Mountain West Conference Expansion Checkup: TCU to the Big East? and a plan for the Mountain West

ARLINGTON TX - SEPTEMBER 04: Tailback Ed Wesley #34 of the TCU Horned Frogs runs the ball against the Oregon State Beavers at Cowboys Stadium on September 4 2010 in Arlington Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

I did a weekly checkup of the Mountain West's expansion process every Thursday during June and one time after July because that was when the Mountain West was expected to add Boise State, it turned out that everyone was planning to expand that summer. I assumed that after the July 1st deadline everything would quiet down, but it did not. So I'm going to be bringing back this piece for every 28th of the month. I'll do the weekly checkup throughout June and the first week of July in 2011 because once again, that will be the time that expansion will be expected.

Ok, so rumors are flying around about TCU joining the Big East. I really didn't see this coming, mainly because of the name - Big East, but it is a rumor so I will have to address it.

First let's go over reasons on why TCU should go to the Big East, I'll go over why not to later in the post.

1. BCS - The Big East currently has a BCS Automatic Qualification and with that comes a lot of money. The MWC has a shot at getting an AQ as well after the 2011 season, but it's no guarantee and the Horned Frogs could possibly be left on the outside of the BCS if they don't join the Big East.

 2. TV Money - The Mountain West currently has an absolutely horrible television deal while the Big East on the other hand has a much better deal. The Big East has it's games televised on ESPN, the ESPN Regional channel and CBS College. You could make the paralell of the two deals because both have deals with CBS College and both have their own network, but the difference is the Big East has ESPN while the MWC has Versus and the Big East has much better TV markets for their own network. The TV Money for the Big East has to be 3-4x bigger then the Mountain West's and that would be a huge issue that could give TCU a reason to move to the Big East.

3. Minor History - They were in the C-USA for 3-4 years with 3 of the current Big East members.

Reasons for TCU not to go to the Big East.

1. BCS - Have you seen the Big East as of late? They are an absolutely horrible football conference. They have no ranked teams and just keep losing. At this rate, they will fall so far behind in the BCS Automatic Qualification criteria that they will lose their AQ. The only reason that the ACC is even expected to keep their Automatic Qualification is because they have a bowl tie-in with the Orange Bowl and the BCS can not interfere witht that. The Big East has no bowl tie-ins with a BCS Bowl which means that if they do not qualify in the criteria, they will lose their bid. The Mountain West has a good chance of getting their AQ through the qualification criteria and could easily repace the Big East. TCU would be part of the BCS Conference if they stayed.

2. Travel - Ok, I've looked at the comment boards on a few blogs and there are some people who seem to think that the travel for TCU to the Big East schools would not be much different then the travel to the MWC schools. I made a google map with TCU as the purple icon, the Big East schools as yellow icons and the MWC schools as red icons. Just click this link to make it bigger.

Screen_shot_2010-09-29_at_6

If you saw the map, you can see that the Big East's closest school to Fort Worth is either in Northern Kentucky (Southeast border of Indiana) or South Florida. While the Mountain West has 4 schools that are closer to Fort Worth then either of those two: New Mexico, Wyoming, Colorado State and Air Force. Another thing is that the 5 furthest MWC schools from Fort Worth are 200+ miles closer then the 5 furthest schools from the Big East. Now, it isn't a huge difference, but it isn't as small of a difference as the comments have suggested. There is a way to change this so that it is even easier on TCU for travel in the MWC, but I will go over that in my plan at the end of this post.

3. TV Money - Wait a minute, you just were pointing this out as a reason for TCU to go, why is it on here again? It's on here again because the TV Money for the Big East will go down signifcantly. The Big East's television contract with ESPN is up in 2012, the year TCU would join. As I have stated before, the Big East is a mediocre football conference without ANY ranked teams whatsoever. I guarantee you when that deal with ESPN is up that the TV money will drop significantly.

The TV Money will go up for the Mountain West with the addition of Boise State. Yes, I know that Boise is not a big TV market, but their overall success on national television has garnered a ton of bandwagon fans over the past few years. Bandwagon fans normally settle on that team after 3-4 years of success and that means that a lot of people around the country are going to miss seeing that blue field, which means that they will begin subscribing to the MWC Channels. Now obviously that's not a lot of extra TV revenue, so if the MWC wants to take advantage of that, they are going to have to focus on the TV Deal idea that I will present in my plan below.

 Plan for the MWC to make their situation better

Ok, so this partly includes some gimmicks to keep TCU and the other parts are about how to improve the revenue stream.

1. Add SMU and Houston - Why? To give TCU better travel. Adding SMU and Houston gives TCU two other travel partners, brings in two other up and coming football programs and fixes many travel issues for TCU. Here is what the divisions would look like with SMU and Houston added to the mix:

West East
San Diego State Colorado State
Fresno State Air Force
Nevada New Mexico
Boise State TCU
UNLV SMU
Wyoming Houston

 Scheduling is as follows:

Round Robin within division, one permanent cross-division rival and two other cross-divisional games. This means that TCU's first conference schedule in this new system would feature:

SMU

Houston
New Mexico
Air Force
Colorado State
Wyoming
Boise State
UNLV
Compared to their current conference schedule that features:
Utah
BYU
New Mexico
Air Force
Colorado State
San Diego State
Wyoming
 UNLV

 

TCU's travel issues become much more simplified - much more than the Big East. Now, why am I putting Colorado State and Air Force in the same division but splitting Wyoming? It preserves the rivalries. Colorado State's permanent cross-division rival is Wyoming, preserving that rivalry. Colorado State and Air Force are in the same division so that rivalry stays intact. Wyoming and Air Force have no rivalry so that does not need to be preserved. TCU's permanent cross division rival is Boise State because of the history that is currently being created. TCU and BSU have had epic battles in great bowl games the past two years and it's possible that it could be for the national title this year. I expect TCU-BSU conference games to be epic and soon a rivalry will be born.

2. Modify the Television Deal - Ok, we all know that TV deal failed horribly and needs to be restructured so that the MWC has better TV money to work with. The first thing that needs to happen is get rid of CBS College. No one ever flips to CBS College looking for a College Football game, the TV Money from that has to be bad. Replace that with a new ESPN contract. Now I understand that the reason we went to this was because ESPN wanted us to play on odd nights. That might be what we have to sacrifice for a while until our credibility is better (which it will be in a few years). The television contract with ESPN is going to be a lot better then what we have with CBSC.

Now in this scenario we keep The Mtn. and Versus, why do we do that? Versus is owned by Comcast who is merging with NBC. NBC wants to look into making an NBC Sports channel that would rival ESPN, being on every basic cable package around the country. Since NBC now already has a sports studio set up in Versus, they could just convert that to NBC Sports. The contract for the MWC would carry over and we would get some big cash fromt that. We keep The Mtn. because that is a better revenue source than CBSC. As the league credibilty improves, more people subscribe to The Mtn. and more cash comes in. Where if we ditch The Mtn. and keep our contract with CBSC, then no matter how much more viewers CBSC gains when we are on, the contract money doesn't change.

This plan improves the MWC vastly and this combined with the newly gained BCS Money will make the programs better, thereby making the conference better, thereby making the televisioin contracts better, thereby giving the programs more money... You get the point.

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