Tuesday, October 18, 2016

No Big 12 membership for UH

Consider me unsurprised.
The University of Houston's campaign to join the Big 12 Conference was crushed Monday by the league's presidents, who ruled out expansion without discussing the merits of any individual applicants, including the confident, fast-rising Cougars.

Bob Bowlsby, the Big 12 commissioner, and University of Oklahoma President David Boren, president of the league's board of directors, said league CEOs decided unanimously against expansion and agreed to remove the topic as an active agenda item.

They said individual candidates, including UH and Rice University among 11 finalists, were never discussed during meetings Sunday night and a six-hour session Monday.

"We all came to a unanimous decision that this was not the right time (for expansion)," Boren said. "All the information generated was not wasted effort. They (candidate schools) presented themselves in a very fine light, and we appreciate them."

Those compliments, however, came as cold comfort to schools such as UH that have invested tens of millions of dollars in facility upgrades and coaching salaries in the hopes of joining one of the "Power Five" conferences that hold the financial upper hand in the billion-dollar college sports industry.
The Big 12 never had any intention of expanding; this was all a charade meant to put pressure on television partners ESPN and Fox Sports for more money. It was a farce; as CBS's Dennis Dodd explains, a hurtful waste of time:
The real hurt has to be felt at Houston, Cincinnati and BYU. All three invested millions in presenting themselves as Power Five schools. In many ways, they are. For now and for a long time, they now remain relegated to conference football's discount store -- the Group of Five.

Their access to the College Football Playoff remains akin to getting the last crumb of an Oreo. Whatever emotions they're having right now -- jilted, misled, left at the altar -- are all valid. 

Yes, what a waste of time. Those 11 finalists schlepped their way to Dallas last month for their presentations. The entire process cost each school about $10,000 to $15,000. 

That's not a budget breaker by any means. But it was like Charlie Brown staring down that football. You just know, no matter what, Lucy is going to pull it out from under you.

"Gathering of information is never a waste of time," Boren said. 

Tell that to the folks you put through this. 
The Charlie Brown analogy is apt; the Big 12 has done this to Houston before. In that regard, nothing has changed for UH; they're still in the AAC and (as of now, at least) one of the stronger programs in the Group of Five. But Group of Five membership is not nearly as lucrative as Power Five membership, which is what the Coogs were banking on.

University administrators remain confident...
The Big 12's decision in no way changes the mission of the University of Houston that began long before there was talk of conference expansion," said Renu Khator, the university's chancellor who helped lead UH's campaign for Big 12 membership.

"We are confident that in this competitive collegiate athletics landscape an established program with a history of winning championships and a demonstrated commitment to talent and facilities in the nation's fourth largest city will find its rightful place. Our destiny belongs to us."
...but the fact remains that the level of investment that the school has put into its athletics program to make itself attractive to Power Five conferences might not be sustainable:
In an email from Khator to a UH professor two years ago, she acknowledged the challenge of spending on sports. If UH does not get into a major conference soon, "it will be difficult for us to sustain it," she said.

That's one of the reasons that UH officials worked aggressively behind the scenes for at least a year to get this major athletic conference opportunity, according to emails, travel records and other documents obtained by the Houston Chronicle through an open-records request.

The Big 12's decision not to expand now means that professors will discuss the future of the subsidy and how it affects teaching and learning at UH, faculty senate president Jonathan Snow said.

Professors are aware of the money, recruiting buzz and boost to campus culture brought by a successful, nationally recognized athletics program, he said, but many feel that the university has been "left at the altar" when the big push didn't pay off.
It's hard to say where the University of Houston goes from here; it could be years before the subject of conference realignment comes up again. Although the football program currently has momentum - season ticket sales are up and television ratings are decent - it remains to be seen if that momentum can be sustained, or if other sports (namely, men's basketball) can begin to attain a level of success, that will make the overall program attractive to other Power Five conferences when the time does come for realignment. Success in college sports requires money, and UH just doesn't have a lot of it.

Which is why they were trying to get into the Big 12 to begin with it, even if their expansion process was an embarrassing sham.

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