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Big East Takes on Team No. 17

by - Published November 29, 2010 in Columns

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.

Conference Shakeup: Back to the Drawing Board

by - Published June 14, 2010 in Columns

Conference realignment promises to once again wreak havoc across the country, spawning monster conferences that continue to undermine regional allegiances — and logic.

A few years ago, the Big East ravaged Conference USA by adding Cincinnati, DePaul, Marquette, Louisville and South Florida. The resulting basketball powerhouse regularly puts eight or nine teams in the NCAA Tournament. But Big East opponents often must travel hundreds of miles to play opponents, and teams rarely play one another more than once during the regular season.

Now, the Pac-10 is looking to take apart the Big 12 in a form of conference cannibalism. Colorado is packing its bags and on its way. The Big Ten has Nebraska on board. Yes, that means the Big Ten has 12 members while the Big 12 is left with 10. Oh, but the ridiculousness is just beginning.

Colorado jumped at the chance to move to the Pac-10 before the Big 12’s meat and potatoes bolts and leaves the Buffaloes roaming a conference ghost town with Kansas State, Kansas, Missouri and Iowa State. The Pac-10’s primary expansion target is Texas, which likely would be accompanied by Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Baylor. The Bears aren’t a guarantee, but Texas state officials probably would insist that all their schools go to the same loving home.

That super-conference, the Pac-16, would reach from Spokane, Wash., to College Station, Texas — a distance of more than 2,000 miles. Granted, Washington and Texas A&M would probably only travel to the other one’s home once every two or three years. But that’s a ridiculous amount of territory for 16 teams to cover. Travel costs would rise, and coaches would need to recruit a much broader segment of the country.

But the fun continues. The Big 12 refugee camp would include Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State. Iowa State and Missouri could be natural targets for the Big Ten. If not, the Mountain West might come calling. Perhaps the craziest rumor out there is that Kansas and Kansas State could join forces with the Big East, especially if the Big Ten grabs Notre Dame and Rutgers. Who wouldn’t love to see the Jayhawks and Connecticut Huskies go toe to toe every season? But the teams would be traveling nearly 1,500 to make that happen.

Oh, the insanity. Why don’t we just start over? Imagine if we took the top 112 programs — with a focus on college basketball and a nod to college football — and realigned them into eight 14-team conferences. But let’s set a ground rule based on common sense: All teams must reside within roughly 500 miles of the conference’s headquarters — or within two states of that headquarters. That two-state rule facilitates the Pacific Coast Conference.

After we move around teams, we need to revise the schedule, too.

  • All eight conferences feature two seven-team divisions. Divisional opponents play one another twice each year (12 games).
  • Every conference team plays the seven teams from the other division once each year (seven games), alternating home games each season.
  • In addition to the 19 conference games, each team may schedule 10 non-conference games. Five of those games must be against teams outside the Power 112, and two of those five must be on the road. Teams that fail to comply lose a scholarship for the next season. Hit ‘em where it hurts.

Without any further ado, here’s my realignment plan.

Pacific Conference

Headquarters: Los Angeles

John Stockton Division

California

Gonzaga

Oregon

Oregon State

Stanford

Washington

Washington State

Lew Alcindor Division

Arizona

Arizona State

San Diego State

UCLA

UNLV

USC

Nevada

Rocky Mountain Conference

Headquarters: Denver

Chauncy Billups Division

Air Force

Boise State

Colorado

Colorado State

Creighton

Nebraska

Wyoming

Shawn Bradley Division

BYU

New Mexico

Tulsa

Utah

Utah State

UTEP

Wichita State

Southwestern Conference

Headquarters: Dallas

Akeem Olajuwon Division

Baylor

Houston

LSU

Mississippi

Mississippi State

Texas

Texas A&M

Danny Manning Division

Arkansas

Kansas

Kansas State

Oklahoma

Oklahoma State

TCU

Texas Tech

Southeastern Conference

Headquarters: Atlanta

Charles Barkley Division

Alabama

Auburn

Florida

Florida State

Miami

South Florida

UAB

Dominique Wilkins Division

Clemson

Georgia

Georgia Tec

Memphis

South Carolina

Tennessee

Vanderbilt

Atlantic Coast Conference

Headquarters: Raleigh, N.C.

Len Bias Division

George Mason

Georgetown

Maryland

Old Dominion

VCU

Virginia

Virginia Tech

David Thompson Division

College of Charleston

Davidson

Duke

North Carolina

North Carolina State

Richmond

Wake Forest

Northeast Corridor Conference

Headquarters: Philadelphia

“Jellybean” Joe Bryant Division

La Salle

Penn State

Rutgers

Saint Joseph’s

Seton Hall

Temple

Villanova

God Shammgod Division

Boston College

Connecticut

Northeastern

Providence

Rhode Island

Syracuse

St. John’s

Heartland Conference

Headquarters: Indianapolis

Jerry West Division

Dayton

Marshall

Kentucky

Louisville

Pittsburgh

West Virginia

Western Kentucky

Larry Bird Division

Butler

Cincinnati

Indiana

Indiana State

Notre Dame

Purdue

Xavier

Midwestern Conference

Headquarters: Chicago

Magic Johnson Division

DePaul

Illinois

Michigan

Michigan State

Northwestern

Ohio State

Southern Illinois

Doc Rivers Division

Iowa

Iowa State

Marquette

Minnesota

Missouri

Northern Iowa

Wisconsin

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Sept. 9: Putnam Science Academy
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