Going to Mexico to play games makes all the sense in the world for the University of Houston.
Joseph Duarte wrote on Monday that the Big 12 could play basketball games in Mexico as early as next season and the league intends to play football games there, as well. Houston has “expressed interest and is on the shortlist” to play a basketball game there next season.
Mexico made the FIBA World Cup of Basketball this year, the second time since 1974. Interest in the sport is at an all-time high, while American football remains wildly popular.
Mexico is a huge growth market in hoops, and basketball is the second most played sport in the country. The country is hungry for basketball, and as the closest Big 12 team to the country, Houston is perfectly positioned to be ‘the’ team of the Mexican people.
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U.S. college sports will never overtake soccer in the country, but by being a reasonably-priced alternative to NBA and NFL games there, the Big 12 can gain a valuable foothold. Hosting games there will bring new fans and sponsors, as well as media and merchandising opportunities.
Why does this make sense for UH? Exposure and growth. Houston is a destination city for many people across Mexico, and the University of Houston could grow its fanbase significantly there. By being an early advocate of Big 12 games in Mexico, UH could position itself first at the top of the sports ecosystem. Appealing to Mexicans as a sports brand and university could do wonders for the school’s future.
Growing the UH brand in Mexico might help solidify Houston in future conference realignment, as UH could potentially help deliver a new fanbase and media markets.
Going to Mexico is certainly not a new idea, but it’s one that college conferences and schools have entirely botched. When UT departs to join A&M in the SEC, the Big 12 Texas schools are ideally suited to invest in the country and to see immediate results. The University of Houston should be at the forefront of that investment.