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Tuesday, September 20, 2011
TCU, Gary Patterson and superconferences

By Jeff Caplan

It's bad enough in this super-intelligent age of tablet computers and calculators right there on your cell phone that college athletic conferences -- with the notable exception of those bright minds at the Pac-12 -- clearly don't place a premium on the fundamental ability to count correctly.

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And now, school presidents, chancellors and athletic directors offer Greed 101 to impressionable students as they scramble to find conference zip codes flush with cash and eternal stability all the while trampling on the very core values they espouse. Well, it has all gone too far.

TCU coach Gary Patterson on Tuesday said this seemingly unending and unnerving game of musical conference chairs -- one that again has the gypsy-like Horned Frogs fretting after less than a year of relative security awaiting entrance into the now crumbling Big East Conference -- is sending very poor messages.

"We’re trying to teach every day, we’re trying to teach kids to do the right things and make good decisions and do things for the right reasons; don’t do them because of financial [gain], and then everything they read we do it opposite," Patterson said, whose 'we' references all those schools bolting and contemplating bolting. "So, we’ll see how it all goes."

TCU, of course, is poised to bolt the Mountain West Conference for what it believes to be all the right reasons -- finally an AQ-status conference for Patterson's football team to easier access the coveted BCS bowl games. Now, who knows? By the end of the week the Big East might be swirling the big drain.

TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte is in New York for a Tuesday night meeting with officials from the six remaining Big East football-playing schools. It is possible, but not confirmed, that TCU president Victor Boschini will also be present. Del Conte has not returned a phone message. Boschini's location was not divulged by a TCU official, only to say he will not be available for the duration of Tuesday.

"I think we’re going to end up well," Patterson said. "Before this is all said and done, I think we’re going to be in a good position and all you got to do is understand where you’re at and how you do things. I don’t see us being any less of a commodity than we were last year when we were taken the first time. I think we’ll just keep doing what we do."

The first time, though, the Big East placed heavy value on TCU's addition. The formidable basketball league was a football laughingstock among the six BCS conferences. The Frogs were viewed as the heavy to improve the league's image and competitiveness.

Now, if we are headed to superconferences -- and Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State to the Pac-16 (again, they are good counters out west) would set in a motion a race for the SEC, Big Ten and ACC to fill out their 16-team rosters -- would TCU be attractive to any of the Almighty Four?

If the Big 12 dissolves, the Big East and Big 12 have talked of a merger of survivors. But would a reconfigured Big East or Big 12 -- whichever name it chooses really doesn't matter -- be granted AQ status after their BCS contract expires in 2014? This is the great unknown. Perhaps worse, what if the Big 12 survives yet again and superconferences are again off the table? Then what of a shrunken Big East and TCU's options?

Patterson said he is no fan of 16-team conferences, having been a part of one in the over-expanded WAC during TCU's early wanderings after the demise of the Southwest Conference.

"To be honest with you," Patterson said of that WAC, "I didn’t really like it very much."

Well, this time Patterson might not have to worry about a 16-team conference, although I'm guessing he'd sure rather have that problem than the one that appears to be coming.

It's all enough to make your head spin and why Patterson likely preferred to talk about Saturday's home opponent, Portland State. To start  his weekly media session Patterson reminded that there is a football season going on in the midst of realignment season.

"Right now, I’ve got a lot of other things I need to take care of, so that’s my job," he said. "If I don’t win then I won’t get a chance to worry about what conference TCU’s in."