Big 12 Mock Expansion: Houston’s case to join

The UConn defensive line tackles a member of the University of Houston offensive line during the Huskies end of season win over the Cougars on Nov. 21, 2016. (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

Since the Big 12 announced that it would at least consider adding new members this summer, expansion rumors have been the talk of college athletics. While an unofficial list of 11 schools has floated around the Internet and a few serious candidates have emerged, The Daily Campus sports section has decided to take matters into its own hands with its mock Big 12 expansion. Ten staff members represented the 10 Big 12 schools as their respective university’s presidents and voted on a list of the 11 candidates rumored to still be in the mix. Out of the 11 candidates, six made the cut before the final expansion members are selected next week. The fourth of the final six candidates profiled in the DC mock Big 12 expansion series is the University of Houston.

Expansion candidate University of Houston looks to be one of the best candidates moving forward for acceptance into the Big 12. Houston finished the 2015 season ranked eighth in the AP Poll and was invited to the Peach Bowl, where they upset the Florida State Seminoles, 38-24.

Having reached 24 bowl games with an 11-12-1 record, the football program has won four out of six bowls since 2008, when they snapped an eight- game bowl losing streak stretching all the way back to 1980. Their increased bowl presence and amount of wins shows the school is having a large improvement in the program, which looks to be continuing as they have won their first three games of the season by considerable margins.

However, Houston’s Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek has expressed the danger that staying in their current conference, the American, could bring. Speaking on their amazing season, which ended in a bowl win against Florida State last year, Yuracheck said, “Can we sustain that at the conference we’re currently in? No. Absolutely not.”

Another factor driving the schools entrance into the conference is its presence in the state of Texas, where the Big 12 hosts four schools: Texas Christian University, Baylor University, Texas Tech University, and the University of Texas. In fact, the governor of Texas has weighed in on Twitter saying, “Big 12 expansion is a non-starter unless it includes University of Houston.” The push from Governor Greg Abbott makes sense, considering he received over $250,000 from the chairman of the University of Houston’s system board of regents, according to the Texas Tribune. The push from Texas state higher ups could definitely prove to be important in Houston’s bid to enter the conference, as recent addition, Baylor, was added after pushes from Texas state legislature.

In addition to Baylor’s successful entry, the impressive play from TCU since joining the Big 12 could also improve Houston’s chances. TCU has had the best overall record in the conference the last two years (23-3), and while they may be against Houston joining due to competition to their success, adding another program, which has the ability to improve and increase the prestige of the conference, could be tempting for the Big 12.

Looking at the search by the Big 12 for additional members, it most likely falls to their TV contract with ESPN and Fox. Due to a pro-rated contract clause signed by the conference, the Big 12 could earn an additional $1 billion over the next nine years if they add four new teams, or $500 million if they add two. While this would keep the pay for each team equal to what it was before, $23 million per year, it could open up negotiations with the networks again in order to increase revenue from the contract.

Due to the nature of the media market, the choices for expansion will rely heavily on their TV markets. While most of Texas is covered by other teams in the Big 12, Houston has become a notoriously Southeastern Conference (SEC) city. Last year, six out of the top 10 and 14 of the top 20 games in the Houston market were SEC games, according to Pete Thamel of Campus Rush, showing that adding Houston could give a considerable push from the Big 12 for the city’s market.


Joe Burns is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at joseph.burns@uconn.edu.