- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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With a day now to digest the news that TCU is joining the Big East in 2012, here are five additional thoughts:
1. You're on the clock, Villanova: The Wildcats are employing their due diligence in deciding whether to take the leap into FBS football, as they should. But clearly, the TCU move speeds things up. As John Marinatto told me on Monday, the league expects a decision no later than April. But when I asked the commissioner if that might be too late, he answered, "It might be."
I don't think the Big East wants to stop at nine, and if it gets tired of waiting for Villanova (which couldn't join the Big East until 2014 anyway because of a two-year NCAA provisional period), the conference may just move on to another school like Central Florida.
2. How's that for proactive?: The No. 1 complaint I heard from fans all summer was that the Big East was sitting around doing nothing but waiting for the axe to fall. Clearly, that wasn't the case, as the league had been studying its options and trying to build a consensus among its wildly diverse membership for months.
And, boy, did things move fast at the end. Pitt basketball coach Jamie Dixon first proposed the idea to TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte while Dixon attended the TCU-Baylor football game on Sept. 18. Dixon then brought the idea back to Marinatto, and league officials started kicking it around. On Nov. 2, the Big East announced it would expand. On Nov. 29, TCU officially joined.
3. Nothing to lose: I've heard some people describe this as a gamble or a short-term fix, and that the Big East could be saddled with an awkward partner if TCU hits a down cycle. True, but I look at it as an aggressive move worth the risk. Name me one other team not currently in a BCS AQ conference that brings as much cachet as TCU. The only possible answer is Boise State, and if you think Texas is a reach geographically, try Idaho.
Hey, maybe in the long term this doesn't work out. But who knows what the conference landscape will even look like in five years? Better to be aggressive and aim high. Plus, we know TCU won't be afraid to jump to another league if need be, since the Horned Frogs have now been a part of five conferences since 1995.
4. Timing is everything: The Big East was smart to finalize this deal over the Thanksgiving weekend when people were distracted, allowing the league to get it done under a cloak of secrecy. But more importantly, the Monday announcement was clever coming off TCU just finishing a second straight 12-0 season. The Big East got plenty of publicity on a slow news day and will capitalize on the Horned Frogs' attention when they land a BCS berth this Sunday. And if criticism comes for an 8-4 Connecticut team claiming a BCS bid, the league can point to TCU in the Rose Bowl and say, "Go Big East."
One more bit of fortuitous timing: TCU will join in 2012. The Big East's current TV deal expires in 2013.
5. Geography is nothing: I spent Saturday night watching one of the classic rivalries in college football: USC vs. Notre Dame. Remind me again how close those two schools are.
Sure, most rivalries are born of proximity, like the good old fashioned hate-fest I witnessed Friday between West Virginia and Pittsburgh. But in the Internet age, no corner of the globe seems all that far away. Louisville and TCU played some heated games back in their Conference USA days, and as long as the Horned Frogs are good, then rivalries will quickly develop. Look at how South Florida and West Virginia has quickly become intense based solely on the competitiveness of that series. If TCU can maintain this current level of performance, it will be a major event whenever the Horned Frogs come into Morgantown and Piscataway and Syracuse.
Football travel really is a non-issue. Most teams travel by charter anyway, and Dallas is a major hub that fans can easily get to for road games. There will be more difficulty in travel expenses and rivalry-building for basketball and other sports. But they won't complain when a larger TV contract means more dollars for their athletic departments. (And men's basketball coaches get a breather on their rugged schedules, because TCU basketball is terrible).
If we learned one thing the past six months, it's that football is the only thing that matters. Even more than geography.