Lots of things have been written about how well Houston fits into the Big 12 in terms of football and basketball. But our task is to ask how they would fit into Big 12 Baseball.
Overall, I'd say they'd be a pretty good fit competitively. But do the Big 12 schools really want another Texas school in the conference?
- Houston's average RPI ranking (from BoydsWorld.com) for the years 2000-2011 has been 51st, which is pretty good (MU's average was 62.75). As you can see from the detail that follows, Houston had some great years early on in the decade, while they have fallen back slightly in the past 3 years.
- Houston currently is a member of Conference USA, which provides them with a slightly better than average conference schedule for baseball. They also have a history of lining up a pretty tough out-of-conference schedule. In 2012 they will be playing Rice (4 games), Texas, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Baylor, Texas Tech, and Texas State. Obviously, moving to the Big 12 would only mean they were playing a lot of the same opponents, but more often.
- Houston has been in the NCAA Regionals 6 times since 2000 (00, 01, 02, 03, 06, 08), and have gone to the Super Regionals 3 times since Raynor Noble took over as head coach in 1994.
- One drawback of adding Houston to the Big 12 is that their ability to compete for Houston area recruits would increase by being a member of a top tier conference. Not only will that not go over with the other Texas schools in the conference (UT, Baylor, Tech), but Missouri has garnered a number of really good baseball recruits from the Houston and Southern Texas area over the past decade or so. Ryan Lollis, Russ Lafluer, Scooter Hicks, Zach Hardoin, C.J. Jarvis, Taylor Parker and Rob Zastryzny (Corpus Christi) all came from that area.
- The most well known former Houston Cougar that went onto to the Major Leagues would be Doug Drabek.
♦ Big 12 Expansion Targets (Tulsa World)
Why: Geographically ideal. Smooth transition from Houston-area A&M for entire Big 12. Strong football tradition in SWC and recent success in C-USA.♦ Big 12 should snap up the University of Houston (Forbes magazine)
Why not: Big 12 coaches won't want their Houston recruits staying home. Not a bastion of academia. Commuter-school reputation. Substandard (but supposedly improving) facilities.
Chances: 40 percent
The City of Houston is the fourth-largest in the United States. Although the Big 12 already gets a portion of the Houston market with its other Texas schools, adding U of H opens additional doors. Being in the market is different than simply having access to the market. Houston is the nation’s 6th largest radio market and 10th largest television market. Houston is also the second-most fertile recruiting ground in the Big 12’s footprint, with 140 prospects from Houston signing letters of intent for FBS schools in 2011.♦ Houston Cougars were an athletic powerhouse and can be again (chuckoliver.net)
If that’s not enough, twenty-five of the companies listed in the Fortune 500 are headquartered in Houston, the third largest concentration in the United States. Five of the six major energy companies in the United States are based in Houston.
If you’re under 35-years-old, you have no recollection of the University of Houston as an athletic powerhouse. It was. Before the demise of the Southwest Conference the Cougars were a major player on the national athletic landscape regularly competing in top bowl games and “March Madness.” When Houston competed with the best as a member of the SWC it stood toe-to-toe with the big boys of college sports and would again if invited to a reconfigured Big 12.
No school suffered as greatly from a competitive standpoint due to the dissolution of the SWC as did Houston. Proud national athletic relevance gave way to afterthought status when the Cougars were left out of the Big 12 and the entire 1990s became a lost decade for the school’s football and men’s basketball programs.