Today came the announcement that Texas Christian University(TCU) will join the Big East Conference in all sports as of July 1, 2012. This carries more signifigance for its football program however, since TCU has been playing in the Mountain West Conference which is not one of the six conferences whose champion is an automatic qualifier for the BCS bowl series. TCU’s football team has been ranked in the top 10 the past three seasons. Last year, despite their record, and that of Boise State, another non-qualifier, they were not matched in a bowl against any of the BCS schools but instead met its fellow non-qualifier in the Fiesta Bowl.

            Here is a report from the Mountaineer angle with comments from WVU President James Clements, Athletic Director Oliver Luck, Head Football Coach Bill Stewart, Head Men’s Basketball Coach Bob Huggins and Head Coach for women’s basketball Mike Carey. 

            For the story from the TCU perspective read this:

              Reportedly Villanova has also been asked to have its football program to move up to the FBS or football bowl subdivision of 1A programs from the FCS or football championship subdivision. That is the former 1AA part that does conduct playoffs for its champion. Marshall was a power in that division prior to turning 1A or FBS around 12 years ago. Villanova has long been a member of the Big East in basketball and other sports.

           Since that now pushes the number of basketball playing schools to 17, an unwieldy number, there is much speculation that perhaps DePaul or Marquette from the far western geographical fringe of the current lineup be asked to leave.

            I have suggested this previously but I advocate demanding Notre Dame join the conference for football. They presently are a member for basketball and the non-revenue sports. While competitive for the most part, Notre Dame’s presence adds nothing to the extremely strong basketball lineup. Contrarily, though Notre Dame remains independent in football, it, too, is a part of the BCS system. While I am not familiar with all the quirks involved, essentially if certain conditions are met, Notre Dame can replace a Big East school in the BCS series or tie-ins with lesser bowls. I believe that to be patently unfair.

             The main argument that I have heard or read against demanding a full commitment from the Irish is that they have the clout with their reputation and TV money to ignore such demands, but even if they were inclined toward conference play they would definitely not choose  the Big East. So be it. Call their bluff. Their other sports programs derive great benefit from the association with the Big East, while the conference receives  little or no benefit in return.

            If Notre Dame would elect to stay in the Big East and have its football team join, that would still mean 17 basketball schools so one of the other projected scenarios would have to be invoked. And the conference wouldn’t need Villanova football, unless it were to add yet another team, a twelfth, so a conference playoff could be established. I won’t hold my breath because, despite its football woes in recent years, there are many who still believe in the storied Notre Dame cachet.

              There has also been mild speculation that Boston College would welcome a return to the Big East. Its football program has fallen on hard times. It certainly has a better geographical fit with its former conference mates. I am aware of no credible reports, however, that such a move is in the works.

              Maryland could be another option. A one-time yearly rival of WVU which just this year returned to its schedule, would bring the D.C. TV market along. An occasional power in ACC basketball, it still does not have the tradition and consistent high rankings of many of the other ACC members. However, it likely could be as competitive in the Big East in basketball as it has been in the ACC. The Big East has a few schools which are annually ranked in the top 25 such as UConn, Syracuse and Pitt with kind of a rotation of several others who make frequent appearances there. Maryland somewhat fits that same profile.

              I personally would like to see Kentucky on WVU’s football schedule on a regular basis. Although not a top tier SEC football school, it generally wins enough and has some star players that a win over them as a SEC  representative would mean more as out of conference competition that a win over Coastal Carolina. If further conference realignment comes, UK would be an excellent fit for the Big East, especially so for basketball. There would be even more great games than there are already.

             The chances of Kentucky taking that step are simply a glimmer in the eye than an even tiny expectation of actually happening. And offering membership to a school such as Memphis which I’ve seen proposed today should have that same glimmer status. Memphis has good to great basketball and fair to crappy football. Any expansion of the Big East should be oriented to an enhanced football presence. The basketball stands superior already.

             I first explored the whole issue of conference realignment when movement took place last spring. Read here:

             After an initial flurry of activity, everyone seemed to sit back and take an assessment of what those changes meant. While I’m not aware of other activity along that front, other than pure rumor, you can be sure that more moves are ahead.

             With the incessant demand for a playoff system and the BCS closer to its current contract expiring, all football playing schools are going to want to position themselves to take advantage of whatever opportunities arise. The common denominator powering decisions will be good old money. If a continued BCS with refinements satisfies that greed that will be the direction taken. If the schools awaken to the money generating potential of a playoff system, the BCS will simply appear as a relative blip in future histories written of college football.

             In the meantime I’ll keep the music keyed so the dancers can step to the floor at any time.

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