Banister's sights on bowl game this holiday season

Banister's sights on bowl game this holiday season

Rangers manager Jeff Banister enjoyed a terrific first season. Hired away from the Pirates, he led the Rangers to a division title and was named the American League Manager of the Year Award winner.

Now that the offseason is here, Banister is enjoying another sport. Banister, a former Texas high schooler, attended the University of Houston before being drafted by the Pirates in 1986, and the Cougars have had an excellent football season.

Under head coach Tom Herman, the Cougars were 12-1 and champions of the American Athletic Conference. They are ranked No. 14 in the nation and will play Florida State in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on New Year's Eve.

Banister, who has a University of Houston football helmet on display in his office, talked about the Cougars recently with the holiday bowl season approaching.

MLB.com: Were you able to watch the University of Houston football team? Were you aware of what was going on prior to the end of the baseball season, and what was going through your mind?

Banister: Got little bits of what was going on and what Coach Herman was able to create in a very short period of time at the University of Houston. Just the overall rise again of Cougar football and kind of bringing it back to the front of the sports page, if you will, and what, I think, an incredible feat by him and his staff and their players, because they get overshadowed in the state of Texas.

To be able to be nationally ranked and go into a bowl, it was fun for me to watch. I wasn't able to catch all of it, but now here at the end, I've paid quite a bit of attention to it.

MLB.com: Are you going to try to go to the bowl game?

Banister: I'm not going to be able to go to the bowl game. It would be nice to be able to go, but I'm not going to be able to. I've got some other plans.

MLB.com: Will you be able to watch it somewhere?

Banister: I'm going to be able to watch it, yes.

MLB.com: I know you've got that helmet on that desk. What does the University of Houston mean to you?

Banister:: Look, one, it's where I met my wife and where I had an opportunity to go play college baseball. A coaching staff and a university that gave me the opportunity to continue the quest of playing the game of baseball.

Some of my greatest friendships were made at the University of Houston, and just the collegiate lifestyle. To say that I was once a baseball player with the old Southwest Conference, to me, I still carry that in my heart proudly. But, yeah, it's an extremely important place for me.

MLB.com: What brought you to the University of Houston?

Banister: Well, the story is I had gone to UNLV on a recruiting trip and actually had scholarship papers to go to UNLV. I was playing in a summer game, and the head coach at the University of Houston happened to be there.

He asked me at the time if I'd made my decision yet, and I said, no, that I was waiting on them to talk to me. I didn't want to go too far if I had to go outside of the state. I wanted to give my parents an opportunity to see as many home games as they possibly could, given everything I had already put them through.

And we've talked about how much my mother actually loves the game, and the gift back to her, really, if I could stay close, to give her an opportunity to come to as many games as she possibly could.

So with that came an offer to go to the University of Houston. So evaluating both offers, they were both equal as far as scholarship money. There wasn't any more on one than the other. They were both pretty well maxed out. So it was kind of an easy choice for me to do that for them.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.