Conference Expansion: What Options Does TCU Have Going Forward?

Back on Nov. 29, 2010 TCU officially said they were joining the Big East conference come July 1, 2012. Well, a lot has changed since then. Once TCU makes the move it would be their sixth conference in 14 years since the Southwest Conference fell apart, however the way things are changing who knows exactly where TCU will actually end up.

The Big East is losing Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the ACC and if the 27-month time frame is going to be kept that means the two schools will be members of the ACC come July 1, 2014. Being a lame duck for two years seems like a bad idea, so expect the two schools to join the ACC by this summer by negotiating a buy out of some sort. However, Pete Thamel of the New York Times is reporting that Big East commissioner John Marinatto is saying that he is going to hold Syracuse and Pitt to their 27-month time frame. This is coming from the commissioner who found about Pitt and Syracuse in the press box of the West Virginia game on Saturday as it was the news was breaking.

Again, If the 27-month time frame is upheld then I see no issue with TCU going to the Big East, because the league would have about year to have some time to decide what their next step would be. However, if  Pitt and Syracuse leave by this upcoming summer then TCU could be in a bind. The Big East currently only seven teams when considering Pitt and Syracuse are on their way out and that is one below what the NCAA mandates to be a recognized conference. 

Now there is talk that the Big East and Big 12 could merging to create a super-conference of their own. That league as of now would include TCU, Texas Tech, Texas, Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas State, Kansas, Connecticut, Rutgers, Louisville, Cincinnati, South Florida and West Virginia. This assumes that Texas does not go to the Pac-12 with Texas Tech. That is 13 teams and look for the league to add BYU to make it 14 teams.

If that merger is in place then TCU is heading to the Big East for sure, however if Syracuse and Pitt leave before then the Mountain West has an outside shot of luring them back to the Mountain West.

Craig Thompson said he has spoken with TCU and Thompson would consider inviting them back to the Mountain West:

Thompson said he has had extensive conversations with current Mountain West member TCU, which is slated to leave for the Big East next year.

"I have had a lot of conversations with TCU through this process. Specifically inviting them back to the league is not my position," Thompson said, noting that only the league's board of directors can issue invitations. "But it is being strongly considered and would probably - probably emphasized - be endorsed by the Mountain West Board of Directors."

Thompson also said this about the Mountain West's situation:

Thompson said he was hearing and sensing that TCU's first option is to stay with the plan of going to the Big East in what could be a likely merger under a Big 12 umbrella with its remaining schools if the Big 12 loses Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech to the Pac-12.

"But that's where the Mountain West comes back into play," Thompson said. "What are the numbers? Will they need to get to 12 or 14? Are they trying to get Air Force or Boise State? It would be a long way from Boise, Idaho or for Air Force's Olympic sports (to travel to Big East schools). We don't know what a reconfigured Big 12 would look like.

"BYU is still out there as an independent now, we have Hawaii as football only so there is a chance there could be different federated approaches for different sports like football," Thompson said. "Who knows what's going to happen, but TCU hasn't left yet."

The Mountain West would be dumb not to see if they could get TCU back due to the fluidity of the situation. With the BCS board of directors saying earlier today that the BCS would need six league to be viable that could be a selling point to bringing TCU back to the Mountain West. Then the Mountain West could go out and grab Houston, Utah State or UTEP to get to 12 teams and host a title game.

My gut feeling is that TCU will proceed with their plan going forward and unless they get a definitive answer before this summer about a merger between the Big East and Big 12 or if the Big East is not going to exist at all, and only then would TCU consider coming back to the Mountain West.

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