HOUSTON – When Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby revealed that the Big 12 had voted to explore expansion for the ten team conference, many schools across the country wanted to be at the front of that line.
Count the University of Houston among them.
University of Houston Board of Regents chairman Tilman Fertitta spoke with KPRC Channel 2 on Wednesday about the opportunity for Houston.
"It's great to see it open because originally we thought it would happen in early June," Fertitta said.
"For this opportunity all we can do is try to kick the door down as old Bum Phillips used to say. We are Phi Beta Kappa campus today one of only 250 out of 6000 schools. It takes academics and it's going to take great athletic programs and I think we have done a great job on both in the last few years and I think we are worthy."
"There are a lot of people trying to get the eyeballs out of either Tampa, Orlando, or up east," Fertitta added.
"But how do you pass up the Houston, Texas? The 4th largest city in America."
Bowlsby acknowledged the conference has already heard from a number of universtities.
Houston is assumed to be in a group that includes Cincinnati, South Florida, Central Florida, Memphis and BYU among others that could be considering for expansion to either 12 or 14 teams.
Houston Vice President for Athletics Hunter Yurachek released a statement on the Big 12’s votes to explore expansion.
“The concept of change is always exciting and the evolving landscape of collegiate athletics invokes great passion in the nation’s fourth-largest city. At the University of Houston we are certainly honored to be mentioned as a progressive institution that places a competitive emphasis on both academics and athletics," Yurachek said.
"As a Tier One research institution and Phi Beta Kappa member, Houston has seen a reinvigorated spirit in Athletics. We have returned our proud University to the national spotlight and we aim to compete on the highest levels as we build Champions for Life. Our mission will not change.”
University president Renu Khator also released a statement:
"I am thrilled to have this opportunity to showcase the University of Houston. Our commitment to building a nationally competitive athletic program along with our academics and research is unwavering. UH is a proud member of Phi Beta Kappa and over the last decade has achieved designation as a Carnegie Tier One research institution. Our student population has grown to more than 43,000, third largest in Texas, and our vibrant residential population is among the highest. I could not be more proud that our university represents the fourth largest city in the nation and that our standard for excellence is second to none."
ESPN conducted an anonymous survey of Big 12 coaches having them choose their top two candidates, not currently in a Power 5 conference, for expansion.
Houston and BYU each received five votes among the ten coaches.
"All you want is the opportunity. You just want to be able to present your plan. When you look at how well our programs are doing under our basketball coach and our football coach, how do you not think about the University of Houston?" Fertitta said.
"This will be an interesting process. It is for sure a no-sure thing. For some reason they want to hold the eyeballs against us like they already own them in the Big 12, which I think the SEC does. All we can do is hope guys."
"I don't care if there is 2 or 4, I just want the University of Houston in," Fertitta added.
"There are probably six schools out there that probably belong in these super-conferences and that is where U of H belongs."