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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Football

UH rallies for Big 12 conference play


Members of the Spirit of Houston marching band performed in Austin at UHS Day at the Capitol on Feb. 23.  |  Cara Smith/The Cougar

Members of the Spirit of Houston marching band performed in Austin at UHS Day at the Capitol on Feb. 23. | Cara Smith/The Cougar

At the UHS Day at the Capitol on Feb. 23, students and alumni lobbied for some of the University’s biggest legislative goals — tuition revenue bonds, funding for a Public Affairs school and Hazlewood reimbursements. But one subject near and dear to Texans’ hearts came up throughout the lobbying: football.

Representatives of the University were vocal about UH’s ambitions to become part of the Big 12 Athletic Conference. Trey Wilkinson, chair-elect of the UH Alumni Association, stressed the importance of competitive athletics in alumni engagement.

Wilkinson attended UH and played for the golf team in the mid ‘90s; he said being a member of the Southwest conference “really put them on the map” in terms of alumni engagement and being able to offer competitive athletics. He was at UH around the time when Andre Ware won the Heisman trophy, and when basketball “was still terrific.”

“To see us get kind of left behind when the Big 12 was formed was certainly disappointing, and we’re very, very engaged in trying to get ourselves into a better athletic place. We’re happy with our affiliation with the American Athletic Conference — it’s a much better conference than where we were before,” Wilkinson said. “But there’s no question that with the changing landscape of college athletics, it’s important if you can to get (into a higher conference).”

This comes off the heels of Board of Regents chairman Tillman Fretitta calling it “an embarassment” that UH hasn’t received a Big 12 bid yet despite its location in the fourth-largest city in the United States. Currently, the Big 12 includes four Texas universities: University of Texas, Baylor University, Texas Christian University and Texas Tech University.

During her address to the attendees of UHS Day at the Capitol, President and Chancellor Renu Khator highlighted UH’s football team and its importance for all students of the UH System, making note of new head coach Tom Herman’s “fire” and passion for students.

“There are some things the system has together, (but there are some things) where there is only one,” Khator said. “We have one chancellor, good or bad, take it or leave it… But you also only have one football team in the system, and you have one coach.”

In the past, Khator has championed athletics as being integral to student and alumni engagement and key to giving students “bragging rights” for their university. UH’s recent hire of Herman aligns its focus on athletics as the fundamental block to help UH receive funding and national attention.

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