Thursday, October 6, 2011
TCU discusses Big 12 invite
By Richard Durrett and Jeff Caplan
TCU athletic officials and the board of trustees spoke Thursday about an invitation to join the Big 12, and the trustees are expected to meet Friday or early next week, according to sources close to the negotiations. Even if TCU does decide to join the conference, the Big 12 might not be done expanding.
The Big 12 voted earlier Thursday to invite TCU into the conference and the school is expected to accept, according to sources. No announcement has been scheduled. TCU chancellor Victor Boschini Jr. issued a statement neither confirming nor denying the school was going to the Big 12.
"These discussions with the Big 12 have huge implications for TCU," the statement said. "It will allow us to return to old rivalries, something our fans and others have been advocating for many 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."
The school, which had rivalries with Big 12 schools Texas, Texas Tech and Baylor when they all were members of the Southwest Conference, said it would have no further comment Thursday.
TCU, the defending Rose Bowl champion, agreed earlier this year to leave the Mountain West Conference after this season for the Big East, which has an automatic BCS berth.
The Mountain West has been told that TCU is leaving for the Big 12 as well, pending TCU board of regents approval, according to a MWC spokesperson.
The source told ESPNDallas.com that TCU would have to pay the $5 million exit fee from the Big East but could join the Big 12 in time for the 2012-13 athletic year. A source with knowledge of the Big East's situation said the league is prepared to see TCU leave before it ever plays a game.
The Big East, which would be left with six football programs because Syracuse and Pittsburgh have already announced moves to the ACC, had no comment, but its member schools were aware of the danger a TCU move would mean for the league when it comes to football.
The New York Times reported late Thursday that Big East presidents planned a conference call on Friday morning to talk about expansion. The league had hoped to court Navy and Air Force, the newspaper reported. East Carolina, Central Florida and Temple, The Times reported, would like to be considered by the conference.
Connecticut president Susan Herbst called college realignment a "fluid situation."
"It is important that none of us here at UConn become too anxious over this situation," Herbst said. "We will continue to monitor the national landscape and be in communication with officials from other schools and leaders from around the country."
The Big 12 released a statement confirming the invitation and saying that negotiations will begin immediately with TCU. The University of Missouri did not participate in the vote on the advice of legal counsel.
The Big 12 lost Nebraska (Big Ten) and Colorado (Pac-12) over the summer and will lose Texas A&M to the SEC next year. Missouri also is exploring options to leave the Big 12.
While Oklahoma president David L. Boren said Thursday that "there could be other additions in the future," sources told ESPN.com's Andy Katz that the Big 12 will hold at 10 until it knows what Missouri will do.
The next two schools on the Big 12's list for possible expansion are Louisville and West Virginia, but not necessarily both. Louisville is closer geographically but West Virginia's football is a stronger pull. There is still no consensus within the Big 12 on whether the league will go to 10 or 12 schools long-term. A number of sources expect a Missouri-SEC decision in some form within a week, which would then allow for the Big 12 to make its next move.
Big 12 members praised the move to invite TCU.
"We're proud that TCU has been invited to join the Big 12," Texas AD DeLoss Dodds said in a statement. "Their commitment to academics and success on the field make them an excellent fit. With a solid budget and strong financial support, they have been proactive at improving facilities. Their close proximity to all conference institutions makes for a comfortable travel situation."
Boren added: "TCU is an excellent choice as a new member of the conference. They bring strong athletics and academic credentials and were enthusiastically and unanimously supported by all of the members of the conference."
According to a Big 12 source, the conference got more "expert information about fit/value/enhancement to our league," late Wednesday. The Big 12 knew of TCU's keen interest.
"There wasn't any reason to wait if we knew it would be the right choice," said the source, who added that "additional expansion is still possible."
TCU is undergoing a $143 million modernizing renovation to Amon G. Carter Stadium, which will seat close to 50,000 when completed. It's expected to be ready for the 2012 opener. TCU's ticket office has received calls asking for 2012 season tickets.
TCU, which got left out of the Big 12 when the league was formed in 1996, would join Baylor as the Big 12's only private schools.
A move to the Big 12 would also be a financial windfall for TCU.
Big 12 chancellors and presidents have agreed to equally share revenue from the conference's most lucrative television deals if member schools agree to give those top-tier rights to the league for at least six years. The agreement is subject to approval by university governing boards.
The revenue-sharing plan would give each school about $20 million in June and that figure is expected to grow by 2013 when the league's new 13-year contract with Fox Sports kicks in. The Big 12's contract with ABC/ESPN expires in 2016 and likely will bring in additional money when renegotiated.
Kansas chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said the school supports both the TCU invitation and the agreement on revenue sharing.
"The Big 12 board's approval of equal revenue sharing and the granting of television rights to the conference demonstrate a commitment to the Big 12 by its member universities. This is an outcome KU has sought throughout this process, and it is one that I've been seeking as a member of the conference's stability working group."
Richard Durrett and Jeff Caplan are reporters and columnists for ESPNDallas.com. Information from ESPN.com's Andy Katz and The Associated Press was used in this report.