. Though the home team would fall 20-17 to the Texans, a stadium record crowd (which still stands today) of 37,981 were treated to a unique double-overtime championship that featured pro-football stars like George Blanda and Len Dawon and Dallas head coach Hank Stram. With the departure of the Houston Texans, the stadium was reconfigured and returned to a capacity of 22,500.
The Civil Rights Movement
The stadium was a center of controversy in Houston during the civil rights movement in 1957 when a decision was made by HISD to no longer allow black students to participate in sporting events inside the venue. In 1961, the NAACP lobbied the Oakland Raider players to protest HISD's stadium seating segregation policy by choosing not to play in a scheduled game against the Houston Oilers in the stadium. The Raider players would cross the picket line to claim their first ever victory over the Oilers.
University of Houston and Robertson Stadium
Jeppesen Stadium would be purchased by the University of Houston in 1970 and renamed in 1980 in honor of Corbin Robertson, the former UH Board of Regents member who funded the renovations when the stadium was purchased in 1970. Despite purchasing the stadium, the University of Houston football team wouldn't play an official home game in the stadium until 1995.
After initially leaving Public School Stadium, the UH Cougars spent 13 full seasons at Rice Stadium (1951 - 63). In 1964, UH split home games between Rice and Jeppesen before moving full-time to the newly constructed Astrodome, becoming the first college football team to play home games in a dome. UH would call the Astrodome home between 1965 and 1994 with a few home games at Rice Stadium.
Two million dollars in upgrades were put into Robertson in 1983 to host the NCAA Track and Field Championships and additional upgrades were made prior to the 1995 season including installation of a new scoreboard. Between 1995 and 1997, UH split home games between Robertson Stadium and the Astrodome and in the 1998 season, UH would make Robertson Stadium its permanent full-time home.
In 1999, significant renovations were made to Robertson which include lowering the playing surface nine feet in order to remove the in-field track and insert additional seating along the sidelines as well as in both endzones, installation of suites on both the west and east grandstands, and development of a new playing surface named for John O'Quinn, a Houston-area attorney who helped to fund the renovations. The renovations would increase the seating capacity to 32,000 which would remain the capacity to present day. In 2006, additional renovations were made by the Houston Dynamo of Major League Soccer who would call Robertson Stadium home between 2006 and 2011.
In 2012, the Houston Dynamo moved to the newly constructed BBVA Compass Stadium in downtown Houston which was built as the home field for Dynamo Soccer. The upgrades provided by the Dynamo included new field lighting and a new video scoreboard.