After months of will-they-or-won't-they speculation, the Big XII conference on Monday decided it will not add additional schools, the Associated Press has reported — dealing a blow to the University of Houston's aspirations to become a perennial powerhouse and the Cougars' prospects of keeping head coach Tom Herman.
UH was among a crowded field of 11 finalists chosen by the Big XII as possible members, but had one of the strongest résumés. The Cougars capped a 13-1 campaign last season, in which they won the American Athletic Conference title, with an impressive win over Florida State in the Peach Bowl.
This year, the Cougars are 6-1, ranked No. 11 in the country and opened their season with a convincing win over No. 3 Oklahoma — UH's only Big XII opponent on its regular-season schedule.
UH had hoped to leverage its success on the field for a chance to join one of college football's Power Five Conferences (The Big XII, ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC), which control a disproportionate share of television revenue crucial to building an elite football program.
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Maybe UH's dominance scared the pants off the other Big XII schools, who don't want another tough team on their schedules. Maybe the schools simply didn't want to share pieces of the massive television pie.
Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy likely spoke for many of the conference's schools when he explained his opposition to UH joining the Big XII: He was terrified of the home-state recruiting advantage UH would have owing to its location in the fourth most populous city in the United States.
Whatever the reason, UH appears to be stuck in small-conference purgatory for the foreseeable future. No matter how good they are, teams outside the Power Five conferences rarely contend for the national championship. UH's lone blemish on its record this year, a shocking loss to Navy earlier this month, will likely keep it out of contention for the playoffs.
Our own Sean Pendergast will have a full analysis of the Big XII's decision on Tuesday morning.