The University of Houston announced a few days ago that the Cougars will no longer be scheduling FCS opponents. After 2016’s game against Lamar University, the Cougars will be focused on only scheduling FBS level opponents. The school’s out-of-conference schedule starting in 2017 will include two opponents from Power 5 conferences and two from the Group of 5.
I’m not going to debate the pros and cons of scheduling Group of 5 schools (r/CFB covers that pretty well here), this post is to give the school a list of ideas on whom we should look to schedule.
Who Should The Coogs Schedule?
The next question for the school is who should the university schedule for future non-conference opponents? I’m going to rank who Houston should be scheduling:
#1 P5 schools with lots of alumni in Houston
First on our list needs to be schools with large alumni bases in the greater Houston metro area. This includes every Big 12 school and most SEC programs as well. Houston is a very oversaturated sports market and anything we can do to make UH games get more attention from local fans and the local media will only help bring awareness to the program.
More people locally caring about the UH games will get more people buying merchandise in stores (Wal-Mart, Academy, etc.) and also get more UH games shown in bars around the city. UH-UT, UH-A&M, UH-LSU, UH-Alabama, etc. will move the needle and get the Coogs lots of attention. These schools also travel well and would make for a very entertaining atmosphere as their fans come to the Cougar den of TDECU.
#2 “Blue Blood” Power 5 opponents with a large brand
After looking at P5 opponents with lots of alumni in Houston, the Coogs should then look at the “Blue Bloods” – Power 5 opponents with a large brand and history. Look at scheduling schools like: Michigan, USC, Notre Dame, Florida State, Florida, Penn State, Georgia, Ohio State, Nebraska, Miami, etc. A win against a blue blood school will get UH a lot of national attention. Even if the blue blood is having a down year, they still have a tons of fans across the country and would be very upset if they lost to UH, which would only increase our brand and get the national media talking about us.
#3 Any other Power 5 school
After exhausting the list of schools covered by #1 and #2, the Coogs should consider scheduling any other Power 5 school. This includes strong programs that aren’t historic blue-bloods (Oregon, Stanford), mid-level programs that might go to a bowl game (Boston College, Rutgers, Utah), and everyone else in a power 5 conference.
Yes, UH beating Oregon or Stanford would get the school a ton of press like the Louisville win, but I simply don’t consider them as important as scheduling schools listed under #1 and #2 in terms of building the UH brand. Since opponents are scheduled several years in advance, I’m taking into consideration a team’s overall brand longevity and history. Bringing Oregon back to Houston may bring out a few hardcore Ducks fans and some t-shirt fans, but if the Ducks fall off and go 6-6 for a few years their brand would falter, whereas a Notre Dame will still bring tons of fans to Houston even if they’re having a few down years.
#4 The best of the Group of Five
When looking to schedule schools from the Group of Five, the Coogs should look at scheduling the best opponents, period. On that list I would include: Boise State, Nevada, Utah State, Northern Illinois, Fresno State, etc.
#5 Group of Five schools from the region
After going through the list of the best G5 schools, the Coogs should look at schools from the region. Mostly I would focus on Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas. Schools like North Texas, Texas State, UTSA, Louisiana, LA-Monroe, LA-Tech, and Arkansas State may not bring tons of attention nationally for UH, but they’d be respectable opponents and may generate a decent amount of casual interest in the area. Also, they’d be a lot more respectable wins than beating up on a FCS school.
Hopefully this guide helps the school’s administrators decide which schools the Cougars should be scheduling in the future. The goal is to help the Cougars build their national brand and increase their relevancy. Houston is a tough market for sports and playing better opponents will only help the program. I’m not worried about opponents who bring tons of fans into TDECU, as long as Coog fans are loud and the stadium is sold out… and the Cougars win of course!
In case you haven’t seen it: Houston’s future non-conference opponents list is here.