We’re back in, baby!
The Big XII’s on-again-off-again flirtation with expansion is on again. That means Houston will be poked and prodded and critiqued and analyzed like a candidate running for president.
The Big XII will scrutinize the Cougars with narrowed, suspicious eyes and ask, "Are you good enough to be in our club?"
On many levels, the obvious answer is yes. The Cougars were outright champions or co-champions of the old Southwest Conference four times in their 19-year run facing the core of what is now the Big XII.
Granted, those championships were in the late 70s and early 80s and there was an obvious decline for many years before the team's resurgence in the early 2000s under Art Briles, but it gives at least some credibility to the notion that the Cougars can compete with their larger Texas counterparts on a relatively consistent basis. UH was 7-11-1 versus Texas during the Southwest Conference years.
And let’s be honest about this: If Iowa State and Kansas had not been grandfathered in and maintained their basketball prowess over the years, they would have been jettisoned long ago.
Of course Houston is "good enough" to be in the Big XII, but the qualifications for membership are not the point here. The point is, Houston NEEDS a seat at the Big XII table to have a better chance to keep coach Tom Herman.
I know, I know. You’re saying, "slow down. Don’t look too far ahead. Let us enjoy this year before we start panicking over what might happen next year."
Well, the Big XII isn’t slowing down. It’s looking ahead to next year ... and all the years after that.
If Herman has a successful year in 2016, we all know that his name will be No. 1 on every AD’s list in December and January.
What happens if Texas and/or Texas A&M stumble this season? What happens if Tennessee decides the shine has worn off Butch Davis?
What happens if LSU somehow implodes and Jimbo Fisher inexplicably decides to leave a golden setup at FSU to go back to the bayou? (It’s wildly unlikely either will happen, but "wildly unlikely" will be written on college football’s tombstone someday.)
Let’s face facts: These major programs are going to back up Brinks trucks to Coach Herman’s office door at the end of the year. They’re going to walk in there with bags of cash the way George Clooney’s cadre walked out of the Bellagio.
Membership in the Big XII might give Houston a fighting chance to keep Herman. I personally think he relishes the role of "program builder" and if UH has a legitimate path to the playoffs every year, he might decide he has all he needs in the HTown.
At least for a while...