The Houston Chronicle reported yesterday bold plans for the University of Houston to upgrade its status to Tier 1. To reach Tier 1 in five years UH will need to spend between $60-$80 million per year. Renu Khator, UH President, has set the right course for the Bayou City's namesake institution. It should be full speed ahead.
Now it's time for Mack Rhoades to lay down the same challenge for UH athletics. Tier 1 in academics must mean BCS status.
Rhoades may get a nice tail wind at his back in the process. Nebraska and Missouri are waiting by the phone for their Big 10 invites, desperate to escape the over-bearing shadow of the Texas Longhorns. Then there's Colorado. The Buffaloes have been flirting so long with the PAC 10 a marriage announcement is imminent.
The Big Twelve suddenly shrinks to the Big 9. The Houston Cougars must fill one of the vacancies, along with TCU and, most likely, BYU. The liberal governance of the PAC 10 presidents will not allow the Mormon research-censoring Cougars to join their league.
Of the 11 FBS football conferences, Conference USA is the least self-promoting and the weakest conference of the non-qualifiers. Who would even know the conference offices are in Dallas and four member institutions hail from Texas? Avoiding press scrutiny and hiding out are what Conference USA does best to the detriment of the twelve universities it represents.
UH alums proudly remember the Cougars inaugural year in the SWC in 1976 and a breakout win over Texas A&M in front of 70,001 fans at Rice Stadium and an annihilation of Texas in Austin to the tune of 30-0.
The Cougars went on that year to whip Maryland in the Cotton Bowl 30-21.
Dwindling attendance in part caused by recruiting scandals, losing, and conference realignment is now the biggest challenge to overcome. The Cougars have been making steady progress but still have a long way to go. Ranked just 80th in 2009 with a 25,242 attendance average in six home games, the Cougars sold only 78.88 percent of available seats in their small on-campus stadium
Tier 1 status will propel the Cougars a long way towards BCS status. The Big Twelve will most likely lose three teams. If the Big 10 doesn't pounce the PAC 10 will.
UH needs to build its case loudly, make their admittance to the Big 12 a matter of civic pride in Houston, and canvas America's fourth largest city for political support and money.
The only way Houston overcomes the Texas Longhorns' iron-fisted control over the Big Twelve and their antipathy towards another authentic competitor in the conference is to confront the Horns head on.
Make the Horns publicly state their case for refusing UH. Their selfish reasons for blocking UH will not stand the test of public scrutiny.
Fourteen years of membership in Conference USA has made the Houston timid. They need a new paradigm: engage in ongoing improvement and constant self-promotion.
With Khator directing academics and Rhoades raising money for stadium expansion and basketball upgrades, the University of Houston can finally settle some old scores and prove it belongs with the elite institutions in college football.
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