Now conference realignment is getting just ridiculous.
TCU announced today that the Horned Frogs are leaving the Mountain West Conference for the Big East Conference, starting with the 2012-13 season.
That’s a team from Forth Worth, Texas, joining a conference with 14 teams in the Eastern time zone. The longest road trip in the Big East, previously Providence to Tampa, increases by 35.7 percent to 1,550 miles, from Providence to Fort Worth. The closest Big East rival to the Horned Frogs will be Louisville, which is a stone’s throw away at 755 miles — only a 14-hour drive.
We’re obviously using the word “rival” pretty loosely there. TCU briefly shared familial relations with Cincinnati, DePaul, Louisville, Marquette and South Florida in Conference USA. But none of those teams shared a heated rivalry that had Horned Frog fans all riled up.
Let there be no mistake about it: This move is 100 percent about football with little regard to any other sport played in the Big East.
With the undefeated Horned Frogs football team in danger of getting shut out of the flawed BCS system’s championship game, this move makes perfect sense for TCU. The Big East has an automatic bid to the BCS and offers nominally better competition than the Mountain West Conference can provide. TCU deserves a chance to earn a football championship, and university officials feel like a move to the Big East would create that opportunity and probably safeguard the rest of the program’s other sports.
“Having BCS automatic-qualifying status was a priority for our football program and a great reward for the success we’ve had the last decade under coach Gary Patterson,” said Chris Del Conte, TCU director of intercollegiate athletics in a press release. “Keeping all our sports together was also critical. We are very excited to accomplish both these goals and look forward to our new home in the Big East Conference.”
But come on now.
Whatever financial security comes with a move to the Big East comes at the detriment of huge travel costs that TCU teams will endure. Those costs go beyond miles logged on an airplane — we’re talking more time away from the classroom for student-athletes. Schoolwork on the road isn’t unusual, but it can’t help when every road game requires a two- to four-hour flight.
In addition, Big East basketball teams will have only two home-and-home series each season against conference foes instead of three. The regular-season title will merely suggest that the team atop the standings is the conference’s best. But with imbalanced schedules and skewed home/away match ups, who can say for sure which team is best? The Big East Tournament becomes even more critical for asserting conference superiority.
College basketball programs remain in the back seat while King Football drives conference realignment. If hoopsters could press the Reset button on conference composition and athletic economics, we could devise a far more attractive conference scheme. Our realignment would preserve traditional rivalries and create new ones in imminently logical geographical regions.