By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
The Big East invited the wolf to dinner Monday.
In an effort to assure its status as a BCS conference, the staggering Big East drastically cut its current teams chances of getting a BCS bid by giving TCU an all-sports membership in the conference.
The move is being cheered in some quarters, by everyone connected with the conference except for the football coaches who have got to find a way to deal with the No. 3 team in the country, a team that has not lost in two years and a team that sits in the center of Texas, which claims only a few more longhorn steers than football recruits from which TCU can choose now that is the equal in BCS chances to the other Texas schools.
For TCU it’s a dream come true because they have bounced from conference to conference after the Southwest Conference broke up, winding up in the Mountain West, a conference that offers no automatic BCS bid to its champion.
"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," TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte said in a statement.
By joining the Big East, a conference on the downside of mediocrity with a champion that will have no less than three losses this year and as many as four, they would seem to be guaranteeing themselves not only being in a conference with an automatic bid, but granting it to themselves in the foreseeable future.
How huge is this for TCU?
"If you don't dream, you're living in a memory," Del Conte said. "Who wants to live in a memory? Every single time we have an opportunity to think about where we're going to go, that's the leadership of our chancellor that says, 'Guess what? We dare to be great academically and athletically.' This decision today is great for TCU. We're heading in an arena that we've always dreamed about. The BCS does not define TCU, TCU defines the BCS. The academic institutions that we're going to be associated with is unbelievable. This is a great time to be a Frog.”
Notice, the man talks not of joining the Big East as a dream he would dare to dream, but the BCS.
And, in case you missed it, Del Conte did say it is a great time to be a Frog, TCU being the Horned Frogs.
That TCU brings with it a dismal men’s basketball program seems to matter not to anyone, even if it does mean an unwieldy 17-team basketball conference. See, the basketball conference has giants of its own who are not threatened by the presence of a team looked upon as being at a lower level than even DePaul, the Big East’s bottom feeder.
If football is the heart of the Big East — and there is some doubt about that — basketball is the conference’s DNA. It is what the Big East is, always has been and always will be. Don’t believe it, ask why Rich Rodriguez goes to Michigan, why Bobby Petrino winds up in Arkansas, why Brian Kelly is at Notre Dame?
Name a great football coach in the Big East. Go ahead. Now, name a great basketball coach. Want Huggins, Pitino, Calhoun, Boeheim?
It seems the Big East is always willing to sell out to save its soul. Think TCU isn’t a little bit of Notre Dame all over again.
Won’t there be some irony next year if Notre Dame has a huge year and takes TCU’s BCS bid, should TCU win the conference crown as it will be favored to do?
Think the Big East has the nerve now to do the right thing, to get back to the 16-team basketball conference it should be and boot the Irish out unless they come in as the 10th team in football. Wouldn’t Notre Dame fit better as the 10th team than an upstart Villanova program that isn’t even sure it wants to play big time football?
The Big East has TCU now, why not pressure the hot shots from South Bend to put more than its big toe into the conference waters?
Certainly, the Big East is stronger with TCU as a football conference than it was without them and it should force the conference teams to take a good look at themselves and find ways to grow their programs to match that of the Horned Frogs.
And surely there will be at least one more football team coming into the conference before long, be it Notre Dame, Villanova or someone else.
“Certainly less is not more when it comes to college football these days and conferences,” said Oliver Luck, who is in his first year as West Virginia’s athletic director. “I’m still relatively new to this business, but I think there’s going to be continued movement, not to point a finger at any particular league. But there’s going to be more movement of the deck chairs.”
And when there is, at least the Big East is no longer the Titanic, but it isn’t certain that this is doing the WVU program or any of the other conference football teams a favor.
E-mail Bob Hertzel at email@example.com.