What's next for the Big 12 and the Big East?
The conference realignment arms race continued on Thursday when the Big 12 announced that it has "authorized negotiations with TCU to become the conference's tenth member." The Horned Frogs, of course, were set to enter the Big East next season and really give the league the boost it has needed since the league lost Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College to the ACC.
"These discussions with the Big 12 have huge implications for TCU," TCU chancellor Victor 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."
Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds and Oklahoma president David Boren both publicly supported the addition of TCU, so the Big 12 now must wait on Missouri to decide whether it is committed to the league or if the SEC is in its future. The Tigers really want to land in the Big Ten, but Jim Delany's league is not interested in the Tigers.
Let's take a look at how the TCU move affects both the Big 12 and the Big East.
ICONGary Patterson and the Horned Frogs are headed for the Big 12.
With the addition of TCU, the Big 12 would get back to 10 members heading into next season. The conference was sitting at nine with Texas A&M set to leave for the SEC. However, it appears that Missouri is set to join the Aggies and bolt the Big 12 for the SEC. Thus, the league would drop back to nine members. Which school would be best positioned to be No. 10? BYU, Louisville, West Virginia and Cincinnati have been mentioned most prominently, and according to Dave Sittler of the Tulsa World, Louisville would be next in line for an invite. However, West Virginia could have a slight edge because it is a better television draw. That would further deplete the Big East, a league that was primed to remain relevant despite losing Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the ACC. It is also possible that the Big 12 endorses a move to go back to 12 teams, so any of those aforementioned teams -- and, hell, perhaps even a new school -- could join the Cardinals by accepting an invite to the Big 12.
The Big East's remaining members are actively pursuing conference affiliation elsewhere, knowing full well that their league is taking on water. The league has dwindled to six football-playing members — Connecticut, Rutgers, Cincinnati, South Florida, Louisville and West Virginia. Before the TCU news, Louisville officials were doing their best to keep the league together, but even schools such as Rutgers and Connecticut have been flirting with other conferences. The loss of the Horned Frogs really hurts Big East commissioner John Marinatto as he tries to improve his product. It's just hard to blame the Horned Frogs for this decision. Geographically, it makes all the sense in the world to move to the Big 12. And the money doesn't hurt either. So how does the Big East respond? This league cannot survive with more football defections, but the Big 12 situation may have to play itself out first because Marinatto will have a hard time stabilizing his league in these uncertain times. We know that Air Force and Navy were top choices to be added for football, but it appears now that schools such as Central Florida, Temple and East Carolina could be considered depending on how many football-playing members are left.
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