When UH formally accepted an invitation to the Big East Conference in December 2011, uncertainty remained about whether the Cougars’ new home would continue to offer an automatic Bowl Championship Series (BCS) berth to the winner of its conference – a benefit Houston and its fans had been in search of since the implementation of the BCS in 1998.
Last week, in a milestone decision, 12 university presidents answered with a resounding “no,” leaving conferences with higher profiles such as the SEC, Big 10, Pac-12 and Big XII in a much better position than those like the Big East and ACC.
Beginning in 2014, those of the ‘lower profile’ conferences will be left to ponder the implementation of the new selection committee, which will ultimately decide who are the best four teams in the country. The greatest concern will be whether the committee will pass up an undefeated or one-loss Big East team for a one or two-loss program from a more major conference.
The committee will base its findings on four factors: win-loss record, strength of schedule, head-to-head and if a team is conference champions. On the bright side of things, a move to the Big East still offers Houston a considerable upgrade in terms of strength of schedule, notoriety and, most importantly, money.
Last season, the Cougars peaked at No. 6 in the BCS polls while playing a schedule that was ranked 104th in strength out of 120 teams. For Athletic Director Mack Rhoades, the time is coming to stop scheduling Texas State and North Texas and begin thinking bigger — a tough task when few national powerhouses are eager to play you.
The last Big East team to finish in the top four was Cincinnati in 2009, and the last school to win the national championship was former member Miami in 2001.
Ultimately for UH supporters, the discussions of cynicism and optimism are a good sign. In 2006, five years after going winless, the Cougars won their first Conference USA championship in a decade and interest in the program showed signs of life. Since that time, the Cougars have made two C-USA championship game appearances, won a pair of bowl games and are selling out games.
Whether the opponent is Texas State or Boise State, the message will be clear — just win. Then hopefully, the rest will take care of itself.