The Big 12 has made it abundantly clear that, at least for the moment, the conference is very comfortable with 10 members and has no desire to expand beyond that number.
It’s well-known that Houston, meanwhile, craves a spot at the Power Five table. An overtures made by UH at the conference have been rebuffed thus far, with the league going so far as to state that, if they were to expand, they’d look east instead of west in deference to West Virginia.
At least one very powerful person at UH wants to change the conference’s mindset, and wants to do it the way most powerful Texans know how: bully and/or threaten their way into achieving their goals. Or, more specifically, have a very powerful entity bully its way for you.
In a meeting with the editorial board of the Houston Chronicle, Tilman Fertitta, chairman of UH’s Board of Regents, suggested that the Texas state legislature should pressure and/or threaten the Big 12 into giving UH a spot in the conference. And by suggested I mean he just flat-out said it.
“Put pressure on the presidents; say, ‘If you don’t do this, we’re not going to fund you for this,'” Fertitta said of the state legislature’s role in meeting his goal. “It’s just the way it is. That’s the way to do it. …
“Be a big boy, step up and put this school that has almost 50,000 students and is so high-profile, has so many of the top schools in the United States, it’s a tier one university — we belong in the Big 12. We’re a big, major school with an unbelievable history in athletics and academia.”
Another very powerful individual at UH, however, seemed to distance herself from the board chair’s tack.
“I don’t want to go there on that issue,” Renu Khator, UH president and chancellor of the UH system, said at the same meeting.
Aside from what essentially amounts to idle threats, why the Big 12 would consider UH, currently a member of the AAC, is unclear.
The Big 12 already has Baylor, TCU, Texas Tech and, more importantly from a state-wide stance, the University of Texas as part of its membership, and therefore have the state locked down when it comes to television markets. Could Houston, the fourth-largest television market in the country, add to conference’s financial bottom line? Possibly, but not likely enough to offset splitting the financial pie 12 ways — adding UH would mean adding a 12th member — instead of the current 10.
The only way the Big 12 will expand is if it makes financial sense for all 10 of its current members. In the here and now, adding Houston makes no financial sense; in fact, adding markets such as Cincinnati or Memphis or UCF (Orlando) would make eminently more fiscal sense than adding another school from a market you already have covered.
Add in the Big 12 not wanting any more recruiting competition for the talent-rich area in and around Houston, and, good luck on this crusade, Mr. Fertitta.