As TCU readies itself to play Utah in one of its biggest road regular season games in its history, there are rumors swirling about TCU leaving the Mountain West Conference. The speculation is at a fever pitch as they play Utah which coincidentally is leaving the MWC for the greener (as in money) pastures of the PAC-12. The latest expansion rumor is that TCU will be moving to the Big East. TCU’s move to the Big East, seems like a great move for the Horned Frogs as it leaves the MWC , and its non-AQ status, for AQ status and more importantly the guaranteed money that comes with being a member of the Big East. There are some, mostly fans of the MWC, that hope TCU will not go to the Big East and will cite reasons from the Big East not being very good to the travel.
Let’s first deal with travel; TCU has had a history of traveling since the Southwest Conference folded. TCU’s travel itinerary has been all over the map literally and figuratively. TCU was in the 16 team WAC with travel to Honolulu, San Jose, and Fresno; they then moved to Conference USA, which boasted junkets to Louisville, Cincinnati, Orlando and West Point, and currently the Frogs travel to exotic locales like Laramie, Ft Collins and potentially Boise and Reno, so before you dismiss this move and use traveling as the reason for TCU to not jump ship, this is a program that over time has travelled. At the end of the day, TCU will not turn down the Big East’s invitation for the reason of too much travel.
Anyone looking at TCU joining the Big East would not be have to be extremely intelligent to come to the conclusion that TCU would dominate the Big East, in fact the Frogs would be similar to what you had with the “U” and “Va Tech” in the 90’s. TCU would have different athletes and better access to those athletes than the rest of the Big East. It is not a situation where you had with the states of Florida or Virginia supplying the bulk of skill position talent for Big East programs, because the distance from Virginia or South Florida to Storrs, Morgantown, Syracuse or Pittsburgh is not great, hop on the bus, Jet Blue, or Amtrak and you are home. However, compare that distance, to the distance from Golden Triangle (Dallas/ Ft Worth, Houston and Austin; which produces a ton of D-1 talent yearly), to any Big East program and though Big East programs may think that with TCU in the Big East, they can make inroads into Texas recruiting. Reality is it does not mean Big East programs will get any more recruits from the state of Texas. More importantly for the Big East with the money and automatic entry to the BCS, TCU will start lapping the Big East field in 2-3 years. Yes, with that said TCU would be foolish to not join the Big East they would dominate, D-O-M-I-N-A-T-E. However for every reason for TCU to leave, there are a couple of reasons for them to stay. This is where MWC fans can start cheering.
Those of you not privy to the hierarchy of TCU athletics let me give you a purple pass and walk you through this. Football is the number one sport at TCU, but the next sport at TCU and in the state of Texas is baseball. The TCU’s baseball program is a program that regularly competes for recruits in the Lone Star State against Texas and does win those recruiting battles on occasion. TCU’s Lupton stadium and specifically the baseball facilities rival that of any double A baseball franchise, which not only tells you that the program is doing well, but it also pulls its own weight financially. So to tell TCU’s baseball program that it will compete in the Sun Belt or Southland conference would not only kill the momentum the Frogs have coming off a College World Series appearance, but would kill recruiting and the overall relevancy of TCU’s second sport. TCU’s baseball program is on par with Texas and in the state of Texas for any program to be on the same level with UT in any sport is a source of pride at that school. Do you think TCU would give that up willingly? Only if there were other concessions made or if there was an offer that they could not refuse, and the Big East does not fit that criteria. Okay back to football since this a football blog.
TCU when it weighs everything is not going to the Big East, but with this latest report, it floats the idea to other conferences that TCU would have no problem being an associate member of an AQ conference for football purposes. The move to have conferences extending invitations to programs to be associate members is not new to other sports, it happens in Olympic Sports usually. However it is something unheard of in FBS football. This is something that will start picking up momentum as conferences fight for survival. TCU willingness to make itself available to put it’s football program in an AQ conference, while placing the other sports in a lesser conference sends a message. (Right here is where MWC fans should become afraid.) The conference that might be the most interested in this is the Big-12, with the SEC a close second. The Big 12 is a conference, which as everyone knows is dominated by Texas, not only by the university of, but just the state itself. Do not think for one minute that there are not political factions working behind the scenes at the four Texas member schools of the Big-12 to get TCU into the Big 12 sometime in the next 1-2 years. Texas is a state where though there are some fierce rivalries within the State, each of the schools in the state sees themselves as brothers and feels that they are better than anyone else outside of the state of Texas, after all Texas is the only state in the Union that is allowed to fly its state flag at the same height as the United States Flag, which should speak loudly to many outside of the Lone Star State. TCU is a program that given its preference would love to play Texas, A&M, Baylor and Tech on a regular basis, for “the whole magila”.
The SEC angle would work but it would need to drag or be carried by probably Texas A&M. The SEC would love to break into the Texas market. It would make sense however for TCU to be in the Big 12 or SEC in all sports. The issue of joining the Big 12 maybe a difficult sell to the non-Texas members of the conference, there are already grumblings in the conference that there is too heavy a Texas presence. However let us say that TCU is an associate member and sell just the football angle, it allows for a championship game and the additional money that may bring. The idea that TCU is in the conference just for football might be palatable to the dissenters in the Big 12. So what would this mean now, with there being 11 teams to play football in the Big 12? The conference needs an additional program for a championship game, so maybe they again go the associate member route and look for an okay football program but is not a desired member in the Big-12 for other sports, and here is where MWC should really be nervous…..could Boise St. be the next associate member of the Big 12? Or could it be BYU which is headed for independence? Who knows?