TCU & The Big 12 - It Makes Sense
Posted Oct 6, 2011

TCU blows off the Big East for the Big 12. Will this save the league?

TCU To Join The Big 12

By Pete Fiutak   

The Big 12 had to make a quick and decisive move of some sort just to show it's still a league worth being a part of, and while bringing in TCU isn't like the SEC getting Texas A&M, it's a move. If nothing else, TCU's decision to forgo its move to the Big East cements the idea the Big 12 is more viable than the Big East. And while the addition of TCU won't make up for the loss of A&M and, possibly, Missouri, it's a decent show of strength at the right time.

This makes sense for TCU, since the Big East soon is going to be nothing more than an advanced version of Conference USA in the near future, if it's a football conference at all, but this goes against what interim Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas has said he wanted to do. His vision specifically called for expansion to be outside of Texas, since the league already has the state's TV markets wrapped up with Texas, Texas Tech, and Baylor, and now his plan appears to be 1) to simply survive and 2) give Texas cannon fodder for the Longhorn Network.

The Big 12 apparently has a new strategy and a new plan for trying to remain a viable conference: make Texas as happy as possible by giving the school another playmate for its network.

The only reason Texas isn't out the door is because the Pac-12 demanded a piece of the Longhorn Network pie. If Pac-12 presidents allowed Texas to keep all the revenue for itself, new logos would be coming out for a Pac-16 with Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State joining. Even with Texas apparently off the Pac-12 table, OU and OSU are on shaky footing with the Big 12 and are gone for the asking, and despite the SEC's comments to the contrary – remember the initial "rejection" of Texas A&M – Missouri is still in play Neinas had to do something to stop the bleeding and make some sort of a proactive move to bring in live name programs, and TCU is a nice midrange get.

By doing this, though, even with Oklahoma still demanding a different revenue structure, the Big 12 is doubling down on the Longhorn Network by providing more programming for Texas and the state. While the network will be national, it's not going to be for the casual fan. It's a Texas network for die-hard Texas fans, and being able to put TCU sports on it will make the Longhorns happy and will get the Horned Frog fans more interested. Texas really, really, really likes being Texas, and while the school and the football program might want a national reach, the reality is that all that matters is what happens within the state's borders.

So now, does the Big 12 go full bore Texas? Does it table the idea of being more geographically diverse and base its business-model on owning Texas?

The next natural move will then be to bring in SMU and Houston to make Texas even happier. The Big 12 certainly doesn't need to improve the Dallas TV viewership by bringing in the Mustangs, but taking on Houston, after losing Texas A&M to the SEC, grabs a little bit of the pie back from the southeastern part of the state. 

Texas will always be able to schedule games against big national programs at any time. Already scheduled and in the books are home-and-homes with Ole Miss in 2012 and 2013, BYU in 2013 and 2014, Notre Dame in 2015 and 2016, Cal in 2015 and 2016, Maryland in 2017 and 2018, USC in 2017 and 2018, and Notre Dame again in 2019 and 2020. National exposure will never be a problem for the Longhorns, and having more games against Texas teams as filler excites the fan base and, again, helps out the new network. Any time any Texas school appears on the Longhorn Network, the viewers will come.

But Neinas now has to think even bigger and more outside the box, like he talked about doing from the start. to try to do something to make Oklahoma want to stick around. Money and revenue sharing is a start, but that comes with getting stronger programs outside of the state of Texas. TCU is a Band-aid, and now the discussions have to keep going forward about possibly bringing in BYU, Boise State, and possibly someone like Louisville, Southern Miss, or Memphis just to do something to expand outside of the Texas borders a bit.

But for now, the move of bringing in TCU is a natural one, and for the school, it's home.

Cast out into the abyss of the WAC in 1996, TCU was passed over in the initial formation of the Big 12, and now, being added into the league become validation for all the great things the football program has done on and off the field.

There hasn't been a hint of trouble and there hasn't been a whiff of scandal, but more than anything else, the football team has won and won and won.

Since going 1-10 in 1997, the Horned Frogs have gone to 12 bowl games and while working their way into the national title discussion in each of the last two seasons. After beating Wisconsin in the 2011 Rose Bowl and going to 2010 Fiesta Bowl, since the Big 12 was formed, TCU has as many BCS appearances than Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Missouri, Iowa State, and Kansas combined. Kansas State has two BCS appearances, but hasn't been in one since 2003.

But as good as TCU football has been, it's not going to move the needle on any Big 12 TV contracts going forward and it's not going to be enough to appease Missouri or Oklahoma if and when they get a better offer. Neinas is working on making everyone happy and is trying to keep everyone at home, but Missouri has already set the wheels in motion to leave and Oklahoma still has one eye on the Pac-12.

At the very least, by getting TCU the Big 12 has shown that it'll remain viable in some way no matter what happens to some of the bigger programs. It might not be as great if it loses Missouri, and it might stagger in a big way if it loses Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, but it'll still be alive.

For now, and for worried programs like Iowa State, Kansas, and Kansas State, that's enough. And for Texas, it has a new playmate.

And new programming options.