Goesling settling in on business side of Houston athletics

Jul. 27—Landon Goesling used to get recognized around Houston for his role as a grad transfer on the 2018-19 Houston Cougars men's basketball team, which made a run to the Sweet 16.

Now, people mostly know him from season 17 of "The Bachelorette."

It's ironic considering that the affable Goesling made an outsized impression on Houston fans, who know him as "Sunshine," then stuck around as a graduate assistant for a year before leaving for Dallas. Whereas he was on the notorious ABC dating show for one episode in June of last year and immediately got eliminated.

The cameo clearly had far-reaching consequences for the Bakersfield native, though. After months of traveling, doing podcast appearances and living "the whole 'Bachelorette' influencer lifestyle," he realized what he had to do: come back home to Houston.

"Ultimately, they gave me the opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament," Goesling said, "score 1,000 career points, be a part of big-time Division I college basketball, when not a lot of people really believed in me."

Goesling spoke to Houston's athletic director, Chris Pezman, and ended up taking his career down an unexpected path: fundraising. After a year of work and a promotion in March, Goesling now serves as the athletic department's director of development.

Goesling has been in and out of Texas for years. After starting high school at Garces and Bakersfield, he moved to Coppell, just outside Dallas, with his family. He was a standout at guard for the Coppell High Cowboys but ended up having to walk on at Appalachian State. Goesling earned a scholarship but then suffered a season-ending injury his sophomore year and decided to transfer to Division II St. Edward's in Austin, Texas. There, he really shone as a scorer, averaging 22.9 points per game his final season and earning a spot in Houston after graduation.

The Cougars quickly got to know the man whom their coach Kelvin Sampson nicknamed "Sunshine." Goesling made a strong impression in just 6.3 minutes per game off the bench.

"He's so engaging and willing to do what it takes that he just endeared himself immediately to his teammates," said Director for Basketball Operations Lauren Sampson, daughter of the coach, "which from a program perspective is all you would want, really."

Goesling had transferred to Houston in part to get into coaching himself, but realized after a year as a graduate assistant that it wasn't quite what he wanted to do. When the pandemic hit, he returned home to Coppell and spent some brief time helping out the basketball team there.

"Fast forward maybe four or five months," he said, "I got a phone call when I was in Dallas saying, 'Hey, this is a recruiter from "The Bachelorette," would you be interested?'"

His fellow coaches at Houston had signed him up on a "rainy day," he said. Since he was, in his own words, 25 and single and didn't know what he was going to do, he decided to pursue a diversion in the world of reality TV, making the cut as one of 32 contestants picked from a thousand candidates, and filming the show in the spring of 2021.

Bachelorette Katie Thurston was not quite as enamored of Goesling as the Houston community had been, however, and so he didn't last long on the program.

All throughout his time away from Houston, Goesling stayed in touch with Lauren Sampson and the rest of the athletic department.

"I think it is a tough transition to go from being a student athlete within a program to, a little bit, cutting the cord," Sampson said. "I think he didn't quite know what to do ... he kept asking me, like, 'What do you think I should do?'"

Development proved a perfect fit, even if Goesling took some time to adjust to the business side of sports — "the flip side of things" as he puts it. But he certainly had the personality for it, and quickly discovered that as a beneficiary of a Houston athletic scholarship himself, he could deal with donors on a personal level.

"I was a familiar face for all of our donors and supporters for the university," he said, "who made me feel at home, made me feel loved."

Goesling said his goal now is to focus on getting as much done as he can, "just keep moving up within the university, and maybe be an athletic director one day if that's where it takes me." Perhaps that's how he'll eventually be recognized on the streets of Houston.

Reporter Henry Greenstein can be reached at 661-395-7374. Follow him on Twitter: @HenryGreenstein.