The Big 12 Expansion Houston Plan

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College football is officially over and thank God. Now I can stop having to actually watch football just to be proven wrong and instead start talking about how things should change. Unless you keep up with college football about as much as I have been keeping up with the Kardashians, you are probably aware of UCF crowning themselves the nation champions. As a lover of the AAC, more power to them. At first glance, any logical person would laugh it off as an internet troll. With just the slightest amount of research however, which seems to be asking a lot nowadays, they make a damn compelling argument. UCF was not only the only team to go undefeated in 2017 but they defeated Auburn in the Peach Bowl. Auburn of course happens to be the only team that beat both teams in the National Championship game, Georgia and Alabama.

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People can complain all they want about UCF not having a tough enough schedule but the fact of the matter is, prior to the playoffs, Alabama’s best win was against a 3-loss Mississippi State and they didn’t even manage to play for their conference title game. UCF might not have the opportunity to play the highly revered SEC opponents but they did play USF and Memphis twice, who were both ranked. I hate to beat a dead horse here but the bottom line is, no matter who they played, they won.

This of course has lead to revitalizing the ever-so-fun Big 12 expansion talk. Apparently, a representative from the Florida House of Representatives has decided to preoccupy all of our off season conspiracy efforts by sending a letter to the Big 12 commissioner, Bob Bowlsby. Through this politician’s extensive college football knowledge, this letter informs Bowlsby as to why the Big 12 needs to add both UCF and USF.

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While choosing to add two G5 schools from the same state seems like a bold move, the argument is surprisingly valid. Florida is a hot bed for recruits, particularly Miami. Since the University of Miami is in the ACC and no P5 school in their right mind would leave their conference for the instability of the Big 12, that doesn’t seem to be happening. The next best option would be a G5 Florida school that has proven their capability and is eager for the chance at the next level. Rather than just one school, why not take a rivalry package deal? With Florida being so far from the rest of the Big 12, having a close proximity rivalry wouldn’t be a bad idea. The major problem with that, is the need for a TV market. UCF and USF would share virtually the same TV market and instead, the Big 12 could take one of those schools and add another in a separate market to try and broaden their viewer reach.

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This is where I come in. I know its been talked about before (a lot by me) but I think with Florida reigniting this endless discussion, its only fair I chime in once more. The Big 12’s answer is not two G5 Florida schools; it is the University of Houston. As a UH alumni I am obviously bias but I pride myself in proven my options better than everyone else’s with reason.

I understand the two main arguments to not allow Houston in the Big 12. 1) the Big 12 already dominates Texas and 2) it would pose a potential threat to the rest of the conference by UH taking all of the top Houston recruits. I chose to break down these two arguments and actually turn them into arguments for why Houston should join the Big 12. Here is why a Big 12 expansion Houston plan makes sense.

1) The Big 12 already dominates Texas

It’s obvious the Big 12 has a major focus on Texas. Nearly half of the conference consists of Texas schools, not to mention the Big 12 headquarters is located in Dallas. The two largest TV markets in Texas are Houston and DFW, so obviously these are very important. Prior to Texas A&M’s departure to the SEC, Houston was the conference’s second-largest TV market. In 2010, the Big 12 dominated the market so much so, that their teams played in nine of the top ten rated regular-season games for the Houston viewers. Since swapping TCU for A&M however, things are a bit different.

By losing A&M, the Big 12 lost their closet school to Houston. Only an hour and a half outside downtown, the Aggie cult has a heavy footprint on the alumni makeup in the city. LSU, which is 4 hours away, is only an hour further than the university of Texas, the next closest Big 12 school.

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It may seem odd but there is a surprising amount of SEC alumni in the city of Houston. For an increasing amount of schools, such as Ole Miss, a near if not complete majority of alumni live in Houston. Sitting between Atlanta and Houston, if an SEC alumni needs a job, they don’t have a whole lot of options. Seeing how Houston is growing at such a rapid rate, not only in population but more importantly in jobs, the South has been moving into Houston quickly.

In the 2015-2016 season, the SEC claimed six of the top 10 games in the Houston TV market. It has gotten so out of hand that the Alabama-Tennessee game outperformed any Big 12 game. UH produced as many top 10 regular season games as the entire Big 12 conference in the Houston market and their Peach Bowl victory over Florida State ranked as the highest bowl game outside of the playoffs.

It will be a challenge for the Big 12 to reclaim the Houston TV market away from the SEC. The Coogs don’t necessarily dominate their own market as it is but they have proven to be able to claim a chunk of the 10th largest TV market in the nation, even in a G5 conference. In Orlando, UCF only manages to retain a fraction of its own TV market against ACC and SEC games every year. Regaining the 10th largest TV market in the nation seems like a better move than barely scratching a completely new, over saturated market. Would the Cougars be enough to reclaim the Houston TV market? I’m not completely sure but I know it would be a lot more likely than UCF or USF.

2) UH recruiting would pose a potential threat to the rest of the Big 12 recruiting in Houston

In terms of the recruitment effect Houston would see when joining the Big 12, it is only fair to find a comparison. The most obvious comparison to this situation would be TCU. Like UH, TCU was also once a member of the Southwest Conference. The SWC was essentially the Texas foundation of what is now the Big 12. This means both schools clearly had previous rivalries with current Big 12 schools. After years of success in the Mountain West Conference, TCU announced it would be joining the Big 12 in a move for the conference to replace the loss of Texas A&M to the more lucrative SEC. I have compiled a few stats on high school recruits from Houston and Dallas as well as the change in recruitment TCU has seen since joining the Big 12 and Houston has seen since joining the AAC.

TCU Football Recruiting:
  • 30th nationally ranked average 7 years since the announcement of joining the Big 12.
  • 55th nationally ranked average 7 years prior to the announcement of joining the Big 12.
  • Dallas has had 29 players in the Rivals250 since 2006, sixth most city in the country.
Houston Football Recruiting:
  • 64th nationally ranked average 5 years since the announcement of joining the AAC.
  • 70th nationally ranked average 5 years prior to the announcement of joining the AAC.
  • Houston has had 40 players in the Rivals250 since 2006, second most city only behind Miami.

Not only in terms of TV markets, the addition of TCU to the Big 12 has not made up for the loss of A&M in terms of gaining Houston recruits. Since A&M’s departure in 2012, the SEC has claimed 15 of the top 25 Texas recruits that are from the Houston area with A&M accounting for 8 players, the most of any school. TCU has managed to only recruit 2 of these players since joining the Big 12, adding to the 10 total players the Big 12 has managed to recruit. Although not in a P5 conference, UH has managed to recruit the same amount of these caliber players from the Houston area as TCU since 2012.

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Since announcing their move to the Big 12 in 2011, TCU has recruited a total of 9 of the top 25 players from Texas. The same amount of time prior to that announcement, 7 years, TCU had never recruited a player of equal caliber. This shows that by joining a P5 conference, especially one located in the state, a successful G5 Texas school has the ability to increase the caliber of players recruited. With this suggestion, it seems clear that the University of Houston, a larger school with athletic facilities on par with P5 competition and historic rivalries already in place, would be able to better recruit the extremely fertile Houston territory. This would inevitably reclaiming the city back to the Big 12 and away from the SEC, the most dominate football conference over the past decade.

I’m not necessarily making the argument that by reclaiming Houston as a Big 12 recruiting territory, the conference would suddenly be more competitive than the SEC. I am however, suggesting that by doing so the Big 12 would see more Houston recruits than they currently are.

Conclusion

It’s obvious the Big 12 is staying stagnant, at best, in terms of recruiting and TV markets and doing worse since losing A&M. With virtually no where to go that isn’t already saturated while simultaneously getting infiltrated by the superior SEC, the Big 12 needs to focus on reclaiming their own territory. It’s time for a Big 12 expansion Houston plan, it’s time for Houston to play their old SWC Texas rivalries once again, its time for the Big 12 to catch up. Sorry UCF and USF; get in line, Houston has been waiting here for years.

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