LOGICAL? YES. LIKELY…?
From the most improbable to the most logical, two schools make perfect sense. That probably means neither will happen, given the nature of conference realignment.
TV Market: Cincinnati (No. 36)
Home Venue: Nippert Stadium (40,000)
Undergraduate Enrollment: 23,706 (main campus)
Major metropolitan market? Check. Respectable home venue? Check — the Bearcats can play at Paul Brown Stadium for matchups with Texas and Oklahoma, and Nippert when the Kansases and Iowa States come to town.
A proven track record for success? Check. Cincinnati reached as many BCS bowls in the last seven years as Texas.
A travel partner for West Virginia? An outpost in a deep recruiting area? A Big 12 flag flying in Big Ten country?
Really, there’s little argument against Cincinnati as one of, if not the top target for Big 12 expansion.
TV Market: Houston (No. 10)
Home Venue: TDECU Stadium (40,000)
Undergraduate Enrollment: 34,830
Had the Southwest Conference disintegrated and its strongest members merged with the Big 8 a decade earlier, Houston might have made the transition.
Houston had one of the nation’s premier programs in the late 1970s and through the 1980s, but NCAA sanctions crippled the Cougars right as the SWC crumbled.
Houston’s flourished for much of the 21st century, launching the coaching careers of names like Art Briles, Kevin Sumlin and Kliff Kingsbury. But at no time before Tom Herman’s first season at the helm had Houston shown potential approaching that of its Golden Era.
A dominating win over Florida State in the Peach Bowl, success on the local recruiting trail and Herman’s spurning of other jobs show that Houston football’s strong. The Cougars play in a beautiful, new facility. They make sense geographically, and have rivalries in the Big 12 dating back to the SWC.
Everything makes sense about this invitation, except for the simultaneously lamest and most important caveat of conference expansion: TV market.
Houston doesn’t take the Big 12 into new TV territory, and that might be enough to ensure Houston doesn’t make it to the Big 12.