With the departure of Texas A&M to the SEC appearing imminent, rumors are starting to circulate about what steps the Big 12 will take in the aftermath.
Texas A&M’s departure will force Dan Beebe and the Big 12 staff to act, one way or another.
The conference will either be forced to immediately replace Texas A&M to maintain an even number of teams and some level of legitimacy, or be willing to accept that the Aggies’ departure could indeed be the first domino to fall.
The short-term fix would be an immediate replacement of Texas A&M with another school that makes sense from a competitive standpoint and in terms of geographical logistics.
Could that school be the University of Houston?
While the University of Houston Cougars may not be en par with the other schools in the conference in terms of resources, both financially and from a recruiting standpoint, they are a program with a rich history in the Big 12′s most important sport: football.
The Cougars have been nationally-ranked over the course of the past few seasons and have played in six straight bowl games, and in bowls for seven of the last eight seasons. Houston quarterback Case Keenum, a fifth-year senior, should bring the program plenty of national attention this season– assuming he stays healthy — and could be a Heisman Trophy candidate as the season progresses.
Head coach Kevin Sumlin and offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury are both first-tier Division I coaches who should ensure the Cougars’ competitiveness for several years to come– assuming they don’t depart for greener pastures. Sumlin has already had opportunities to depart, however, and hasn’t so far, so it looks like he’s in for the long-haul at Houston.
Houston has been able to effectively recruit not only in the Houston area, but throughout Texas as well. There are several players on the 2011-2012 Houston roster from East Texas, the Dallas-Fort Worth “Metroplex” and the CenTex area which includes Austin and the surrounding communities.
This recruiting base would quickly, and easily be expanded if the Big 12 made an offer to U of H to become a part of the conference as Texas A&M’s replacement.
Along with their success on the gridiron and visibility, there is no doubt that Houston has the facilities at their disposal to fit right in. While additions are made to Robertson Stadium and Hofheinz Pavilion, the Cougars could play their football at Reliant Stadium (home of the Houston Texans) and their basketball at the Toyota Center (home of the Houston Rockets).
While Houston wouldn’t fill either facility, there certainly wouldn’t be any drop-off in quality of amenities for Big 12 teams– and those dded to non-conference slates — in terms of quality and quantity.
Along with facilities and tradition, Houston makes great sense from a geographical standpoint. Losing Texas A&M and adding the University of Houston from a geographical standpoint is a wash.
While the Aggies have a huge fan base in Houston and the Gulf Coast of Texas that is unparalleled, the Cougars have a substantial fan base in the same areas. With an upgrade of conference affiliation to the Big 12, it’s more than likely that this fan base would grow, turning the casual sports fan in Houston into a Cougars fan.
In short, there are multiple reasons why the University of Houston would be a nice fit as a replacement for Texas A&M should the Big 12 decide to go in this direction.
Either way, Dan Beebe and his staff will have to do something as soon as a formal announcement of Texas A&M’s departure is made.
Might as well replace them with someone who makes sense on all of the planes that are important.
Time certainly cannot be wasted.