Everyone is talking about Big 12 expansion, and that includes the Governor of Texas. Greg Abbott, a man whose state already includes 40 percent of the conference's membership ranks, wants to increase that market share by pushing the University of Houston from the American Athletic Conference into a Power 5 home.
"It was a great statement in support of the state of Texas," said Houston AD Hunter Yurachek. "It shows he's committed to enhancing all of the state's institutions of higher education."
And his lieutenant joined in:
Abbott might be relying on more than just Texan pride when it comes to his support of the Cougars.
In 2014, he accepted more than $250,000 in campaign donations from Houston mega-booster Tilman Fertitta. Fertitta, the billionaire chairman of the University of Houston's system board of regents, is an outspoken supporter of the resurgent Cougars. In May, he accused the University of Texas of opposing Houston's potential membership in the big leagues and suggested the Longhorns were one of many schools keeping his team out of the Big 12 because they were "scared of them."
This is hardly the first time conference realignment and politicians have made strange bedfellows. Back in 2010, the Texas state legislature was pushing for Baylor to be included in the Pac-12's expansion. Senators Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) still harbor a grudge over West Virginia's inclusion in the last round of Big 12 reshaping -- a move that came at Louisville's expense.
The University of Houston makes a strong case for Big 12 inclusion even without the governor's support.
The Cougars rank near the top of several categories the league is looking at when it comes to expand to 12 or 14 teams in the near future. While adding another team from the Lone Star State would do little to increase the conference's geographic and television market footprint, it would also add a rising football power and a campus with more than 40,000 students to its ranks.