A Big 12 invite may be coming soon for UH and 10 reasons why it makes sense

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I wrote back in February about momentum building around the University of Houston joining the Big 12 conference. Recent rumblings and rumors surrounding Big 12 conference realignment makes me think that the Cougars will be getting an invite to the Big 12 conference sooner than later.

I’m not going to post the details of the rumors here, because they’re just rumors, not public statements. The rumors are saying that the Big 12 is strongly considering adding the Houston Cougars to the Big 12 conference and that conference leaders are intrigued by the potential of the school. UH is also considered to be the #1 candidate on the Big 12’s radar, according to the rumors.

Before the critics jump down my throat and say, “You run a Houston fan blog, of course you think it’s going to happen!,”  understand that this post is going to discuss why I think the Big 12 will expand and if the conference is considering UH, why it makes sense.

Why the Big 12 will likely expand

The Big 12 currently has only ten members but needs twelve members to play a conference championship game. Lack of a championship game is surely why TCU and Baylor were left out of the inaugural college football playoff in favor of Ohio State. Also, a conference championship game brings more money to the conference.

University of Oklahoma President David Boren is starting to get very aggressive about expanding the Big 12. Check out this article here. As the article notes:

He [Boren] then dropped a bombshell — if the conference expanded from 10 teams to 12, each of the current member’s share from primary TV revenue would not go down.

TL;DR: Boren is publicly pushing hard for the Big 12 to expand, while simultaneously positioning OU to have significant leverage to join either the Big Ten or the Pac 12 if they can’t get their way with the Big 12. Most likely, the Big 12 expands as the conference is on much more solid ground than back in 2011.

Why Houston is likely to get a Big 12 invite (in no particular order):

1. Size of the school, alumni base, and potential donor base

The University of Houston has nearly 41,000 students, more than 32,000 of which are undergraduates. UH also has an alumni base of over 260,000, most of whom stay in the Houston metro area after graduation. That’s a huge base of fans to draw from. If Houston were to join the Big 12, they’d be the second largest school in the conference ranked by enrollment.

The city of Houston is also home to the second largest number of corporate headquarters in the country, just behind New York City. A strong local team in the Big 12 helps generate additional donations from local businesses and businessmen (and women) to donate to the school, buy tickets, and sponsor events. The Big 12 will likely consider having a Big 12 championship game in the city of Houston (in addition to Dallas and possibly San Antonio). The Big 12 having a strong presence by having games played weekly in Houston helps drive even more eyeballs and sponsorship money.

2. The city of Houston is becoming SEC country

Texas A&M is located in College Station, Texas which is about 95 miles outside of Houston. When A&M left the Big 12 for the SEC, the Big 12 lost a big chunk of their fanbase. Between A&M and LSU, the city of Houston now has a sizable chunk of their fans who don’t care about the Big 12. This is a problem.

Yes, there are still lots of UH fans and UT fans in the city of Houston, but the Big 12 can’t risk one of the other Power 5 conferences from grabbing the Coogs first and missing out on the chance to take back the Houston market and all of the potential sponsorship revenue. If the Big 12 hesitates, the PAC 12 or ACC might sneak in and grab UH to get a foothold in the Texas market. Does the Big 12 really want to risk losing more mindshare in the forth largest metro area in the country? Remember what I wrote above in #1, increasing sponsorship money from area businesses is a huge reason why the Big 12 is looking at Houston.

3. Houston has a lot of history with the Big 12

The Cougars previously played with Texas, TCU, Baylor, & Texas Tech when the Coogs were in the Southwest Conference. If Houston were to join the Big 12, the Cougars are already rivals with these schools.

Rivalries are what makes the sport of college football great. Most great rivalries are schools close to one another where you personally know someone at the other school or who went to the other school. Houston fans know people at the other Big 12 schools and this would generate some very memorable games. Not a lot of people are going to get hyped up about TCU vs Memphis or Cincinnati vs Texas. Houston vs Texas or Houston vs Texas Tech would get people really excited about the games and bragging rights.

4. The Big 12 schools want to play in Houston on a regular basis

Texas Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong is already on the record, stating that he wants the Longhorns to play more games in Houston. The Houston metro area is arguably the greatest collection of high school college football talent in the country and college coaches want to play here so local kids get a chance to watch their team play. Of course, recruits can take a visit up to Austin, Norman, Stillwater, etc. but having a scheduled game in Houston gives them another shot to watch the team play.

Parents, friends, and family also want to watch their sons/friends play and not everyone gets the opportunity to travel each week to the games. If a kid is from Houston but plays at Tech, for example, it may give family members another chance to go watch their favorite player. Not all family members can travel due to work and/or life commitments.

5. Texas politics

This is probably the biggest reason why Houston will be receiving an invite to the Big 12: Texas politics. University of Houston alumni have a very strong presence in the Texas Legislature and are very influential in the state and likely with the Big 12.

6. Houston’s new on-campus stadium is expandable to 60,000 seats

Houston’s new TDECU Stadium, built on the University of Houston campus, seats 40,000 and is expandable to 60,000 seats. At a capacity of 60,000 seats, TDECU would be a perfect size for weekly Big 12 games and would be larger than stadiums at TCU, Baylor, Kansas, and Kansas State.

7. Houston is the third best public school in Texas

Most people outside of the state of Texas don’t realize how strong academics are at the University of Houston. In 2011 UH became only the third public university in Texas to become a Tier 1 research foundation as awarded by the Carnegie Foundation. The only other schools with this designation are Texas and Texas A&M. Houston’s business school, law school, hotel & restaurant management program, among others, are frequently recognized as some of the best in the nation.

8. Houston’s new rail line runs on campus

The city of Houston’s Metro light rail line now connects the school with downtown, the Museum District, and other areas. Future visitors to the city will be able to stay in a hotel in downtown Houston and grab the light rail over to TDECU Stadium to watch a game and then maybe head over to Museum District or back downtown to the Theater District. Houston can become a key destination for opposing fans who want to have a nice weekend with the family while watching their favorite team play, much like when fans go to New Orleans or Atlanta they do a lot more in the city than just watch the game.

9. More kids on campus, but still a proud commuter school

Houston is commonly derided as a “commuter school.” A lot has changed about the school in the past decade that most outsiders are unaware of. UH now has 15% (6,000 people) of it’s student body living on campus and has plans to increase that number to 20%. Multiple new dorms have opened just since I graduated in 2008, helping build school pride and a greater sense of community.

And yet, I still say we’re a proud commuter school? Yes! The University of Houston isn’t your traditional university where most students come in and out in four years. A large percentage of the student body comes from hardworking, blue collar backgrounds and are first generation college students. Many Cougars are supporting families, live at home, and/or are working full-time while attending the university. So sometimes, people take a little longer to graduate from school here because of family/job commitments and aren’t able to live in campus housing. That’s okay! This school will never be a “blue blood” campus and will proudly always remain a school for the blue collar.

I will say that the atmosphere has drastically changed since I left in 2008. There are so many people on campus after school hours due to all of the new dorms and new bars and restaurants that have opened. The whole campus is very vibrant at night! And with the lightrail being open, more and more students will want to live on campus and hop the rail into the city.

10. Houston has never fully reached it’s potential

The University of Houston is finally moving towards realizing the full potential of the school. The Coogs football team started playing at Rice Stadium in 1951, then moved to the Astrodome in 1965, before finally moving back on campus in 1998 to Robertson Stadium. Houston doesn’t have a long history of playing games on campus, which I believe hurt the fan base potential. Our best years (the seventies and eighties) weren’t even played on campus, so students felt a bit isolated from the team.

By the time the Cougars moved back on campus, the SWC had already imploded and the Coogs were in the Conference USA. Slowly but surely the team playing games on campus has helped build a greater sense of community with the football program. Also, the Briles and Sumlin eras of success from 2003-2011 really helped re-ignite the campus and program.

Now, the Cougars finally have a brand new, state-of-the-art stadium of their own that opened in 2014. TDECU is much nicer than Robertson and is part of a strong campuswide revitalization project.

Conclusion

The Big 12 conference leaders will be looking not only at Houston’s history, but the potential of what the school can bring to the conference over the next twenty to thirty years.

A lot can happen over the next few years, but hopefully this blog post explains that, if the Big 12 is considering Houston, why it makes sense.

32 thoughts on “A Big 12 invite may be coming soon for UH and 10 reasons why it makes sense

  1. If UH could still be called a commuter school in this day and age, we wouldn’t have more students living on campus than UT. And our past graduation rates were never even okay – they amounted to about 1/6 in four years and less than half in six. This caused horrendous problems for UH in so many ways. Luckily that’s all changing, and eventually we’re going to beat A&M as the most residential university in Texas. And don’t call us “for the blue collar”, we’re no more or less so than any other public university, and saying otherwise is kind of exclusionary.

    All that said, fierce, unrelenting applause for the rest of this article.

  2. You wouldn’t refer to UH as “Houston University,” so why do you call OU “Oklahoma University?”

    1. Thanks Ed! My mistake. I figured it was University of Oklahoma but was confused because it’s “OU” and not “UO”… but now that I think about it the University of Kansas is “KU”.

    2. At one time, it was very common to use these words interchangeably with universities. This is how schools like OU and KU got their shortened names, despite the official school names being the reverse.

  3. UH’s average home attendance last year in its new stadium was 28, 311. Of the 10 current teams in the Big 12, the lowest average was Kansas at 34,077 — still 6,000 more than UH. A big alumni and student base does automatically translate into big attendance numbers. Even the opening up TDECU Stadium only raised the average attendance by 4,000 from the year before, when UH didn’t even have a true home field.

      1. Even the best programs, if fed a steady diet of S. Mississippi, Tulane, UTSA, East freaking Carolina, et al would have a hard time drawing fans. It’s not just that the opponent draws an indigenous audience, but rather that the opponent makes for compelling football for the home team fans to watch. Better football requires better opponents. Nobody is going to want to watch the Texans play some scrubby Euroleague team. So, too, Cougar fans don’t care even a little bit about Northwestern Louisiana or Tennessee Tech. It may be fun to point at a 70-7 score, but that is BORING football.

      1. You’d also think that playing in a brand new stadium in a season when the team had a winning record would be a bigger draw. We all saw how that played out last year.

        1. The Memphis game two weeks ago was sold out. 42,159 in a stadium with 40k capacity. The Navy game coming up on Friday sold out two weeks in advance. We’ve also been getting better TV ratings in the Houston market than the Big 12 games this season. When the Coogs have compelling opponents the fans show up and the Coogs also deliver the Houston TV market.

    1. attendance will be much better this year. the previous coaching staff and terrible losses to inferior teams like texas state and utsa turned off both casual fan and hardened coog fan alike. we should see a much higher average attendance this year now that the buzz around the program has returned.

    2. Although I graduated from U of H almost 25 years ago, I rarely ever go to see them in person. After the SWC broke up, I really had no desire to see the teams we were scheduled to play. I did enjoy seeing several UH vs. Rice games, but that was about all. If we were to join the Big 12, I would for sure go to see some of those matchups, and I’m betting many others like myself would as well.

      1. You’re not wrong, but we’re never going to get into a bigger conference if my fellow UH alumni don’t come out and support the team as-is. By packing TDECU Stadium and having a strong season ticket base a Big 12 invitation will follow right behind. The Big 12 has told the school this; now it’s up to us fans to hold up our end of the bargain.

      2. I graduated almost 40 years ago and I feel exactly the same way. Who wants to go see teams like Texas State, Tennessee State and the like. If we were to get into a major conference and play legitimate teams I would buy a minimum of 10 season tickets for my company.

        1. First off, we had some excellent home games this season against Memphis, Navy, Cincinnati, Temple, and Vanderbilt (the first four were all ranked at one point this season). Also, since college football has no pre-season, many schools have “cupcake” games on their schedule (Baylor is notorious for this) in order to help a team get and get ready for the bigger games. Tennessee Tech was an easy win but it got the team ready to upset Louisville the next week.

          The Cougars have stated that they will no longer schedule any FCS opponents after 2016, so the schedule is only getting better. We have games against Oklahoma and Louisville at home next season and will have Texas Tech and Arizona in the near future.

          You also can’t just wish for the Coogs to be in a larger conference. The Power 5 conferences look strongly at season ticket sales and if they’re not high enough we won’t get an invite. If you’d like us in a larger conference, support us now so we can get that Big 12 invitation!

          1. Which prominent Oklahoma Sports Writer are you referring to? Trammel has openly come out and said that BYU and Boise State should be the Big 12’s target… In fact every article that I read on the topic from Newspapers and other News Sources (besides the Homers) openly say that BYU should be the number #1 target. It has the largest fan base, best facilities, excellent Academic reputation, among the largest endowment above other contenders and the all important largest Television draw and they do that with 8-5 seasons. If they had an undefeated season (like Houston this year) playing the schedule that they play they would be selling out their 64,000 seat stadium every home game and they would be on a major network virtually every game. That doesn’t even speak to their Basketball facility which is among the largest in the nation and they are routinely in the top 10 in the country in Basketball game attendance.

            Don’t know where you are getting your information but I am fairly certain that it is not very accurate.

          2. The Oklahoma sportswriter I’m talking about is Dave Sittler and you can read more about what he said here. There’s absolutely zero chance the Big 12 takes Boise State… too small of a TV market, terrible academics, etc. The conference is much more likely to move East, not West… especially after adding West Virginia. BYU had their chance in 2011 but they blew it with their demands (no games on Sundays, etc.) and so they’re stuck being an independent for the near future.

            All indications are that the Big 12 is looking at adding Houston and Cincinnati.

  4. The Big 12 may expand but they are not inviting us, U of H, to the conference. They do not want another Texas School, the UT people control the state capitol and even if they do not control it, could care a whit about Houston or its potential. If the Big 12/10 dissolves (please Lord let this happen) Texas goes independent, OU joins the SEC and Baylor and Tech get invites to Conference USA. UT has ruined the SWC and now the Big 12. Why be involved with them?

    1. UT is a thorn . Don’t know how else to say it. Mabe “Greedy Thorn”!!!! For example : The Longhorn Network instead of a Big 12 Network! Hope their oil well runs dry!!!

  5. Great article. I do have to quibble with your point #7. Most people outside if Texas DO know that UH is an excellent school. It is the people INSIDE the state of Texas who hold misconceptions.

  6. Location is everything. Going to a UofH game can be a pain with parking and the bad neighborhoods. Houston should buy out all the surrounding property and turn it around to make it safer and easier to get to. More housing and parking for students and families. Before you say it cant be done go north on 45 for 5- 1o mins from UofH and you will see all the new housing, townhomes, condos etc. It can be done. It should be done .

  7. I graduated almost 40 years ago and I do not want to spend good money watching inferior teams. Who wants to go see teams like the ones that have been scheduled over the past years. If we were to get into a major conference and play legitimate teams I would buy a minimum of 10 season tickets for my company.

  8. I’m tired of begging for big 12 acceptance. Houston will not bring any new revenue to the big 12, so I do not expect an invitation. I feel it would be best to pursue expansion with the PAC 12. They do not have the Texas market and Houston has proven to play well against schools like UCLA and Oregon.

      1. I’d take Pac 12 or Big 12 but Pac 12 is a better conference and I think Houston brings more to the Pac 12 than Big 12.

  9. My family and I have had season tickets the past two years. The football games this past year got really exciting starting off with the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth which we attended. The Navy game was full and the American Athletic Championship game was full and exciting. Of course, the best was saved for last when we drove 12 hours to see our beloved Cougars beat Florida State in the Peach Bowl. I was there the year after Andre Ware left and David Klingler was there and rooted for the team even in the most dismal years. The improvements from when I went to school up until this date is absolutely amazing! The campus is beautiful and vibrant and the football games, basketball games, and baseball games are a lot of fun. I am very proud to be a Cougar and I will buy season football tickets again once they come again. In fact, after that Peach Bowl win that I witnessed, I will buy season tickets until the day I die. Go Coogs!
    P.S. This team deserves to be in a Power 5 Conference. It should have never been left out and I KNOW politics played a HUGE part in being left out.

    1. I’m with you and this past season was fantastic. I have been a season ticket for over 25 years and the last 4 years I went to maybe half the games. I did go to Memphis, Navy, Temple, FSU and some other games this year.

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