So, like everyone else, I've been following the expansion chronicles pretty closely. And, like everyone, I laughed when I read the "news" the University of Houston slipped in during this period on their "new stadium" and all. But then, I started thinking: Texas doesn't want to join the SEC, but it seems pretty clear that A&M is interested. Houston, a Conference USA air-raid-ish team, isn't a bad idea for a couple of reasons.After looking into it, I've found that Houston is the 3rd largest university in Texas (>Tech, it seems), and receives a large amount of research dollars in state. The university itself is not a great one. US News & World Report lists it as a Tier 4 school, lower than other targets like Oklahoma (low tier 1) and OSU (a tier 3 school). However, individually, it has a number of well respected programs (the law school and architectural schools are particularly well thought of, apparently).
After the academics, which I grant aren't great (but, in comparison, Mississippi State is a tier 3), the money edge more than makes up for this. If the SEC's goal is expansion for monetary gain of member institutions, as implied by the stated lack of interest in ACC schools, then expansion into Texas is the #1 goal of this move. UT won't budge on its unwillingness to join the SEC, and A&M will. Why bring A&M into the league alone? A 13 team league is clearly not doable, and I doubt that Slive would let that take place. Bringing A&M and Houston together gets a top market squarely in SEC hands (Houston/Dallas would definitely come, due to high numbers of alumni for both schools). This also gives most SEC West schools an every year 2 game chance at recruiting in Texas, spurring the movement of the conference west in terms of opening 2 of the 3 major recruiting hotbeds to conference teams (Florida already being reasonably controlled by SEC interests).
Also of note? The "Shocker" is apparently the hand-symbol of choice amongst sporting fans there. Called the "Cougar Paw," although the comparison is hard to grasp for me. Similarly to many SEC teams, the Cougars also have a live mascot (Shasta). According to the Houston Athletics Wikipedia page [link], they compete in many of the sports, both men's and women's, sponsored by the SEC, notably missing a women's gymnastics squad. The Cougars' football squad is clearly not the best in Texas, however, they're definitely on an upward trajectory in terms of recent play, with a new coach (Sumlin, formerly of OSU) and a widely known desire to build a new, larger stadium. Cougars basketball is no slouch, being widely known for Phi Slamma Jamma in the early 1980's, it is a reasonably respectable addition to the SEC in that 2nd major sport.
I submit that adding A&M along with Houston would solidify a western front for the SEC with a strong foothold in two key schools in Texas, the larger and more respected A&M and the smaller but more importantly situated (and up-and-coming) Houston.