Houston Cougars athletics director Chris Pezman speaks to reporters on Sept. 8 following of naming rights extension for TDECU Stadium. (Andy Yanez/Gallery Sports)
The Houston Cougars are less than a year away from joining the Big 12 Conference and finally being a part of the Power Five, a badge it had been looking to gain since the fall of the old Southwestern Conference.
In the ever-changing landscape that is college football with conference realignment, the Big Ten and Southeastern Conferences garnering buzz as being in leagues of their own, and new television rights deals, UH athletics officials welcome an expanded playoff format.
“It frankly should have happened a while ago,” UH athletics director Chris Pezman said. “You see the success at the FCS level and March Madness, broadening and opening it up is going to create exponentially more interest.”
Pezman mentioned the Cincinnati Bearcats, the only non-Power Five team to make it to the College Football Playoff under the four-team format, who went an undefeated 13-0 in the 2021 regular season plus the American Athletic Conference championship game just to get in. The Bearcats were also 9-1 in 2020.
There have also been instances where not even perfection from a non-Power Five team was enough to get a chance to compete for a national championship, including the famous 2017 UCF Knights that went 13-0 during that season.
“It was an invitational tournament before,” Pezman said. “You had to go perfect for teams to get in.”
News broke on Sept. 2 about the College Football Playoff Board approving a new 12-team format by 2026, according to The Athletic.
For UH officials, not only does it provide a realistic shot at competing for a national championship, but it also adds to the excitement of the regular season not needing to be perfect for an entire year just to have a chance to compete.
“Now there is more margin for error and it is a broader group and it is going to help the game,” Pezman said. “That is one thing that gets lost in this with realignment and CFP is what is in the best interest of the game as we move ahead. Those are things we can’t lose sight of as stewards of that endeavor. We got to be better at it.”
Once the Cougars are in the Big 12, they will have a straighter path to making the College Football Playoff. Something that cannot come soon enough for the UH administration.
“I think this a great idea to expand the CFP to 12,” UH president Renu Khator said. “We like any opportunity we can get to be on the national scene and show how good we are.”