FOX Sports Exclusive
TCU move to Big East has major impact
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 of them.
This was the one program that was in the mix and could’ve been in play for the Big 12, to help get it 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-bowl-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 close to putting teams in the BCS championship the past few years, with West Virginia coming within a loss to Pitt of 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 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 and pluck teams away. And with this move, and with the look to go to 10 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 good, sound teams. The conference might be one play 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 that 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 important, 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 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 were 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.
More Stories From Pete Fiutak