TCU to the Big East
Here you go, Big East haters. Does this help?
All of a sudden, TCU has become a major factor in the world of three conferences while changing the perception of all them. This was the one program that was in the mix and could’ve been in play for the Big 12, to help get back to being the Big 12. This was going to be the anchor of the rebuilding Mountain West that loses Utah and BYU but gets Boise State, Fresno State, and Nevada, and now it gives the eight-team Big East more teeth. Now it’s a big get for a conference that was dormant during expansion last summer.
For the Big East, this is a huge step forward to not only expand the geographic area of the conference, diving into the Texas markets to help recruiting and TV ratings, and it also brings in a strong, BCS-game-level program at a time when the league is starting to improve. It might not seem like it with all the venom and the anger over the Big East getting an automatic bid, but with Syracuse and Louisville improving under young coaching staffs, South Florida showing the potential to explode under Skip Holtz, Connecticut hitting its stride under Randy Edsall, and Pitt and West Virginia always above-average to great, at least in the case of the Mountaineers, the base is there for this to be a stronger, more viable national conference. Remember, the Big East was really, really close to putting teams in the BCS Championship over the last few years, with West Virginia coming within a loss to Pitt for playing for it all in 2007 and Cincinnati coming within a missed Texas field goal of possible playing Alabama in 2009. If the Bearcats didn’t get the nod last year had the Longhorns lost, TCU would’ve gone on to play the Tide.
With TCU, the league might not only be one or two moves away from being really good, but it also should be able to offer more to try to keep Rutgers, Pitt, and others around. If the Big Ten comes calling for the Scarlet Knights, the Panthers, or anyone else in the league, the Big East won’t be able to do anything about it, but getting TCU could make it harder to simply come in an pluck teams away. And with this move,
and with the look to go to ten teams with the likely addition of
Villanova, it’s time to go after the signature team.
The Big East might not have a true superstar like an Ohio State, or an Oklahoma/Texas, or a USC of the past few years as an anchor, but it’ll have a lot of very good, very sound teams. The conference might be one play away from becoming really, really good, at least as far as TV markets and national attention, and by getting TCU to show that the conference is healthy and viable, it’s the perfect time to try to land the whale.
Does this help get Notre Dame?
The Irish brass have been leery about joining the Big Ten and being swallowed up by the conference, with the fear of becoming just another program in a historic league of mega-programs, at least in tradition and alumni base, but joining the Big East now would make sense for the Irish. With the addition of TCU, all of a sudden the league is strong, but not too strong, and it would make sense for the Irish to become the big fish in the above-average sized pond. Big East, you’ll never be in a better position to make it happen, and you’ve taken the first big step by getting TCU.
For the Big 12, this hurts. The league didn’t really have any interest in getting TCU because it wouldn’t have helped. Texas and all its TV markets are already locked up tight, and adding TCU wouldn’t have moved the needle on a better television deal down the road and wouldn’t have expanded the range and scope of the conference. However, there are only so many teams out there to go after, and this was the one that made the most sense. If the Big 12 actually wants to be a 12 team league again, the pickings are slim now without raiding the Conference USA closet, but more importantly, TCU was always the safety net. Missouri is out the door the second anyone asks, with the school begging to be a part of the Big Ten, and Kansas is there for the taking whenever the Pac 10 wants to get even bigger basketball-wise. The Big 12 survived the last round of expansion after suffering only a few body blows, and now it has few places to go if some of the league’s depth starts to dwindle.
The real loser in all this, of course, is the Mountain West. Just when it seemed like the league was about to turn the corner and become on par with the Big East as a BCS conference, now it’s just the WAC Plus. The league would’ve been a killer with Utah, BYU, TCU, Boise State, Nevada, and Fresno State forming a tremendous base of programs, but now Boise State goes from being the star of the WAC to the star of the Mountain West. With the loss, now the forward-thinking league, which was rumored to have interest in some of the lesser Big 12 programs when it appeared that Texas and Oklahoma might be leaving, but the next move is Conference USA. Now the Mountain West has to get proactive and go after Houston and Southern Miss, and possibly keep raiding the WAC to take Louisiana Tech. The Mountain West won’t sit still, but it’ll be treading water.
This is a great move for TCU. It would never be able to get out of the shadow of Texas if it was in the Big 12, and the Mountain West, improved as it might be, is still the Mountain West. Going to the Big East gets TCU from Fort Worth into New York City and the rest of the East Coast. The Big East might like having the Horned Frogs to expand into Texas, and to get a bit bigger nationally, but TCU will really like being a part of the bigger markets in a part of the world that doesn’t know anything about the school.
Don’t expect this to be the end of the expansion dominos. Was this the beginning of another run of moves? Probably, and this should start a very, very interesting offseason.
Could the last 72 hours have been any worse for the Broncos? A few days ago, the program was giving thanks for still being in the BCS National Championship hunt, as it began to slowly pack up for the greener pastures of the Mountain West. And then, reality began to set in. On Friday night, Boise State couldn’t hold a lead on Nevada, falling in overtime and squandering a shot at a second straight BCS bowl game. Monday’s news that TCU is moving to the Big East is far more painful, though, because it’s going to have a lasting impact on a school that felt it was moving to a nicer neighborhood. Instead, it’s the same old digs that are going to keep a one-loss Bronco team from playing in January in the future. Now that the Mountain West’s three signature programs, the Frogs, BYU, and Utah, are moving on, you might as well take the leftovers, combine them with the WAC, and call it the Big Mountain Conference. Yeah, it’s a rough day to be a Bronco.
For TCU and the Big East, this is like an arranged marriage. While it makes sense on plenty of levels, it’s not as if sparks are flying. The conference had to be aggressive if it maintained any hope of keeping its automatic BCS bowl status, scoring big by landing a top program and putting a stake in the Texas market. For the transient Frogs, who’ll be on their fifth conference affiliation in the last 15 years, this is their most promising home to date. There’ll be more households watching them play, a whole new recruiting area to target, and a better chance of earning a bid to a huge bowl payout. Yeah, the geography will always be downright silly and there are no natural rivalries, but it’s not as if Wyoming, UNLV, and Utah were right around the corner either. This is a win-win situation ... unless, of course, you’re Boise State.
By Matt Zemek
Kudos to TCU, first of all. The program that gave the world Slingin’ Sammy Baugh and played in some of college football’s greatest games in the 1930s is now graced with at least a little more pigskin prominence, starting in the 2012 season. TCU will go from the Mountain West’s hideous TV contract to the ESPN GamePlan rotation and receive exposure in the Northeast’s major media markets. It will also play in a BCS conference and no longer have to wonder if it will qualify for a BCS bowl game. Moreover, TCU could absorb a few out-of-conference losses to good teams and yet reach a BCS bowl by cleaning up within the league it will soon join.
(PARENTHETICAL SIDE NOTE: The BCS should do away with automatic conference tie-ins, a point that’s been made many times this season. It would be a bitter irony for TCU if that provision gets focused on and then struck down only because TCU made this move. That would be a nasty undercurrent and a horrible reason to do the right thing. Stay tuned…)
Sure, this move is lousy for all of TCU’s non-football sports, but since when does a Texas-based school care about sports other than football? That statement might sound grossly insensitive, but it’s only meant to convey the sense of realpolitik which enfolds this move by TCU Athletic Director Chris Del Conte.
Far from being indifferent to the plight of lower-tier sports and the young people who play them, I genuinely and deeply feel for TCU’s non-football athletes, who are the true victims here (as is Boise State University; more on that in a bit…). Basketball, softball and volleyball teams with purple on their uniforms will have to endure long plane flights to Syracuse and Storrs (Connecticut) and Pittsburgh and Philadelphia – all for the sake of their football brethren, and all because the BCS system gives the Big East an auto-bid the Mountain West was never allotted. This move is the tainted fruit of the many evils that pervade the college sports business, otherwise known as the athletic-industrial complex.
In a sane and just college football world, a world in which each conference has to earn a BCS bowl bid every season, this move would not have been necessary. We wouldn’t have this obscene shell game in which money and conferences are moving across the national chessboard at warp speeds. We wouldn’t have this ugly, cutthroat climate in which Boise State – DOING WHAT ALL COLLEGE FOOTBALL FANS WANTED IT TO DO, I might remind everyone – made an upgrade in its conference affiliation so that it could play Utah, BYU and TCU… only to see ALL THREE SCHOOLS LEAVE THE MOUNTAIN WEST (yes, that needs to be shouted in capital letters; it’s that outrageous). This TCU story is reflective of many social sins and moral evils in college sports, where one school’s honest and respectable pursuit of self-interest wounds another university’s best interests. The system rewards behaviors that do not promote the common good. Let’s be clear on that score.
However, let’s also be clear that for all of the outrages outlined above – with awful consequences for TCU’s non-football athletes and the entire Boise State community, which did all the right things but once again got victimized through no fault of its own – this move makes sense for TCU on a core level. For the larger Texas Christian University community, football – as is the case for any other school in Texas – is the focal point of pride, power and prestige. Moreover, TCU has paid its dues over many decades, not only as a proud member of the Southwest Conference, but as one of the schools that helped increase the sport’s popularity in the first half of the 20th century.
Much as Notre Dame-Army captured the attention of football fans in the Northeast, TCU’s rivalry with SMU in the 1930s also left an indelible imprint on the sport, inspiring a fellow by the name of Doak Walker to play pigskin for the Ponies in the latter half of the 1940s. College football has owed a debt to TCU ever since the Horned Frogs watched the demolition of their beloved Southwest Conference abode. The program became homeless and wandered the streets as a nomad, getting pulled into the WAC and Conference USA and the Mountain West, only to then find that its place in each of those rickety and roach-infested shacks was no longer viable. Now, TCU has actually managed to be proactive, thanks to the leverage given the school by its football program and coach Gary Patterson. You might think Patterson’s a jerk, especially if you live in Provo or Salt Lake City, but without Patterson’s force of personality and quality of performance on the sideline (plus his class in not running up the score on New Mexico this past Saturday, it should be noted), TCU would not have improved its overall situation Monday morning. TCU would still be in the Mountain West, languishing in obscurity on Versus, The Mtn Network, and CBS College Sports. Now, it’s in the ESPN zone – no, not the restaurant, but the television footprint.
Cheers for TCU. The Horned Frogs deserve this day. It’s just a profound shame, though, that what’s good for a university and its sense of pride is so harmful for its non-football athletes and for a brother school – Boise State – that wishes it could join the Pac-13 Conference tomorrow.