Sean Pendergast

Current Big XII Expansion Plan Could Make For Awkward 2023 Season

University of Houston fans jfinally have a target date for Big XII entry.
University of Houston fans jfinally have a target date for Big XII entry. Photo by Jack Gorman
This would normally be the time of year, in between spring practice at the end of April and the start of summer ball in late July, where college football would be on hiatus, and diehard college football fans would be getting our pigskin fix by devouring the annual preview magazine while trying to figure out our season win total bets.

Thanks to Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher, and coaches begging local businesses for NIL money, we have had some college football news to inject in our veins. Then there's conference realignment, which is a topic every offseason to varying degrees. This offseason, there is no new forecasted movement, like last season when Texas and Oklahoma suddenly announced they would jump ship to the SEC sometime down the road.

Instead, all of the forecasted conference shuffling that was announced last summer is getting dates attached to it. To that end, it was announced last Friday that the Big XII, with Texas and Oklahoma on the cusp of leaving (more on that in a moment, would officially welcome their four newest members — Houston, Cincinnati, UCF, and BYU — on July 1, 2023. So Coogs, you have your entry date! That's fun!

On a related topic, it was reported last Friday that Texas and Oklahoma view the football season in 2024 as a realistic start date for their two schools to join the SEC. The contracts between those two schools and the Big XII run through 2025, but it was widely believed that some sort of buyout would be reached before then.

So what does this all mean? It means 2023 could be one of the strangest seasons any conference has ever experienced. Let's start there with my four thoughts on this news:

2023 in the Big XII will be the most awkward conference season ever
If you've ever wondered what it was like to live in the same house with your soon to be ex, who has already told you she is leaving you for a much wealthier man (that would be Texas and Oklahoma leaving for the riches of the SEC), all while having your new, blue collar girlfriend moving in with you (that would be the four schools listed above), then welcome to the Big XII in 2023, a 14 team smorgasbord of awkwardness! My biggest question is "Will U of H get a game with Texas on the Longhorns' way out, and where will that game be?" A Horns versus Coogs matchup at TDECU Stadium would be delightful!

Finally, U of H officially gets its wish
It's been a long road to the Big XII for the Cougars, one that has circuitously weaved through Conference USA and the AAC. It looked like their chances of getting into the conference were very good back in 2015, during the Tom Herman era, but alas, it wasn't meant to be. Herman decided to go ahead to the Big XII by himself (taking the Texas head coaching gig), and it looked like the University of Houston was gonna be stuck with the have-nots forever. Ironically, it was Texas (along with Oklahoma) LEAVING the Big XII that got the dominoes falling once again.

The additional schools are an on field upgrade
Oklahoma and Texas are blue blood programs, but only Oklahoma has played like it in recent years. The Longhorns haven't been really relevant for any extended period of time (like more than one season in a row) since the late 2000's. In the last seven years, the four schools coming in actually represent an upgrade in quality of play, with Houston and UCF having won New Year's Six bowl games, and Cincinnati making the playoffs last season. Texas should be on an uptick with Steve Sarkisian as the head coach, but the Horns have said that about every head coach since Mack Brown left. My point is that this should be a fun football conference, with the four new schools to go along with Oklahoma State, Baylor, TCU, and more, even after the Longhorns and Sooners leave.

I'm just as excited about basketball!
Football should be fun, but men's basketball also has the potential to be off the charts. Kansas, Baylor, and Houston are legit college basketball powers, with all of them having been to the Final Four and two of them having won it all in the last two seasons. Texas Tech has had a recent Final Four run, as well, and the other schools — Cincinnati, West Virginia, and even TCU — have had moments in recent years. I'm salivating at some Baylor and Kansas visits to the Fertitta Center.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.
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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast