At the stroke of midnight on July 1, the University of Houston officially joined the Big 12 Conference. The 2023-24 season marks a new era in Houston Cougar Athletics.
On Sept. 9, 2021, Big 12 presidents voted to expand the league by four teams. Graciously accepting the invitational on behalf of UH were President Renu Khator, University of Houston System Board of Regents Chairman Tilman Fertitta and Vice President for Athletics Chris Pezman.
Since the beginning of her presidency in 2008, Khator has been steadfast in her commitment to building a strong Athletics program, understanding how critical it is to the overall success of the University.
“As we embark on this new chapter, I extend my deepest gratitude to all who have been part of this journey. Joining the Big 12 conference marks a significant milestone for the University of Houston. It will propel us to even greater heights on the playing field and in our classrooms,” Khator said. “Through our membership to the Big 12, we are enhancing our national visibility and elevating our athletic, academic and research pursuits by creating new avenues for collaboration. It is an exciting day in our institution’s history.”
Houston fans will be energized as the Cougars return to old rivalries against Baylor, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas Tech, and Texas and Oklahoma. The Cougars will continue recent rivalries from the American Athletic Conference vs. Cincinnati and UCF and start new ones against BYU, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State and West Virginia.
The Cougars begin Big 12 competition when Soccer faces Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas, at 7 p.m., Sept. 14 while Football plays host to TCU at 7 p.m., Sept. 16, inside TDECU Stadium. Volleyball begins league play at BYU on Sept. 20.
“This marks a historic and proud moment for the University of Houston. Today has been a long time in coming, and many people have worked tirelessly through the years to put Houston in this position,” Fertitta said. “We are prepared, ready to compete and excited about what the Cougars will bring to the Big 12 Conference.”
The move to the Big 12 has sparked excitement and optimism among Houston fans. More than 23,000 Football season tickets, including 6,000 new paid season tickets have been sold to set a TDECU Stadium record. Houston Rise, the $150 million fundraising campaign for Houston Athletics dedicated to championship success in the Big 12, already has raised more than $60 million.
“This is a historic day for the University of Houston. As I look back over the years, there have been many pivotal moments and influential individuals responsible for paving the way to this moment. This transformation has been 30 years in the making,” Pezman said. “Our institution, programs and student-athletes are eager to put UH’s own unique stamp on the Big 12 Conference.”
For the last decade, Houston competed in the American Athletic Conference. There, it collected 41 conference championships with at least four titles in each of the last eight seasons, the longest such streak in school history.
The Cougars won six conference crowns in back-to-back seasons in 2017-18 and 2018-19 as a member of The American, tying for the third-most championships in Houston single-season history.
HOUSTON ATHLETICS CONFERENCE HISTORY
The University of Houston currently fields 17 sport programs with seven on the men’s side (Baseball, Basketball, Cross Country, Football, Golf and Track & Field) and 10 on the women’s side (Basketball, Cross Country, Golf, Soccer, Softball, Swimming & Diving, Tennis, Track & Field and Volleyball).
During its Athletics history, Houston has recorded 168 conference championships with 17 NCAA team national championships and 68 NCAA individual national crowns.
The Big 12 will be the seventh conference in which Houston Athletics competes during its award-winning history.
Houston began athletics competition as a member of the Lone Star Conference from 1946-47 to 1948-49 and played for the 1949-50 season in the Gulf Coast Conference.
After one season as an independent, the Cougars played for nine seasons in the Missouri Valley Conference (1951-52 to 1959-60) before spending 16 years as an independent again (1960-61 to 1975-76).
From there, the Cougars joined the Southwest Conference where it competed from 1976-77 through the 1995-96 campaign. Houston played for 17 years in Conference USA (1996-97 to 2012-13) and has competed as a member of the American Athletic Conference since 2013-14.
ABOUT BIG 12 CONFERENCE
The Big 12 Conference is comprised of 14 institutions after welcoming BYU, UCF, Cincinnati and Houston on July 1, 2023, joining Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech and West Virginia.
The league is an NCAA Division I intercollegiate athletics conference that encompasses eight states, three time zones and a combined population of over 79.3 million. Entering its 28th year, the Conference has produced over 800 Academic All-America selections and claimed national championship team titles in 20 of its 23 sponsored sports. Its student-athletes and teams have combined for 742 individual NCAA titles and 81 team national championships under the Big 12 banner.