Back before Jim Delaney ruined college football, the game was about regional rivalries and, well, fun. In that world, Houston was a natural fit in the Big 12 Conference. It was in its own version of the Big 12. The Southwest Conference was fun and surpassed only by the SEC in pure cheatin'. And that was only because Texas tattled on everyone.
If college football were about playing the game on the field, then Houston would be the obvious choice. Had David Sibley and Ann Richards not held positions of power in Texas in the early-and-mid 1990s, maybe Houston would be in the Big 12. Seriously, can we get a damn do-over on that Baylor thing?
But capitalism has taken over our favorite game, so now we make decisions on conference membership based on Nielsen DMAs and which schools can get your conference network on a lower cable tier. OH AND ACADEMICS, OF COURSE (wink, nudge). If you have a conference network, that is. If you don't, then you let the big swingin' dick in the conference bully everyone else until all the schools with any national following or large, captive markets leave. Then the BSDs look around and say, "well, we tried, see ya in the Pac-16."
Sorry, I digress.
Houston's problem is pretty much the same as every other school's problem. It's a commuter school in a massive, splintered city divided into factions for the schools with more drawing power. Law school isn't the best metric, but a solid 75% of my class went to undergrad in Austin or College Station. True Coog fans were few and far between. Look at the attendance when I was in school. Art Briles and Kevin Sumlin coached the squad from Third Ward those three years, and on a good day drew 30,000 fans. Meanwhile, 80,000 people once went to College Station (of their own volition!) and watched A&M lose to Oklahoma, 77-0.
For the Big 12, without a conference TV network, the question isn't whether an individual school "carries" a given media market. There's no channel to negotiate onto a more profitable cable tier with the local providers. The goal is turning on TVs to impress the people who enable our consumerism so they can make clever ploys to get us to buy things. Houston went 13-1 last year and waxed Florida State in a New Year's bowl game, and not a single regular-season game made the top 100 most-watched sports programs in Houston in 2015. The eyes of Texas are not upon Shasta.
While Houston isn't as bad as most people say, it's still a big, sprawling, sweaty gym sock of a city. I loved living there, but other than food and friends, there isn't much reason to visit. Flights are easy, I guess. Have fun driving the Gulf Freeway to Hobby or the Eastex to IAH during rush hour. No, seriously, give it a go. You'll love it. It will give Austin, or "Manhattan the week before class starts" a run for worst traffic in the conference.
Sometimes I hear people say Houston is a sleeping giant. Give them more resources and they'll be elite. That's exactly what we need. Let's give more money and exposure to a school in the middle of a city that arguably produces more high school football talent than any metro in the country, so they can win a lot and make it harder for everyone else to recruit there. Great plan!
Was this insufficiently hateful? I guess I could mention the Category 1 hurricane that drilled the city when I was in school, or that a 20-minute rain causes flooding in a city that's flatter than a pool table and has more concrete than New Jersey. Or that one time a dude was murdered at a bus stop on campus because it's Third Ward and that kind of thing just happens sometimes. But I want you to make up your own mind. As long as you conclude that Houston, just like everyone else, is wrong for the Big 12.