Jon: First off, on a scale of 1-10, how badly does the fanbase want the Big 12 to extend an invite?
Anthony: I’d say 7. The best way I can think to answer this question is by looking at attendance numbers. Last season the Cougars had an exceptional 13-1 season and enjoyed a 20 percent increase in attendance. Their schedule for the year only included two P5 teams (Louisville and Vanderbilt). Clearly there is growing enthusiasm for Cougar football and a desire for more high profile games in Houston.
Jon: How about the administration? Any sense of their enthusiasm beyond the obvious financial benefits?
Anthony: Much like it is to the fan base, it seems to be obvious to the UH administration that a move to the Big 12 would have many more benefits than strictly financial. Houston is a city that has a track record of supporting their sports teams, but for whatever reason UH has not gotten that support. A move to the conference means bigger names coming to play at UH, more potential for rivalries and it all leads to more national spotlight for the University. All of these may eventually lead to money but they help the University accomplish many of their goals for the visibility of the University.
Jon: We'll get to the things which the suits will focus on -- money, academics, and success -- in a minute. What wacky benefits which the administrations don't care about at all would Houston bring to the Big 12?
Anthony: Tom Herman’s grill…That’s all I have to say about that.
Jon: If Houston joined, who do you think they'd quickly form rivalries with? What Big 12 cities are you most excited about potentially visiting?
Although it may not make a ton of geographical sense, I think Houston would form a rivalry rather quickly with Texas Tech. Texas has OU and TCU has Baylor, which leaves Tech without a solid in-state rival. Houston and Tech are both coached by somewhat young, enthusiastic coaches and they both have exciting offenses to watch. A rivalry between the two teams would be a fun one to watch.
With Houston being such a large city in Texas, it will be fun to watch them visit other popular Texas cities like Austin and Fort Worth. Houston will quickly put their name into consideration for best Texas football city in the Big 12.
Jon: The Big 12 already has a firm grip on the Texas market. Houston brings literally no new eyeballs to the conference. How concerned are you about that aspect of the problem?
Anthony: Saying that Houston brings no new eyeballs to the conference is overlooking the size of Texas and the love that Texans have for football. Houston is the fourth largest city in America with a population of 2,099,451. Although a good deal of Houston is already watching Big 12 football on Saturday, there is still an untapped base of viewers that the Big 12 can use to boost TV ratings. Likewise, Houston has recently begun some quality recruiting, it certainly wouldn’t hurt the conference to have another grip on a large Texas high school football recruiting base.
Jon: Why do WE want to come visit Houston? What's great about Houston? What's your fanbase REALLY like (warts and all)?
Anthony: Houston football is on the rise, meaning there are still downsides to the program and what they currently offer. Attendance is lower than some of the other options being considered to join the Big 12. Similarly, Houston does not consistently host big name opponents which hurt the ability to accurately estimate how much attendance would increase if the team was to move to the Big 12. However, the city of Houston is lively and has a culture of its own and the fan base showed signs of growth and new excitement last season. The fans, when they show up, are loud and rowdy making the game more exciting. A couple of years in the conference and Houston will be a fun team to visit, both for the city, and the game experience.
Jon: And now, the big one. Pretend we're the Big 12 Board of Directors. Why should we invite Houston as opposed to anyone else? SELL US.
Anthony: When you add the University of Houston to the Big 12, you also add the entire city of Houston. This is a city that has supported four major sports franchises and hosted a myriad of large sporting events. I believe it is the only city in consideration that can make that statement. The high school recruiting base is talented and the geographical rivalries that will form are almost too obvious. Aside from the city, Houston football is starting to become a successful program and get a lot of national attention. I assume you would want that attention and success adding to your conference from within rather than trying to take away from the conference externally. Hop on or get run over but Cougar football is coming and coming fast.
As much as we all loved watching Houston stick it to Florida State, do we really want them in the conference? Cast your vote below. This afternoon, TB -- a Houston post-grad alum, for chrissake! -- will tell you why Houston's a bad plan. Tomorrow, we'll hit the last AAC member on our tour, Cincinnati.