Ever since the Big 12 replaced Colorado, Nebraska, Texas A&M, and Missouri with West Virginia and TCU, there’s been talk that the Big 12 needs to get back to, you know, twelve teams.
A couple of weeks ago the University of Houston’s Board of Regents chairman, Tilman Fertitta, told the Houston Chronicle that he has a plan to help the Big 12 with their problem. The Texas state legislature should coerce the conference into letting the Cougars in, or else threaten to pull funding from the other Texas schools. Seriously, I’m not kidding. He literally said that.
“Put pressure on the presidents;, say, ‘If you don’t do this, we’re not going to fund you for this,'” Fertitta told the Houston Chronicle’s editorial board. “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,” he said. “We’re a big, major school with an unbelievable history in athletics and academia.”
Well, since you put it that way…
Truth be told, Houston to the Big 12 is an interesting proposition. Regardless have how poorly it was made. There’s a few things to think about, like TV market. The Houston area has a massive population; fourth largest in the country. However, when you start talking TV markets, its only considered a medium market at tenth in the country. Still pretty big though. Another requirement is the one the fans are the most concerned with; the ability to be competitive on the field. Add another check mark. The Cougars are averaging over eight wins a season for the last four years. Another factor to consider is stadium size and facilities. The Cougars recently renovated their facilities and expanded their stadium. At a capacity of 40,000 though, the Cougars would have the smallest stadium in the conference. It’s just 5,000 shy of TCU’s newly renovated stadium, but it’s unlikely be expanded again anytime soon. Lastly, the conference is already saturated with Texas schools. All of which like to recruit the Houston area, and might not like the thought of another Big 12 clogging up their pipeline. Regardless, there’s a case to be made for Houston.
If the Big 12 considered inviting the Cougars they would most likely need another team to balance out the schedule. Northern Illinois thinks that it should be them. Well, at least their fans do.
A Facebook page titled, “NIU to the Big 12 Conference” has more than 2,300 followers, and they make a solid argument.
NIU is part of the #3 ranked Chicago, Illinois DMA, which consists of 3,477,250 TV Homes. An air-wave broadcast from Chicago reaches 10 million people.
The argument against adding the likes of a Boise State has always been the lack of television sets. A problem NIU doesn’t have. The Facebook page highlights the 2011 #5 Oklahoma at #22 Baylor game as an example of how NIU’s inclusion to the conference would pay off. Instead of watching the Big 12 throw down, the city of Chicago was shown the PAC-12 game of an unranked USC team at #4 Oregon.
If the Big 12 had a member in the Chicago DMA, all of those TV sets would have had the OU vs. Baylor game.
The Huskies definitely have the TV sets, but what about the rest? Well, they have that too, or they’re at least getting it. They’ve shown to be competitive in football. In 2014 they won the MAC, and, like Houston, feature a HUNH offense. An offense the Big 12 made fashionable. One obstacle to considering NIU as a potential new member however, is their stadium. At a capacity of under 25,000, it’s significantly smaller than current members of the conference. That might not be an issue much longer though. In October of last year NIU officials announced plans to upgrade their facilities, and expand their stadium capacity to 42,000.
Like Houston, adding Northern Illinois is interesting to think about. The Huskies would also help bridge the gap between West Virginia and the rest of the conference. The verdict is still out on whether the Big 12 should expand or not, but it’s nice to know there are options. Let’s not forget SMU’s interest in the conference either. Boise State, BYU, ECU and UCF have their merits as well.