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Friday, January 21, 2022

Sports

Big 12 opens new doors for UH athletics recruiting


While joining the Big 12 will not change how UH football recruits, it will change who the program recruits according to head coach Dana Holgorsen. | Sean Thomas/The Cougar

While joining the Big 12 will not change how UH football recruits, it will change who the program recruits, according to head coach Dana Holgorsen. | Sean Thomas/The Cougar

When the news that Houston was headed to the Big 12 officially broke, UH women’s basketball coach Ron Hughey’s phone would not stop buzzing.

“I’ve already received four calls from kids who turned us down because (the American Athletic Conference) wasn’t where they wanted to play,” Hughey said just hours after UH accepted an invitation to join the Big 12.

Across the board for Houston’s athletic programs, having some of the country’s highest-rated student-athletes overlooking an offer from UH because of its lack of Power Five status had become the norm since the Southwest Conference dissolved in the ‘90s.

This struggle to compete with schools from power conferences for some of the country’s most coveted recruits has been a major issue, most notably for the UH football program.

The Houston area possesses a hotbed of talent, consistently being among the top cities that produce players on an active NFL roster, but very few of these athletes have chosen to stay home and represent the Cougars simply because of UH’s conference.

“A lot of our competitors in recruiting have had that competitive advantage on us,” said UH defensive coordinator Doug Belk. “I think it evens the playing field.”

So when the news of UH to the Big 12 broke, the boost to recruiting was one of the first thoughts that popped up in UH football head coach Dana Holgorsen’s mind. 

Adding the Power Five label elevates UH’s pitches to recruits to another level, opening the door to bring in athletes that the University had no shot at as a member of the AAC.

“Student-athletes that wouldn’t take our phone call will now take our phone call,” Holgorsen said. “Other schools using (UH being a) non-Power Five institution can’t use that against us (anymore). It’s happened countless times where student-athletes would say, ‘I love Houston, I love the University of Houston but I want to play in a Power Five conference.’ It’s just facts.”

Gone are the days of being ignored.

With Big 12 status, UH officially has the ability to recruit at the level it had been dreaming about for years

“I think it will pay dividends in the future,” Belk said. “I think you’ll see more talent to continue to come to the University of Houston.”

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