As had been strongly rumored in the past month or so the Big 12 conference decided not to expand earlier this week. Instead of adding two or four members to insulate the conference better from poachers the conference decided to remain content in mediocrity. No real surprise there as the conference looked completely lost during the last major round of expansion in 2010-12, missing out on Louisville and settling for West Virginia and TCU at the last minute.
While I was wrong about the Big 12 expanding and including Houston in those plans, I was right about the Big 12 strongly considering Houston in those discussions. Up until the non-announcement a few days ago Houston was largely considered one of the expansion frontrunners alongside Cincinnati and BYU. I’m proud to say that CardiacCoogs was on the forefront of those discussions before any other publication and, possibly due to pure dumb luck, was correct about what the Big 12 (and eventually national college football journalists) would find appealing about Houston’s candidacy.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Nobody knows what the college athletics landscape will look like in a decade, but it’s entirely possible the Big 12 won’t exist in its current form and may even lose its “power conference” status if the league sees departures from Kansas, Oklahoma, and/or Texas. Unless one of the other major conferences decides to get very aggressive in the next year or two (such as the Pac 12 snatching up some Texas schools to expand their tv network) it’s more likely we won’t see any major changes until the current tv contracts are about to expire in the early part of the next decade.
The best the Houston Cougars faithful can hope for is Khator and Fertitta continue to work hard in continuing to grow the university and improve both our athletics and academics. We might not be Power 5 in designation or in revenue, but we can be Power 5 in mentality. We can continue to push to be the best of the Group of 5 and hope the rest of our leadership keeps us on track to duplicate the on-field football successes seen at Boise State, Louisville, Utah, and TCU the past fifteen years. If the Coogs can continue to play at a high level consistently, then many of the major conferences may end up wanting to add the Houston market to add tv viewers and open a recruiting pipeline to their conference.
What About Herman?
I’m actually least concerned about Tom Herman’s future throughout this whole process. He’ll certainly be offered a fat raise and extension in the coming weeks and if he still decides to leave, then that’s his prerogative. Look at those schools I mentioned before: Boise, Louisville, TCU, and Utah. Boise and Louisville particularly have had multiple coaches over the past fifteen years, but have still been able to continue to maintain a high level of success due to the culture established and the strong leadership at those universities. Houston is in a much better recruiting region and may have a higher ceiling than both programs, P5 or not. As long as the university has strong leaders then the athletics programs will follow.
We Can Still Win National Championships Here
One of the things Tom Herman has said in interviews is he has an easier road at Houston to the New Years Six bowl games than he would at a major program. If the Coogs win the AAC and have a higher ranking than every other G5 program, they’re guaranteed a NY6 bowl game. That’s tons of exposure and money for the university. If Herman were to guide the Coogs to three NY6 bowl games in five years at UH, he’d have a better resume than 95% of coaches in the country. And if the Coogs can strike it hot at the perfect time, they could sneak into the playoffs in future seasons, especially given the parity prevalent in the major conferences will likely lead to some two or three loss conference champions.
There are very few college football programs that realistically have a shot at winning a national title. Even blue blood programs like Texas, Notre Dame, and Tennessee have only one national title each in the past thirty years. If any G5 program would be able to recruit well enough to have a team that could get into the playoffs and get on a hot streak and with the national title, it’s the Houston Cougars. If the #HTownTakeover has proven anything it’s that the Coogs are the hot newcomer on the scene and all it takes is a few top recruits like Ed Oliver, Colin Wilder, and D’Eriq King to open the floodgates. Why go to Waco or Lubbock when you can stay in Houston and have a lot more fun and play in front of your family and friends in the process? The Coogs aren’t that far away from being a top-30 recruiting program within the next few years.
I’m extremely optimistic that Kelvin Sampson and staff will turn the Coogs basketball team into a team that’s good enough to compete in the NCAA Tournament. There’s zero reason why the Coogs can’t, at minimum, be a sweet sixteen contender for the next several years. Todd Whitting has done an excellent job with Houston baseball and I wouldn’t be surprised to see one of his teams get hot and go all the way to Omaha in the next few years.
Coog fans have been packing TDECU this season and have been making a lot of noise, but we won’t even be considered again for a potential P5 invite if we don’t also support Houston basketball and baseball. Our basketball attendance as been particularly dismal and Coach Sampson has done a tremendous job rebuilding one of the worst programs in the country and deserves our support.
The Future Is Bright
Ultimately having the best coaches and the best school leadership is only part of the battle: Students and alumni have to show up in full force for our sports programs, and not just when we’re winning. If Herman leaves and there’s a flood of season ticket cancellations, then we have nobody to blame but ourselves if our program slumps. It’s up to the fans to show the college athletics world that we’re not fair weather fans and that we’re Coogs for life, win or lose. We can’t control the insanity of college athletics realignment but we can control our support of our university.
The title of this article is “Major Without a Major Deal” which was a Swisha House slogan back in the early 2000’s when they were a powerful independent record company in Houston before they signed their major record label distribution deal with Asylum/Warner. Instead of waiting on a major label to discover them and offer a less-than-ideal contract, Swisha House knew if they sold enough records and had enough of a fanbase they’d have a multiple record deals offered in no time and would likely be able to dictate their own terms. That’s the mentality we need to take: Don’t complain about not being in a major conference, focus on being the best non-major program in the country. If we keep supporting our programs and keep winning, eventually we’ll have several major conferences knocking on our door and we’ll be able to dictate Power 5 membership on our own terms.