Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Big ... East?

In a move that made no sense geographically, TCU has decided to become a member of the Big East conference. (That's Texas Christian University, by the way, located in Ft. Worth, Texas, where the city motto says, "The West starts here").

But it made a lot of sense for other reasons, primarily because TCU wants to join the big boys in college football. The Horned Frogs have been shut out of the BCS title game the past two seasons, despite going undefeated in the regular season both times. They figured the Big East's automatic bid was the end run they needed, especially when Connecticut is currently favored to go to the BCS this year as the Big East representative with a 7-4 record.

What does the Big East get out of this deal, besides a school 1,400 miles away from conference headquarters in New York? Recruiting and TV exposure--the two big bywords today in conference expansion. Big East schools can now get a toehold in the rich Texas recruiting area; more importantly, they "get" (if that's the right word) the 5th-ranked Dallas-Ft. Worth television market, although it's hard to believe that folks there would watch TCU play Rutgers in football as opposed to teams from the Big XII.

TV money, markets and exposure are driving conference expansion, which is why other schools like Memphis, who were begging to get into the Big East, couldn't even get a look. As Susan Powter, the one-time weight loss guru used to say, it's time to "stop the insanity." TCU belongs in the Big East about as much as Texas does in the Big 10, which courted the Longhorns hard over the summer.

You can't blame TCU for following the money and grabbing a chance to get into a big BCS game. But what happens when the Horned Frog football program starts to bottom out, which has pretty much been its history for most of the last 70 years? The answer to all this seems to be a college football playoff, which would not only be a television bonanza for schools, but also end this game of conference musical chairs which threatens the stability, and credibility, of college athletics.


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