Commentary: Big 12, Houston is your choice
With plans to expand on the horizon, the Big 12 Conference has begun to evaluate potential candidates to join their conference.
It has been reported that around 60 schools have put their name in the proverbial hat for consideration, but to be chosen they must stand out among the suitors. With millions of dollars wrapped up in college football, the candidates will definitely push their football programs forward.
Most are familiar with the Cougars’ 2015 historic run in which they finished the season with a 13-1 record and a victory in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl.
The Tom Herman-era of Cougar football is off to an incredible start, but UH’s tradition of football success goes back much further.
The Cougars have been to a bowl game in 10 of the last 13 seasons, dating back to 2003. The program has proven their resilience by going 104-64 in this span despite having six different head coaches.
As it stands, Cougar football is set up for years of future success, thanks in large part to the recruiting that Herman and his staff have done. If the Cougars are selected to join the Big 12, they are expected to compete immediately.
Added schools can expect a significant rise in attendance and the chosen universities must be able to accommodate this growth.
TDECU Stadium is the home of Cougar football. It was built in 2014 with the idea that UH would eventually join a Power Five conference. With a seating capacity of 40,000, the stadium would be the smallest in the Big 12 by about 5,000 seats.
Since the stadium’s designers recognized the potential need for future expansion, they left room for an additional 20,000 seats. A 60,000-seat stadium would rank fifth among Big 12 school’s stadium size. Upon entering the Big 12, this expansion would need to begin immediately.
In all, UH Athletics has $240 million budgeted for athletic facility upgrades in coming years, which includes a new basketball arena, indoor football practice facility and a new clubhouse for the baseball team. In the next two years, UH will have among the most modern athletics infrastructure in the country.
Although performing well on the field and having top-of-the-line facilities will be important to enter the Big 12, UH’s geography could be the element that seals the deal.
Houston is the fourth largest city in the U.S. in terms of population and land area. With its great size comes an even larger television market.
The college football TV market in Houston is currently dominated by the Southeastern Conference. The SEC has some of the top teams in the country as it is, but the addition of Texas A&M University in 2013 has propelled the conference to the top of the Houston TV market share.
Adding Houston to the Big 12 could help the conference restore its popularity in town. Steady job growth through the years has made Houston a top post-college destination for graduates from a multitude of Texas colleges.
With many graduates from the University of Texas and Baylor University residing in the city, alumni could have easy access to their alma mater’s athletic events multiple times per year with UH being in the conference.
On paper, UH is an ideal choice to join the conference, whatever the criteria for consideration may be. No one knows what criteria the selection committee values most, but UH is undeniably one of the strongest aspirants.