Lawmakers rally for chance at Big 12
Although the Big 12 is not discussing it, Houston-area politicians have not shied away from bringing UH into the conference realignment discussion. The Big 12 managed to survive last week with 10 teams when Texas decided to stay put. However, Commissioner Dan Beebe said there are no plans to expand and return to the original format.
State Reps. Garnet Coleman (D-Houston) and Bill Callegari (R-Katy) along with 26 other members of the Houston-area legislature wrote a letter to the Big 12, in hopes that officials and the 10 universities are aware of their desires for UH to be considered. Coleman created a Facebook group entitled “University of Houston Should Join the Big 12.” So far, the group has over 3500 members and continues to grow.
“For years, UH has served as the academic cornerstone of a burgeoning metropolis known for its nexus to state, national, and global commerce and culture. UH is the third largest university in Texas, and is on track to rank among the top research universities in this state,” the letter said.
“Despite UH’s local and statewide prominence, the university does not belong to a strong BCS conference such as the Big 12. The Cougars, the City of Houston, and the State of Texas deserve better.”
Coleman said that he knows there will not be an immediate response, but wanted to suggest that UH should be considered if the Big 12 decides to expand.
“No one can do anything unless they know that there’s a desire to do something,” Coleman said.
“The Big 12 can’t consider UH unless someone tells them that it would be a good consideration. That’s what the letter was designed to do, to inform the institutions, the Big 12 and our fellow members of the legislature that it was important to bring in other Texas universities. One of those should be UH.”
Signatures on the letter include members of both political parties. Coleman said UH moving to a BCS conference would be significant for more than just the university.
“This helps all of our constituents, these are endeavors that go beyond party lines and also have a policy and economic impact. This is an important endeavor to our region, UH has always been one of the most important institutions in the city,” Coleman said.
Along with co-authoring the letter, Coleman visited with University of Texas President Bill Powers and Texas A&M President Michael McKinney to let his wishes be known. He said the meetings were positive.
“I think the discussions were good. It was important to me that the information gets to them and that it was clear that this was the desire of the members of the legislature in the Houston area,” Coleman said.
The athletic department maintains its loyalty to Conference USA and will not comment on any potential conference shifts but Senior Associate Athletic Director Darren Dunn said he appreciates Coleman’s efforts bringing attention to UH Athletics.
“It’s great to see our legislators showing such great support for UH and our athletic program. They all have so much to do up there and they’re working hard so it’s nice to see their support,” Dunn said.
Regardless of realignment talks, plans of a new football stadium and an upgrade to Hofheinz Pavilion show that the athletic department is looking to boost its national notoriety. Dunn said the vision of the department in the future is to continue moving forward.
“We’re looking into the future. We’re trying to make things happen, that’s what’s exciting for our athletic program and our fans is being progressive,” Dunn said.