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Boise bails on Big East

By my count, the Big East has now lost more members than it ever had.

Boise State will remain a member of the Mountain West Conference and will not join the Big East in 2013.

The Broncos’ decision, confirmed in news releases by the the school and Mountain West on Monday, is the latest crippling blow to the Big East Conference, which has had 14 schools announce they were leaving the league in the past two years.

“As I’ve stated many times, I have had the utmost trust that the university would make the right decision in what is best for Bronco football and all our sports at Boise State,” football coach Chris Petersen said in the statement. “This innovative proposal to get football the maximum exposure on national television will be a tremendous boost to our program as we continue to grow the Bronco brand.

The Broncos will remain a Mountain West member in all sports instead of joining the Big East next year as a football-only member and the Big West in all other sports.

“The football programs in the Mountain West Conference continue to get stronger and we look forward to the challenge and competing in a strong league for many years to come,” Peterson said.

Without Boise State plus the announcement that the league’s seven Catholic basketball schools — DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Villanova — are leaving the league, the Big East’s future membership remains in flux.

A source with direct knowledge said there is a tentative in-person meeting of the seven presidents of the departing Catholic Big East schools set for Friday. Discussing exit fees and when to form the new conference are high on the agenda, as well as designating a point person.

[…]

The Big East also could lose another member, as San Diego State may return to the Mountain West.

With Boise State remaining in the Mountain West, the Aztecs’ Big East contract allows them to withdraw from the Big East without paying an exit fee if there is no other Big East member located west of the Rocky Mountains.

A Mountain West conference source with knowledge of the situation said San Diego State wants back in the Mountain West, but the league is holding up the process as it decides whether there is a better fit than the Aztecs and if there is a school that can deliver more value.

The source said if SDSU returns to the Mountain West, the Aztecs would have to come back on the conference’s terms.

USA Today thinks that SDSU is likely to wind up back in the MWC, though both stories explore the possibility of the MWC either finding an alternative to SDSU or expanding further; both mention Big-East-for-now members UH and SMU as possible targets for such expansion. I think that unless the MWC is in line for a renewed TV deal – and by the way, Boise State will make out like a bandit on the TV terms they negotiated to return to the MWC – expansion would just mean cutting their existing pie into smaller pieces, and as such I have my doubts. For sure, UH and SMU and all the other Big Easties had better be thinking about their own futures now. They can try one more time to patch the Big East ship, they can come crawling back to C-USA (which would have to eject some newly-recruited replacements to take them back), or they can form their own conference out of Big East refugees and whoever else they can poach. I’m guessing this is probably not the position they thought they’d be in as 2013 dawned. Mean Green Cougar Red has more.

The Big East is imploding

I never really believed that the reconstituted Big East was going to be viable in the long term, but I didn’t see its demise happening in this fashion, nor this quickly.

The Big East is headed for another break up. This time, the seven prominent basketball schools that don’t play FBS football are planning to break away from the ever-changing conference.

The divorce is expected to be complicated, maybe even contentious, with millions of dollars and possibly the future of the league at stake.

The Big East’s non-football members decided Thursday to separate from the conference, a person familiar with the decision told the Associated Press on a condition of anonymity because officials from those schools are still sorting through details. No official announcement is imminent.

The seven schools that don’t play FBS-level football are St. John’s, Georgetown, Marquette, DePaul, Seton Hall, Providence and Villanova. Officials at those schools have concerns about the direction of the conference and feel as if they have little power to influence it.

[…]

One of the many things that will need to be sorted out is who owns the rights to the name Big East. Will it stay with new members or go with the old? Georgetown, Providence, Seton Hall and St John’s were among the original members of the conference when it was formed primarily for basketball in 1979. Villanova came in a year later. Marquette and DePaul came in 2005, the Big East’s last previous major expansion.

Most importantly there are of millions dollars that both sides will likely claim at least some ownership of, including NCAA Tournament money that is paid out every five years based on appearances, about $70 million in exit fees the Big East has collected from the recent departures and future possible exit fees from the latest members to announce they are leaving – Rutgers and Louisville.

What would happen to the current and future football members also is unknown. They could simply stick together and continue on the path they are headed. But if the basketball side of the Big East is weakened it could decrease the value of the conference to television networks. The league is currently trying to negotiate a crucial TV contract, but instability has made it impossible.

See here and here for more on the original story, and keep an eye on places like CBS Sports Eye On College Basketball and ESPN College Sports for late-breaking updates. If the Big East goes kaboom, the big question is what happens to the schools that were planning to join it? To say the least, things are unclear.

Maryland to join the Big Ten

The dominoes have resumed falling.

Maryland is joining the Big Ten, leaving the Atlantic Coast Conference in a shocker of a move in the world of conference realignment that was driven by the school’s budget woes.

The announcement came Monday at a news conference with school President Wallace D. Loh, Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany and athletic director Kevin Anderson.

“The membership of the Big Ten enables us to guarantee the financial sustainability of Maryland athletics for a long, long, long time,” Loh said.

Loh added that Maryland athletics has been living “paycheck to paycheck.” The school had eliminated seven sports programs earlier this year.

“The director and I are absolutely committed to begin the process to reinstate some of the teams we had to terminate,” Loh said.

Maryland will become the southernmost member of the Big Ten member starting in 2014.

“Really in the last year it’s become so obvious that major conferences are expanding outside of their regions,” Delany told the AP in an interview before Maryland’s news conference on campus in College Park. “You have multiple major conferences all in multiple regions.

“It seemed to us that there was a paradigm shift occurring around us. And therefore the question is how do you respond to that in a way that stay true to yourself, but is also only responsive not to the world you want but the world that you live in.”

And Rutgers will apparently join them, meaning the Big Ten will technically be the Big Fourteen. Connecticut is now reportedly going to join the ACC to fill Maryland’s slot, meaning that the Big East will at the very least have to redo its divisions before a single game has been played. Did you think we were done with all the conference-hopping? Yeah, me neither. Now we wait to see who’s next. Again.

Big East settles up with departers

Everyone who wants to leave the Big East is now free to do so. Well, maybe “free” isn’t exactly the right word.

Pitt and the conference announced that the school will pay $7.5 million to join Syracuse in leaving the Big East for the Atlantic Coast Conference on July 1, 2013. The Big East reached a similar deal with Syracuse earlier this week.

The agreement with Pitt includes the $5 million the school already paid after it announced it was switching leagues last September. It also puts an end to an acrimonious split between the Big East and one of its longest standing members.

[…]

The Big East later Wednesday night confirmed it had dropped its lawsuit seeking $5 million from TCU for reneging on a commitment to join the league and instead joining the Big 12. The conference said in a statement that “TCU has fully discharged its obligations to the Big East and the lawsuit is amicably settled without admission of liability of any party.”

Conditions of the settlement weren’t released, but a person familiar with it told The Associated Press the Big East will receive $5 million from TCU. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because no announcement was to be made on the agreement.

The Big East filed the suit last month in Washington, claiming TCU failed to pay the league the $5 million it agreed to when the school joined the Big 12.

TCU was never an official member of the Big East but accepted an invite in November 2010 to join in 2012. The Big East contended TCU agreed to pay $5 million if it didn’t. TCU accepted an invite to the Big 12 in October and will start playing in the conference this year.

Add to the $20 million the Big East is getting from Pitt, Syracuse and TCU another $20 million that West Virginia agreed to pay the conference earlier this year when the school and the league settled their dueling lawsuits, and the Big East earned $40 million in departure fees.

Not a bad day’s work. The Big East can now concentrate on getting a new TV deal and deciding whether or not the name “Big East” makes sense for a conference that will have teams in all four continental time zones.

C-USA and and MWC make merger plans official

We knew it was coming.

With their respective leagues being picked apart by the month to fulfill others’ expansion plans, 16 presidents and chancellors from Conference USA and Mountain West Conference met Sunday in Dallas, knowing they needed to do something.

The result is a new league with a wide scope that goes coast-to-coast and beyond.

C-USA and the Mountain West agreed on an athletic association that will combine the remaining members of the two leagues plus three future Mountain West members to form a 16-team conference beginning in the 2013-14 academic year.

The new league, whose name is to be determined, will include Rice. Athletic director Rick Greenspan called it the dawning of an exciting new chapter for the Owls.

“This new conference is one that allows us to retain much of the competitive equity and familiarity we have built up over our seven years in C-USA while also broadening our appeal to an even wider audience,” Greenspan said in a statement. “It will address many of the core concerns that have led others to seek new affiliations and does so without a significant increase in the demands we place on our student-athletes.”

Ultimately, the league’s membership likely will include 18 to 24 schools, with members ranging from the Atlantic seaboard to Hawaii. A football championship format will include semifinals and a final, and there will be a conference basketball tournament.

There’s 16 teams now for football, 15 or possible less for other sports. I’m guessing other schools may affiliate for other sports, but who knows. At least for football, there’s a neat east-west division, with the C-USA schools being in the former and the MWC schools in the latter. That will help with travel costs. I woulcn’t call this the best of all possible worlds, but it’ll do till whatever the next thing is that shakes up the landscape comes along. And the MOB will get to do an Annual Salute To The New Conference show.

Meanwhile, West Virginia has settled its lawsuit with the Big East.

West Virginia will join the Big 12 for the 2012 season after a lawsuit settlement was reached with the Big East, the school and league announced Tuesday.

The Big East Conference board of directors voted to terminate West Virginia’s membership, effective June 30. The vote is conditioned upon WVU fulfilling its obligations under an agreement that resolves the lawsuits between both parties.

West Virginia accepted an invitation in October 2011 to join the Big 12, and sued the Big East in its home state to get out of the league without waiting the required 27 months. The Big East filed its own suit in Rhode Island, seeking to hold West Virginia to the waiting period.

The Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail, citing an anonymous source, has reported that the Big East will receive $20 million in the settlement, with WVU contributing $11 million, and the Big 12 covering the remaining amount.

WVU already has paid half of the normally required $5 million exit fee to the Big East.

As my friend Ellen likes to say, some problems are best solved by swatting them with a checkbook until they die. This was one of them. We’ll see if Syracuse and Pittsburgh will follow West Virginia out the door before their waiting period is up.

Memphis to Big East

It’s what they’ve always wanted.

At long last, Memphis is part of the Big East.

The Tigers officially accepted an invitation to be part of the conference’s next incarnation in 2013, the conference said Wednesday. Memphis is the seventh school, and fourth from Conference USA, to sign up for future membership in the Big East since December. The Tigers will compete in the Big East in all sports.

Memphis has been trying to upgrade its conference affiliation for years, and the Big East was always the most likely landing spot. The Tigers were snubbed during the Big East’s last massive expansion in 2005 and lost a longtime rivalry with Louisville in the process.

Now with the Big East rebuilding again and eventually in need replacements for West Virginia, Pittsburgh and Syracuse, there was finally room for Memphis.

[…]

Memphis gives the Big East 11 football teams committed for the 2013 season, still one short of the 12 needed under NCAA rules to hold a conference championship game — though the league could ask the NCAA for a waiver to play a title game with less than 12 teams. Plus, there’s no guarantee some of the holdovers, such as Louisville, Rutgers and Connecticut, won’t jump at the chance to join another league if the opportunity comes up.

And it’s still unclear when West Virginia, Pitt and Syracuse will leave. Big East bylaws require a 27-month notification period for schools that want to leave and commissioner John Marinatto has said he intends to make the departing schools honor that. West Virginia has filed a lawsuit to begin competing in the Big 12 in the fall. The Big East has countersued and Pitt and Syracuse are watching the cases closely as it could determine when they start playing in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

It’s possible the Big East could have 14 football teams and 20 basketball teams in 2013.

Good luck planning the 2013 schedule. I kind of suspect that the current litigation will reach a settlement of some kind before then. Be that as it may, I don’t think this changes that much. The Big East is still an odd, geographically-disparate assortment of schools that is now stronger in basketball but not football.

As for the conference Memphis is leaving behind, the pending CUSA/MWC merger is still on.

Conference USA’s board of directors will meet later this week to discuss the possibility of a full-scale merger with the Mountain West Conference, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.

The prospect of a merger was already on the meeting agenda, even before C-USA member Memphis was on the verge of joining the Big East, the source said.

[…]

In the past year, C-USA members Houston, SMU and Central Florida accepted invitations to join the Big East in 2013-14.

That, along with Memphis’ pending departure, would leave C-USA with eight members: Southern Miss, Tulsa, Marshall, Rice, UAB, Tulane, East Carolina and UTEP.

The Mountain West is adding Nevada and Fresno State from the Western Athletic Conference for all sports and Hawaii in football. But the MWC is losing San Diego State to the Big East in football and the Big West for all other sports; Boise State to the Big East in football and the WAC in other sports; and TCU to the Big 12.

That means in 2013-14, the MWC would have eight football members, including Hawaii, and seven in all sports: UNLV, New Mexico, Wyoming, Colorado State, Air Force, Fresno State and Nevada.

A merger between C-USA and the MWC could consist of a conference with its current 2013-14 membership of 15 in all sports and 16 in football.

I want to point out that ten of those schools – Rice, Tulsa, UTEP, and all of the MWC schools except Nevada – were once part of the WAC16. Party like it’s 1996, y’all! In all seriousness, I don’t think that’s a terrible outcome. I just don’t think that any outcome right now should be seen as anything but a stopgap until the next round of changes comes along.

Navy to join Big East

Another new playmate for UH.

Navy has accepted an invitation to play football in the Big East, starting in 2015.

“Stability in the Big East was a very important aspect in our discussions with the commissioner,” Vice Admiral Michael Miller, superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy, said during a teleconference. “What we see is a very bright future for the conference.”

Navy has been playing football as an independent since 1879, but academy officials said they believe that model will be too difficult to maintain as other powerful conferences grow. Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk said scheduling games late in the season, landing desirable television deals and securing bowl bids will become a problem in the near future.

“Opportunities to exist as independents into the future are clearly in jeopardy,” he said.

[…]

The Big East, hit by the departures of Pittsburgh and Syracuse to the ACC, and TCU and West Virginia to the Big 12, will add Boise State and San Diego State for football and SMU, Central Florida and Houston for all sports, starting in 2013.

[Big East Commissioner John] Marinatto would like to get the conference to 12 football-playing schools, which would allow it to play a conference championship game.

When West Virginia departs and the new members begin play, the conference will have 11 members with football programs.

It’s going to be an eventful couple of years in the Big East as schools come and go, perhaps sooner or later than expected. Former Big East member Temple seems like a likely fit for the 12th member they’re seeking, though you never know. As Big East blogger Andrea Adelson says, there are no guarantees.

UH heads to the Big East

I wish them all the best.

The Big East Conference officially announced the additions of the University of Houston, Boise State, Central Florida, San Diego State and SMU on Wednesday.

UH, Central Florida and SMU are being added as all-sports members to the league while Boise State and San Diego State are joining as football-only members.

The additions will take effect in time for the 2013 football season.

“Over the last 32 years, the Big East Conference has constantly evolved along with the landscape of college athletics,” said Big East Commissioner John Marinatto. “The inclusion of these five great Universities, which bring a unique blend of premier academics, top markets, strong athletics brands and outstanding competitive quality, marks the beginning of a new chapter in that evolution. We are proud to welcome these schools to the Big East family.

“Much like the conference as a whole, the Big East name — though derived 32 years ago based on the geography of our founding members — has evolved into a highly respected brand that transcends borders, boundaries or regions. It’s national. Our membership makeup is now reflective of that.”

As things stand now, the reconstituted Big East will have ten members – I think it’s safe to assume that Syracuse, Pitt, and West Virginia will be allowed to make their exits prior to the 2013 season despite the lawsuit onslaught that has followed their initial announcements. Air Force and Navy may also be on board by then, which would allow the Big East to have two divisions, with the Big East West containing SDSU, Boise, Air Force, UH, SMU, and either Cincy or Louisville.

That all assumes that the five current Big East members stay put. As Andrea Adelson notes, that’s far from a sure thing.

The Big East had little choice but to add Houston, SMU, Central Florida and football-only members Boise State and San Diego State. After Pitt, Syracuse, TCU and West Virginia bolted the conference, the league had to do something to remain viable. That meant stretching itself, making Boise State its No. 1 priority to help boost its football profile. Boise State needed a West partner — hello, San Diego State.

None of this makes much geographical sense. There are no regional rivalries. There is no sense of brotherhood, of shared goals, of a common cause. Because the Big East was indeed a sinking ship in desperate need of a life preserver, it had to trade in the Backyard Brawl for some Red-Eye Rivalry.

[…]

These head-scratching moves do not answer any questions about the future of the Big East, not at all. What would make these 10 disparate universities band together to stick together? The first incarnation of the Big East failed. So did the second. How is the third any stronger than a conference that had Miami, Virginia Tech and West Virginia all on board?

Simply put, these moves are more of a stopgap measure and less of a stabilizing force. Once the conference seas start shifting again, you can bet some of the current members are going to want to jump as quickly as Pitt, Syracuse, West Virginia and TCU did.

Think about it: Rutgers, Cincinnati, Louisville and Connecticut have gauged the interest of other conferences. According to the lawsuit West Virginia filed against the Big East to try and get out of the league for the 2012 season, representatives from those four schools “have been engaged in discussions with other sports conferences, including the ACC, SEC and Big Ten for the purpose of trying to obtain invitations to join these conferences and withdraw from the Big East.”

Indeed, Louisville practically threw itself at the Big XII a few weeks back, and UConn’s lust for the ACC is well known. It’s possible this mashup will settle their wanderlust, or will keep the predators at bay. I’m not sure I’d bet on that, however.

As for the conferences that the five joiners leave behind, it looks like they will get together and try to love one another right now form their own mega-conference.

C-USA and the Mountain West are considering a merger in all sports. Sources have indicated that Craig Thompson, the current commissioner of the Mountain West, would become the commissioner of the new merged league, while Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky would step down.

A vote on the merger could come by next month, sources said.

The merged league would consist of: East Carolina, Marshall, Memphis, Rice, Southern Miss, Tulane, Tulsa, UAB and UTEP from C-USA and Air Force, Colorado State, New Mexico, UNLV and Wyoming from the Mountain West along with new members Fresno State, Hawaii and Nevada for a 17-team conference. However, Air Force remains a viable candidate to join the Big East.

So, it’s more or less the old WAC-16 with some of the names changed to protect the innocent. I can hardly wait for the MOB’s “Annual Salute To The Everything Old Is New Again Conference” show next September. Hell, I’d start working on a script for it myself if I had any confidence that things won’t change again between now and then.

Anyway. As I said, I wish UH the best of luck. Nobody knows what the college football landscape will look like in a year, so if something comes along that looks like it may be better than what you have, you may as well grab for it. A statement from Rep. Garnet Coleman, in whose district UH resides, is beneath the fold.

UPDATE: Air Force is staying put.

(more…)

Big XII expects WVU for 2012

The Big East is no obstacle.

Interim Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas said Tuesday he fully expects West Virginia to start play next season despite a hard-line stance from the Big East.

Neinas attended a reception in Morgantown officially welcoming the Mountaineers into the Big 12 on Tuesday, a day after the university filed a lawsuit against the Big East seeking to clear the way for West Virginia to start Big 12 competition next fall.

[…]

When Neinas was asked what happens if the Big East is successful in delaying West Virginia’s quick exit, “then I guess for the first time in college football history, we’ll have home and home” schedules, he joked. “Oklahoma State told me they don’t want to play Oklahoma twice.”

On a serious note, Neinas said: “We fully expect West Virginia will be there.”

Neinas, Luck and Clements tried to keep the focus on the Big 12’s newest member during the packed reception at the school’s football stadium, which included a pep band playing the Mountaineers’ fight song. Neinas even wore a striped gold tie and blue shirt in West Virginia’s school colors.

Neinas said West Virginia’s entrance into the Big 12 was contingent on the university being available next year.

“We needed a 10th member next season to fulfill our TV commitments,” Neinas said. “There’s an inventory that goes with a contract for TV, so we’ve got to be able to do that.”

[…]

Neinas said Missouri is considered a Big 12 member until it withdraws and the league will accommodate 11 football teams if necessary.

“We can do it,” Neinas said. “We don’t have it on paper. But our computers will work out to provide a schedule that will accommodate 11 teams.”

West Virginia wouldn’t simply move into Missouri’s Big 12 football schedule if the Tigers leave.

Instead, “we’re going to have to redo the schedule for a variety of reasons,” Neinas said. “We’re going to have to do some adjusting.”

More here. Among other things, we learn that there are no immediate plans to correct their inaccurate name by adding two more schools. Not really clear what their Plan B is in the event WVU is not available and Missouri has said sayonara, but that’s not my problem. In the meantime, Boise State has received clearance to switch conferences.

The Idaho State Board of Education has given Boise State permission to pursue membership with the Big East Conference, a move that would mean more revenue and give the Broncos a clear path to the Bowl Championship Series.

The board voted 7-1 Thursday to give university president Bob Kustra the authority to move Boise State’s football program out of the Mountain West Conference and into the Big East for the 2013 season.

Kustra has had ongoing discussions with Big East representatives, including during a campus visit by conference leaders last week. Boise State has not yet received a formal invitation to join, but Kustra told trustees he expects one to come in the next few days.

There are two issues to be worked out. One is for there to be some western teams to join Boise State in a Big East West division; I suppose if I can handle a ten-team Big XII and a twelve-team Big Ten, I can wrap my mind around a Big East West. Obviously, schools like Air Force, UH, and SMU would fit that bill, presumably along with Louisville and Cincinnati, if they all join in as well. The other issue is a bit stickier:

Negotiations are also taking place to secure conference membership for other Boise State teams. Kustra said he hopes to solidify membership plans with at least one western conference in the next several days. He declined to identify the conference, but said geography is a key ingredient in finding a home for basketball, volleyball, tennis and other sports.

The Bleacher Report suggests that Boise’s old conference, the Big West, would fit the bill for this. They believe BSU to the Big East is all but a done deal. We shall see.

UPDATE: The Big East says “You’re suing me? I’m suing you!”

The Big East filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit against West Virginia on Friday, four days after the university sued the conference in a bid to make a quick exit for the Big 12.

The conference said the lawsuit was filed in Rhode Island Superior Court seeking unspecified damages along with an order requiring West Virginia to stay put for 27 months in compliance with Big East bylaws.

The latest lawsuit underscores the Big East’s position “that it will vigorously pursue the enforcement of its rights and West Virginia University’s obligations,” Big East Commissioner John Marinatto said in a statement.

Marinatto noted West Virginia helped construct the bylaws and formally agreed to them.

Isn’t this fun?

West Virginia sues Big East

The divorce just got ugly.

West Virginia filed a civil lawsuit against the Big East on Monday in an attempt to exit the conference in 2012 to join the Big 12, squarely blaming commissioner John Marinatto for the instability of the conference.

In the 14-page suit filed in Monongalia County Circuit Court in West Virginia, the university claims it should not be held to the 27-month waiting period required of all departing teams. West Virginia alleges, “The Big East Conference and its commissioner, through their actions, breached their contract to WVU and nullified and voided the bylaws.”

How did the Big East breach its contract? West Virginia alleges that nothing was done to protect the remaining six football playing schools once Pitt, Syracuse and TCU left. That created such instability, that the lawsuit alleges Cincinnati, Rutgers and UConn engaged in discussions with the ACC, SEC, Big 12 and Big Ten.

West Virginia alleges Marinatto failed to take proactive measures to “maintain, let alone enhance the quality of competition in the league” and the school had no choice but to accept an invitation to the Big 12.

A copy of the suit is here, and a good explanation of what it’s all about is here; more on WVU joining the Big XII is here. What happens in this case will likely also determine the fates of Syracuse and Pitt, whom the Big East is also trying to hold through the end of the 2013 season. It’s fair to say that this will have a large effect on the college football landscape. Ready to make up your mind about conference affiliation yet, UH?

UPDATE: Meanwhile, the Big East is moving forward on inviting new members, apparently including UH. Something to think about: Currently, the only Big East school ranked in the BCS Top 25 is none other than West Virginia, at #24. Conference USA, with UH at #13 and Southern Miss at #25, now has more BCS-ranked schools than the Big East. Methinks they need UH and Boise State more than UH and Boise State, which could join forces in the proposed C-USA/MWC mega-conference, need them.

It’s official: WVU to Big XII

The Big East takes another body blow.

The Big 12 welcomed West Virginia from the Big East and bid goodbye to Missouri before the Tigers even had a chance to finalize their move to the Southeastern Conference.

Now that the poaching of the Big East seems to be over, the beleaguered league is not backing down. It has been busy courting six schools and says it was braced for the latest loss. And despite what the Big 12 says, the Big East plans to keep West Virginia for two more years — just as it has vowed to keep Pittsburgh and Syracuse away from the Atlantic Coast Conference until 2014.

The latest round of conference realignment appears to be winding down, but tug-o-war over who goes where when likely will take a while to sort out.

The Big 12 completed its work Friday by adding West Virginia to become its easternmost member, joining Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor, TCU and Iowa State.

The Big 12 said it expects to have 10 schools for the 2012-13 season, listing West Virginia but not Missouri, which is expected to complete its move to the SEC any day now.

“I wouldn’t say that there won’t be further expansion,” interim Big 12 Commissioner Chuck Neinas said on a conference call Friday evening. “But our mission was … to move forward with 10 teams at this point. That doesn’t mean that there wouldn’t be further consideration. But right now, we’ve got our house in order. We’ve got everybody signed up. We’re looking forward to a very aggressive conference.”

So for now at least, Louisville will remain in the Big East despite a late push from Sen. Mitch McConnell to push them ahead of West Virginia. The Big East continues to insist that WVU, along with Pittsburgh and Syracuse, will be held to their conference commitment through the end of the 2013 season, but I think we all know that that’s a problem that can be resolved by a judicious application of the checkbook.

Given that, what will the Big East do? The sidebar on this ESPN story says it will continue forward with an expanded version of its expansion plans.

The Big East plans to announce Central Florida, Houston and SMU as future members of the conference, likely in 2013, as early as Tuesday, the source said. Navy and Air Force are being more deliberate and methodical in the process, but the conference is hopeful both soon will follow, along with Boise State.

The conference has statistics it believes shows those six teams in addition to Louisville, Rutgers, UConn, South Florida and Cincinnati would qualify the conference as a continued automatic qualifier for the BCS. As a 12th member, the schools under discussion include BYU, Army, Temple, East Carolina and Memphis. BYU would be part of a logical Western Division of the Big East.

The Big East believes it would qualify for the BCS because of the depth of the football success of proposed teams in terms of Top 25 appearances and an overall lack of traditional bottom-feeding schools.

While some may suggest an independent school like Navy or Air Force could be available as early as next season, a conference official warned that those schools are committed to large schedules for next season that would create complications as challenging as adding a school from a conference that has exit fee and timeline complications.

I think if the Big East gets the schools it wants that it can survive and could continue to be a BCS conference, but it will be a conference of convenience and not much more. I don’t see a whole lot of traditional rivalries in that group, and the ones that I do see all involve newcomers. What will hold anyone to the conference in the event that one or more of the ACC, SEC, and Big XII decide that 14 and 10 members are awkward numbers to schedule around? That’s the decision that UH now faces.

University of Houston Chancellor and President Renu Khator was granted authority to make decisions regarding the school’s athletic conference affiliation during a board of regents meeting on Thursday at UH.

School officials did not publicly discuss any particular conferences. However, the school has interest and an invitation from the Big East Conference, which is looking to expand to 12 football-playing members.

“We certainly want to thank chairperson (Nelda Luce) Blair and the board of regents for their decision to grant our chancellor authority to make any decisions regarding conference membership, conference affiliation that are in the best interests of our student-athletes, staff, head coaches and our athletic department,” UH athletic director Mack Rhoades said.

The timetable for when UH might take its next step in determining its conference future is unclear.

“We’ll wait and see,” Rhoades said.

I think if you feel reasonably certain that the Big East gets all the schools it is targeting, and that the other conferences are satisfied with what they have for the foreseeable future, then you make the move and hope for the best, even if it means that your biggest rivalry game goes the way of UT-A&M. I have no idea how to evaluate those odds, and no idea how risk averse UH will be. I’m just glad it’s not my decision to make.

WVU to Big XII?

The Big XII appears to have a replacement in mind for when Missouri makes its move to the SEC.

The Big 12 has approved bringing in West Virginia to replace Missouri when the Tigers complete their move to the Southeastern Conference, a person with knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because neither the school nor the Big 12 had announced that its board of directors unanimously approved inviting West Virginia when Missouri’s spot comes open.

The move would allow the Big 12 to maintain 10 members and is another blow to the embattled Big East, which already has lost two members and one member-to-be in the last six weeks.

The Big East is trying to reconfigure as a 12-team football league and has been courting Boise State, Navy and Air Force as football-only members and Central Florida, SMU and Houston for all sports. Commissioner John Marinatto met with officials from some of those schools Sunday in Washington.

Since there is no timetable for Missouri to complete its expected departure from the Big 12 — and the league’s board of directors announced that it expressed “a strong desire” for Missouri to stay during a Monday meeting — there is no timetable for West Virginia to receive a formal invitation, the person said.

But the school will accept an invitation once it is offered, the person said.

That news comes at a time when the powers that be at UH are considering their invitation to the Big East, or whatever may be left of it.

UH’s board of regents called for a special meeting at 4 p.m. on Thursday regarding the school’s athletic conference affiliation.

On the meeting agenda is a request for approval to “delegate authority to the Chancellor to negotiate and execute a contract for athletic conference affiliation and to negotiate and provide notice of contract cancellation as necessary.”

The agenda does not specify a particular conference, but a person familiar with the Big East’s expansion discussions told the Chronicle last week that UH received an invitation to the Big East Conference.

If school chancellor and president Renu Khator is granted approval to act on conference affiliation on Thursday, the timetable for when UH might take its next step in determining its conference future is unclear.

“Thursday’s meeting is to give our board members an update on conference realignment as it pertains to the University of Houston,” UH athletic director Mack Rhoades said in a statement. “There is a great deal of speculation out there, and this meeting will allow us to provide our leadership with up-to-date information.”

The NYT says that the schools that were targeted by the Big East had been told about the possibility of WVU departing, so one presumes this is not a surprise. The question is whether it’s the last domino, and if so for how long.

While Big East officials and athletic directors are confident they will rebuild, there are troubling lingering issues. Does Notre Dame risk further Big East defections? It’s reasonable to expect the Big 12 to grow when it renegotiates its ESPN deal, which expires after the 2015 football season. That would put Louisville at risk of getting grabbed.

And Connecticut is yearning to be in the ACC. So again I say there may not be a Big East for anyone to join. Good luck with that decision, y’all.

Big XII targeting Big East schools

There are still more dominoes to fall.

Two high-level Big 12 school administrators said on Sunday the conference expects Missouri to leave and will act quickly to replace the Tigers, focusing primarily on West Virginia with Louisville as a strong second candidate.

“I think that’s accurate,” one school official told the American-Statesman. “I’d say West Virginia is the leader in the clubhouse. I think we’ll come out better than before. I’d rather be with someone who wants to be with our conference than anybody who doesn’t.”

Asked why the Big 12 would be upgraded, the official said, “West Virginia has better football than Missouri, better basketball than Missouri, a better budget than Missouri and more passion among its fans than Missouri. They’re better, anyway you turn ‘em. The travel’s not good (to Morgantown, W. Va) but that’s it.”

He added there is support for Louisville, but said a lagging football program hurts its appeal.

[…]

A second Big 12 school official told the Statesman he prefers Louisville because of its closer proximity and said travel to West Virginia would make for too big a burden on the athletes.

“The only place where there’s an advantage for West Virginia is better football,” the second official said. “Their academics is not as strong. If there’s any thought about what’s best for the student-athlete, we’ll go with Louisville.”

So don’t start printing those “We’re Moving!” cards just yet, UH. It’s still not certain that there will be a Big East for you to move to.

UH to get Big East invitation

Change is coming, one way or another.

UH’s hope of joining an automatic-qualifying Bowl Championship Series conference may soon come to fruition after the Big East Conference extended an invitation to UH on Monday evening.

The league extended an invitation to UH after a conference call on expansion with the Big East’s presidents and chancellors according to a person familiar with the Big East’s expansion discussions.

UH chancellor Renu Khator and athletic director Mack Rhoades will head to New York later this week to meet with Big East officials. UH officials declined comment.

If UH makes the move and leaves Conference USA, it could take effect as early as the 2013 football season and it would be for all sports.

The report that UH has already received an invitation is a bit premature, but the plan is for them to get one. There are a number of “howevers” that come with this. The first is the biggest:

The University of Missouri is heading down a path to join the Southeastern Conference, said a university official with direct knowledge of the situation.

The person said that Missouri’s decision to apply for membership to the SEC was “inevitable and imminent,” although a specific timeframe has yet to be set. Missouri’s Board of Curators will meet on Thursday and Friday at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, where the process of withdrawing from the Big 12 and applying to the SEC is expected to begin. Expansion is not listed on the agenda, but there is a private session scheduled Thursday afternoon and Friday morning.

After it applies, the person said that Missouri expected “no problems” with gathering enough votes among SEC presidents for it to become a member.

What does that have to do with UH and the Big East? This:

A source with direct knowledge of the Big 12’s expansion panel’s plans told ESPN.com’s Andy Katz that if Missouri departs, the Big 12 still must decide if it wants to go to 10 or 12 members. The source said Louisville and West Virginia are two of the top candidates to replace Missouri if it leaves.

Needless to say, if the Big East winds up being the raided instead of the raider, their attempt to expand is likely to fall apart. The Big East did vote to double its exit fee, from $5 million to $10 million, which was supposed to be a sign that the remaining schools were committed to staying. However:

The increase is contingent on Navy and Air Force joining, said another official in the Big East who also asked to not be named because of the sensitive nature of the talks.

Not clear who’s the chicken and who’s the egg here. It should be noted that the Big XII is also targeting BYU as a replacement for Missouri, and that if they get BYU and stop at ten teams, that might be the end of the domino tumbling for now. But there’s still another factor in play.

If Louisville and West Virginia leave, Big East basketball members also could decide that the proposed football additions wouldn’t add enough value on the basketball side and look to split from the remaining football schools.

Notre Dame also will be watching these moves closely since it could decide it’s time to move to a conference, either the ACC or the Big Ten. The ACC, at 14 schools, is believed to be holding a couple of spots open in case Notre Dame decides it’s time to join a conference. Connecticut already has expressed its interest in the ACC.

All these possibilities have been out there for weeks. However, Missouri’s potential move has been viewed all along as a trigger – a much-feared one in Big East circles.

Isn’t this fun? We ought to know in a couple of days what Missouri will do. Raise your hand if you ever believed that Mizzou would someday be the linchpin for all of college football. And finally, as a reminder that the fallout from all of this extends well beyond the schools at the epicenter, UTSA will be sitting by the phone waiting for a call from C-USA in the likely but not yet inevitable event that it needs to refill its membership.

UH to the Big East?

Rumor has it.

The University of Houston could be a part of a Bowl Championship Series automatic-qualifying conference in the near future.

UH is one of six schools that the Big East Conference is targeting for expansion, a person familiar with the conference’s expansion discussions told the Chronicle on Friday.

Air Force, Boise State, Central Florida, Navy and SMU are the other schools being targeted, and the Big East’s presidents and chancellors will conduct a conference call on Monday to further discuss expansion plans, the person said. A timetable for moving forward on expansion is unclear.

UH athletic director Mack Rhoades released a statement in response to the speculation regarding the school’s athletic conference future.

“We are aware of the growing speculation regarding conference realignment and do not feel it would be appropriate to comment on the possible intentions of another league,” the statement read. “We are flattered to be mentioned as an athletics program of national importance and we are grateful for our strong traditions and the dedication of our fans, alumni, staff and student-athletes.”

Adding schools from Idaho, Colorado, and Texas would make the “Big East” about as appropriately named as the “Big XII” and the “Big Ten”, but I don’t suppose anyone cares about that. Meanwhile, Conference USA, which has three schools targeted by the Big East, and the Mountain West, which has two, went forward with its football-only merger plan as defense against that potential raid.

The two leagues expect to merge their football operations into one mega-conference that will probably have between 20 and 24 teams in it when it finally gets going in 2013.

The name? They’ll come up with one.

Will Boise State and Air Force, among others (like UH and SMU), stay? They hope.

“I’m just trying to create stability — greater stability — so we’re not talking about membership issues,” Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson said Friday night on a conference call. Both commissioners, Thompson and Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky, said the new arrangement will provide the security that top programs need to keep them from jumping ship.

By “security” he means “money”, but there is a little more to it than that.

According to a source with direct knowledge about Boise State’s and Air Force’s situations, the conferences went ahead with the alliance when Boise State indicated to the MWC that it didn’t plan to leave the conference.

The source also said Air Force had soured on the Big East deal a bit when Army decided against joining the Big East and Navy became skeptical of the plan.

[…]

Right now, the Big East has only six schools committed to play football in the league beyond this season.

Pittsburgh and Syracuse have announced they will move to the Atlantic Coast Conference, though Big East rules require them to stay in the league for the next two seasons, and Marinatto has said he will hold the Panthers and Orange to that. However, that seems unlikely if the league can’t grow to 12 teams for next season without them.

TCU was slated to join the Big East in 2012, but the Horned Frogs reneged on that commitment and accepted an invitation to the Big 12 last week.

Trying to recruit new members has been tricky for the Big East because its remaining members might also be looking for new conference homes.

Louisville and West Virginia are possible targets for the Big 12 if it needs to replace Missouri, which is pondering a move to the Southeastern Conference, or decides to expand back to 12 teams.

Connecticut has interest in joining the ACC if it expands again, and there has been speculation about Rutgers moving, too.

Remember that only UH, SMU, and Central Florida were invited for all sports by the Big East, so Boise State and Air Force would have to find another conference for their others sports if they went with that invitation. At this point, I think you have to consider everything to be written on sand. Nobody really knows what’s going to happen next.

TCU to join Big XII

For now. Until something better comes along, of course.

TCU accepted an invitation to join the Big 12 on Monday night, seizing an opportunity to be a part of a conference with natural geographic rivals despite the league’s recent instability.

The board of trustees unanimously approved the move and Chancellor Victor Boschini Jr. made the expected announcement in front a packed room of more than 200 people. Athletic director Chris Del Conte fought back tears as he recalled receiving the phone call from the Horned Frogs’ new conference last week.

“This is living proof that dreams do come true,” he said.

They’re quitting the Big East before ever officially joining it, thus becoming the Britney Spears and Jason Alexander of college football. (I’ll leave it to you to decide if that means that the Big XII is K-Fed.)

The move could provide some much-needed stability for the Big 12, which lost Nebraska (Big Ten) and Colorado (Pac-12) over the summer and will lose Texas A&M to the Southeastern Conference next year. Missouri is also exploring a move to the SEC.

Yes, we’ll see how long that stability lasts. And if the SEC ever wags a finger at TCU, don’t get between them and the exit clause. Now we wait to see who the Big East will go after to fill the holes left by TCU, Syracuse, and Pittsburgh. Everyone in Conference USA, either brush up your resumes or hold onto your seats.

Missouri on the move?

Still no stability for the Big XII.

It wasn’t too long ago that Missouri chancellor Brady Deaton spoke of “working every day to hold the Big 12 together.” Now he’s been tasked with helping decide whether the Tigers are the latest program to leave a troubled conference fighting for its future.

University curators voted unanimously Tuesday night to consider leaving the Big 12 instead of committing to the league for the long term. The governing board’s members agreed unanimously after a 4-hour closed meeting at the system’s St. Louis campus to give Deaton authority to look elsewhere, specifically “any and all actions necessary to fully explore options on conference affiliation….which best serve the (school’s) interest.”

And Deaton, the conference’s public face through its recent turmoil, is resigning as chairman of the Big 12’s board of directors to avoid the obvious conflict of interest.

Just one day earlier, the conference announced that presidents and chancellors of the remaining nine members — including Deaton — had agreed to equal revenue sharing and to seek approval from each university to hand over the most lucrative television rights to the conference for six years.

Now it looks as if the Big 12 might be losing two members for the second straight year.

“The University of Missouri is a member in good standing in the Big 12 Conference, and I anticipate the University will continue to be a member of the Big 12,” interim Big 12 Commissioner Chuck Neinas said in a statement released soon after Missouri announced its intentions.

[…]

Speculation has centered on a possible Missouri move to the Southeastern Conference, which recently agreed to accept Texas A&M from the Big 12 starting next year

Deaton declined to specifically answer a reporter’s question about interest in the SEC on either the school’s part or the other conference. He said there is no timetable for the decision, whether by a self-imposed deadline or a Big 12 loyalty demand.

“We’re going to be exploring options generally and will be making no comments about specific areas where we have begun to look at,” he said.

Conceivably, Missouri could remain in the Big 12, Deaton said, but the Tigers are officially on the market now. And the SEC could use a 14th member to balance a league that now has an odd number of teams.

“We certainly are not ruling out continuing in the Big 12,” he said. “But we want to be sure to do what is best for our university.”

That boat sure has a lot of leaks, doesn’t it? It’s unclear at this point if or when an invitation for Missouri to join the SEC might come; they are wrestling with how to preserve rivalries in the event of another western school joining. Who knows how long that might take? In the interim, the Big XII is now seeking to expand as well.

Leaders of the Big 12 Conference cleared the way Thursday to add TCU, a move that would bring in a rising program and potentially shore up a league that seemed ready to fall apart just a few weeks ago.

The Big 12’s presidents and chancellors voted unanimously to authorize negotiations with the Horned Frogs, who play in Fort Worth, Texas, and boast the defending Rose Bowl champion.

TCU was planning to leave the Mountain West for the Big East next year, though the Big East is reeling from the loss of Pittsburgh and Syracuse to the ACC.

TCU Chancellor Victor Boschini Jr. suggested a move to the Big 12 might be a better decision for his school, a former member of the old Southwest Conference that once included current Big 12 members Texas, Texas Tech and Baylor. It also included Texas A&M, which is leaving the Big 12 for the SEC next year.

“These discussions with the Big 12 have huge implications for TCU,” Boschini said. “It will allow us to return to old rivalries, something our fans and others have been advocating for years. As always, we must consider what’s best for TCU and our student-athletes in this ever-changing landscape of collegiate athletics. We look forward to continuing these discussions with the Big 12.”

More here and here. The Big XII, assuming it continues to exist as a viable entity, is surely a better option for TCU, which is to conference affiliation what Liz Taylor was to marriage. Never mind the Big East’s own issues with volatility, the Frogs’ travel budget will be much more manageable in the Big XII. One wonders if the Big XII will look for another school to invite in the event Mizzou bolts. And one wonders how embarrassing it would be in the event TCU says “thanks, but no thanks” to the Big XII. Has that ever happened to a BCS conference before now? Anyway, the ongoing drama of As The Conferences Turn seems unlikely to end any time soon.

UT will start conference shopping

More dominoes.

University of Texas President William Powers Jr. was given the authority Monday to explore changing conferences, and Texas will seriously consider trying to join the Pacific-12 and the Atlantic Coast conferences if not other possibilities, sources close to the realignment discussions told the American-Statesman and business partner Hookem.com.

Powers was given the charge of leading Texas’ realignment search following an hour-plus long executive session meeting of the UT regents. Powers has the authority to keep Texas in the Big 12, but any recommendations to move to another conference would have to be approved by regents.

That regents authorized Powers was not a surprise in a month that has already been full of them in college athletics. The landscape there appears to be shifting to super conferences, raising the question of whether the already-diminished Big 12 can survive even with the continued support of the Longhorns.

Oklahoma gave its president even more authority to act on realignment during its regents’ meeting Monday, and Oklahoma State regents will meet Wednesday. OU could be the school that petitions the Pac-12 for membership soon and possibly lead Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State on the path to join as well, sources said.

[…]

All sources say the process could still be an extended one and take anywhere from one to three weeks because of the sensitivity of the talks and the complexity of the issues. Texas remains keenly interested in preserving its Longhorn Network , but conference membership elsewhere will make that a thorny problem.

On Monday, Powers called the conference consideration an “ongoing process” and then quickly ducked into an elevator without answering questions from reporters.

OU president David Boren was more talkative. He acknowledged that if OU left the Big 12, it would focus mainly on the Pac-12 and said the school has had “very warm, very receptive,” conversations with that conference.

Boren, however, said, the OU board’s directive “is not a Texas A&M-like situation.” He added, “This is not an announcement that we are leaving for the Pac-12. … No one should read into today that we have made a decision.”

But you’re sure as heck thinking about it. Whatever UT and OU may be thinking about, the PAC 12 is not on the menu at this time.

The Pacific 12 Conference released a statement Tuesday night saying it was not pursuing expansion plans at this time.

“After careful review we have determined that it is in the best interests of our member institutions, student-athletes and fans to remain a 12-team conference,” Commissioner Larry Scott said in the statement.

The decision came after Scott met with conference presidents.

Of course, as we know with the SEC and Texas A&M, “not at this time” does not mean “forever”. Word was that not all PAC 12 schools were on board with further expansion, which most likely means they didn’t think they were getting enough out of what had been proposed so far. I’m sure not ready to say that the wheels have stopped spinning just yet.

Be that as it may, if the PAC-12 doesn’t work out, another possible landing spot for UT could be the increasingly-misnamed Atlantic Coast Conference, which added Syracuse and Pittsburgh to its roster for the 2014 season. Why the ACC? There would be no obstacle to UT keeping the Longhorn Network under its existing rules. The ACC is now up to 14 members, so one presumes they only have two more slots available, if they are still looking to expand.

The potential shuffling at the top has those not at the top considering their options as well.

The Big East and Big 12 might join together in their fight for survival.

School and conference officials from the two leagues have been discussing ways to merge what’s left of them if Texas and Oklahoma leave the Big 12, a person involved in the discussions told The Associated Press.

[…]

If the Big 12 loses Texas, OU, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, it would leave Missouri, Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas and Kansas State scrambling.

Without Syracuse and Pittsburgh, the Big East still has six football members: Cincinnati, Connecticut, South Florida, Rutgers, Louisville and West Virginia. Plus, TCU is slated to join in 2012, giving the Big East a presence in Big 12 country.

[…]

Also talking about a merger is the Mountain West Conference and Conference USA. Mountain West Conference Commissioner Craig Thompson told the Idaho Statesmen that he and CUSA Commissioner Britton Banowsky “resurrected this consolidation concept with Conference USA from a football-only standpoint.”

A union between those schools could create one BCS automatic qualifying league, but there’s no guarantee some of those schools won’t also look elsewhere.

There’s no guarantees of anything except more chaos and the pursuit of the almighty dollar. It’s even possible that the Big XII could remain intact, if the right terms are met.

Texas has never wavered in its hopes to keep the Big 12 afloat, but is equally determined to keep its lucrative Longhorn Network.

But on Tuesday, a high-ranking Oklahoma school administrator said the school would consider staying put in the Big 12 if Texas agrees to a “reformed” version of the conference that includes changes to the Longhorn Network and if Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe was removed, The Oklahoman newspaper reported.

“It’s going to take major, major reforms,” the source told The Oklahoman as conditions for staying put. “We’d have to have an interim commissioner.”

Tune in tomorrow when everything you know today may prove to be wrong.

UPDATE: Long live the Big XII! Until something better comes along, anyway.

TCU to the Big East

Can’t say that this was unexpected, given that TCU changes conferences more often than some people change clothes.

TCU, located “Where the West Begins,” is headed east. To the Big East Conference, to be exact.

The school announced Monday that it has accepted an invitation to join the conference in 2012. All sports will participate in the Big East.

TCU has competed in the Mountain West Conference since 2005 and will remain in the league for the 2011-2012 school year.

Rumors of the move have been circulating since September, but TCU wasn’t officially asked to join the conference until Sunday evening.

Father John Jenkins, the Notre Dame chancellor and chairman of the Big East Executive Committee, made the offer to TCU Athletic Director Chris Del Conte by phone.

TCU’s Board of Trustees, knowing the offer was coming, held an emergency meeting Monday morning and voted unanimously to accept.

Since the breakup of the Southwest Conference in 1995, TCU has been in the WAC, C-USA, and the Mountain West. You have to figure that if the Big XII comes calling some day, they’ll be receptive to yet another move.

Is it a good move for them? Well, it means that they’ll have a guaranteed shot at a BCS bowl every year, at least until 2014 when the current agreement expires. Beyond that, it’s a good question.

[U]sually when a school makes a major change like the one TCU is announcing today, it can at least try to sell the idea that it’s good for all the sports at the school.

This one seems strictly designed for men’s football.

We know that TCU is no powerhouse in men’s basketball. It’s going to play in the Big East with UConn and Louisville and Syracuse and Pitt and the rest of those big boys? Good luck.

As for women’s sports and the smaller men’s sports, the travel through the Big East would seem to be prohibitive although there was obviously some very difficult travel in the Mountain West as well.

But I think without question this is being done strictly for the opportunity to pursue an automatic BCS bid…which hasn’t really been a problem for TCU lately, anyway. The Frogs are going to the Rose Bowl this year. Outside of playing in the BCS national championship game, the stage doesn’t get any bigger than the Rose Bowl.

I realize that Frogs fans believe their team is just as deserving of that national championship game as Oregon or Auburn. I get that. But this move doesn’t get rid of the possibility of being left out of the title game in the future.

If everything was the same with Oregon and Auburn this season and TCU was just finishing an unbeaten run against the likes of Rutgers and Cincinnati and their new Big East foes, wouldn’t the Frogs still be, in all likelihood, No. 3 behind the Ducks and Tigers?

I would think so.

For what it’s worth, the highest BCS ranking of any Big East school is West Virginia at #24, though it’s Connecticut that has the edge in getting to a BCS bowl this year. I have to figure that if there were a real college football playoff, this move would be less likely to happen, as TCU would have its shot at a championship and wouldn’t have to worry about being passed over by forces beyond its control.

I dunno, I mostly think of the Big East as a basketball conference. As far as that goes, it won’t be pretty for the newcomers.

TCU spent the past five seasons as an also-ran in the Mountain West; its best finish was seventh (at 6-10) in 2007-08. Its highest rating in kenpom.com’s adjusted efficiency rankings during that stretch was 124th, in ’08-09. Because the efficiency rankings are best way evaluate teams from different leagues on the same plane, we can use them to project where TCU would’ve ranked in the Big East from 2006-10:

2009-10:
TCU Efficiency Ranking: 178
Big East Teams with lower efficiency rankings: 0 (Closest: No. 172 DePaul, No. 156 Rutgers)

2008-09:
TCU Efficiency Ranking: 124
Big East Teams with lower efficiency rankings: 3 (No. 135 South Florida, No. 141 Rutgers, No. 198 DePaul)

2007-08:
TCU Efficiency Ranking: 169
Big East Teams with lower efficiency rankings: 0 (Closest: No. 164 Rutgers, No. 126 St. John’s)

2006-07:
TCU Efficiency Ranking: 152
Big East Teams with lower efficiency rankings: 1 (No. 166 Rutgers)

2005-06:
TCU Efficiency Ranking: 229
Big East Teams with lower efficiency rankings: 0 (Closest: No. 162 South Florida, No. 108 St. John’s)

Those numbers indicate that the Big East is adding a team that would have finished 17th, 14th, 17th, 16th and 17th, respectively, in the league over the past five years. TCU’s ’09-10 team was, improbably, worse than the DePaul squad that went 1-17 in conference play that season. The Horned Frogs give the league a new TV market (Dallas-Fort Worth, which is the nation’s fifth-largest), but they will not make for quality hoops TV.

And that’s before you consider scheduling and tournament issues. Obviously, the Frogs can strive to improve their hoops program – they’ve done all right with football, after all – but it could be ugly for awhile. Anyway, congrats to TCU for finally getting what they want, at least until something better comes along.