Ok, for those of you that haven’t followed this most recent round of conference expansions closely, here’s a brief summary. Try to keep up.
Texas Christian University, of Fort Worth, announced today that it will join the Big East in 2012 as a full member, which will give the conference a total of 17 teams, with nine playing football. A tenth is likely, as the Big East awaits the decision by charter Big East member Villanova, which currently plays football as part of the I-AA Colonial Athletic Association. Good luck trying to figure out the scheduling and tournament format in basketball for a 17-team conference.
TCU will exit the Mountain West Conference, which seemed only a slightly less-ridiculous regional affiliation than being in the heart of the Southwest as part of the Big East, which already extends into the heart of the Midwest (Milwaukee, Chicago). Since the Southwestern Conference dissolved in 1995, TCU has been a part of the WAC, C-USA and MWC.
This is merely the most recent move in the latest round of conference expansions that reaches as far back as two decades, when the conference elite (and, of course, Notre Dame) began re-defining the structure for college football decadence that ushered in the trend away from numerous regional affiliations towards fewer, elite super-conferences. For the Big East, this is simply strategic, a key survival move to secure its seat at the BCS table when agreements are renegotiated in a few years.
It was inevitable after the ACC raided the Big East in 2004 to stretch its boundaries from northern Florida to the Mid-Atlantic to now cover the entire Atlantic seaboard from Miami to Boston. The Big East was so appalled and furious by the audacity of such action that it responded with its own impudent raid of Conference USA and extended its footprint into Kentucky, Florida, Wisconsin, and Illinois.
After a few quiet years of speculation without action, this past summer is when it finally got quite interesting.
Nebraska didn’t like being subject to Texas, so Tom Osborne & Co. decided the Cornhuskers fit more comfortably in the Big Ten. But not before Colorado had decided it was better suited – i.e., easier to compete – away from Bevo and Boomer Sooner as part of the Pac-10. Boise State escaped the WAC in favor of the MWC with hopes of joining forces with TCU and BYU to eventually taste the royalty of Automatic Qualifier status. But just as quickly, BYU seceded from the MWC in favor of independence, where, like Notre Dame (and eventually Texas), it could secure its own lucrative TV contract (and in BYU’s case, it seems, a platform for promoting LDS).
The Pac-10 and Big Ten each wanted Texas, who eventually wound up staying at home in the Big XII, but only after managing to secure its own independent TV deal, which is all it really wanted anyway, and in fact is the only reason Notre Dame is still a football independent and partial member of the Big East. In addition to Colorado, the Pac-10 also wanted a few of the Big XII Texas Schools plus Oklahoma, while at one point it appeared as if Oklahoma and Texas A&M might join the SEC, which was also apparently considering Florida State and Virginia Tech; meanwhile, the Big Ten also considered Pittsburgh, Rutgers, and Maryland.
So, in summary: The Big East will now expand to 10 teams – still not enough to stage a conference championship game – and its footprint will extend further west than the Big Ten’s. The Big Ten, which had 11 teams, and considered as many as 16, now has 12. The once-mighty Big XII now has 10 teams and will forego a championship game after apparently deciding against adding TCU and perhaps Boise State or maybe even Memphis (at least for now). The Pac-10 will become the Pac-12 after notoriously failing to become the Pac-16, doubling its number of landlocked schools to four – Arizona, Arizona State and now Utah and Colorado. The SEC never really wanted to expand, because, well, it doesn’t really need to, but would have done so out of necessity.
Like the SEC, thankfully this time around the ACC remained unchanged. After all, Swofford got Boston College and Miami back in 2005, and really, what more could we ask?