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TCU Joins the Big East – What’s the Impact?

A welcome addition from TCU.
A welcome addition from TCU.

I will dispense with the annoying and overplayed geography jokes and the simple facts that you already know.  Let's get down to business and answer some of the basic questions surrounding the most recent Big East expansion.

Why was TCU added?

TCU brings a current football power to the fold.  As all of this conference maneuvering has shown, football is the main breadwinner in college athletics and the BCS is critical to that cash flow.  The Big East's precious BCS automatic bid has been on thin ice the past several years.  It has consistently been the lowest rated and least regarded automatic bid conference since losing both Virginia Tech and Miami to the ACC.  That pressure cranked up in 2010 because the Big East was without a ranked team for much of the season.  Meanwhile, two non-BCS conferences, the Mountain West and WAC, each had two teams ranked for most of the year.  TCU solidifies the Big East's standing as a BCS automatic conference because they have 65 wins in the last six years and are currently ranked #3 in the nation.

TCU also addresses a major challenge in football scheduling.  A ninth team equals eight annual conference games.  This balances the number of home and away games and reduces the number of non-conference games.  Non-conference games are expensive and a bear to schedule.

Finally, TCU will help to increase the Big East's negotiating power in future TV deals.  The Dallas-Fort Worth TV market is the fifth largest in the nation.

Um, ok, this is a basketball blog.  What does TCU bring to the table for hoops?

Did I mention that conference maneuvering is based on football?  TCU brings virtually nothing to the table for basketball, outside of this awesome video of Jamie Dixon rocking the short shorts. 

Outside of producing Jamie Dixon, Kurt Thomas and Lee Nailon, the Horned Frogs have only participated in two NCAA tournaments since 1981, winning one game.  Their arena holds less than 8,000 fans and didn't sell out once in the 2009-2010 season.  Their winning percentage since the 1981 season is only 52%.  They have beaten just one ranked team in the last nine years, going 1-16 over that stretch.  Finally, they had just as many 20 win seasons as single digit win seasons in the 2000s.  Simply put, they will replace Rutgers as the least anticipated Big East conference game for Marquette fans.

I get it, they suck at basketball.  How does this impact Marquette and the rest of Big East basketball?

First and foremost, it may have an impact on recruiting.  Buzz's contacts in Texas have funneled a steady stream of talent up north.  Will TCU stem that flow?  I tend to think not.  In fact, it should only increase MU's exposure in the area and will guarantee recruits at least two trips back to their home state. 

What remains to be seen is how this will impact Big East conference scheduling and the Big East tournament.  The path of least resistance for scheduling is to keep the 18 game conference season and drop one of the three mirror games.  They league may also consider a single round robin 16 game league schedule.  Either way, TCU limits Marquette's opportunities to play the conference heavies.  I can't even venture a guess on how the conference tournament will work.  Will the bottom feeder team stay home? 

What's next for Marquette and the Big East?

The addition of TCU brings instability to the league that should concern every Marquette fan.  First off, football playing schools now outnumber the basketball-only schools.  This will have an impact on any voting measures the league takes up. 

Marquette and DePaul are especially vulnerable because not only do they not play football, they are the new kids on the block in an unwieldy 17 team conference.  While the Big East is unlikely to rid themselves of any members, if anyone is to be booted, it will be Marquette and/or DePaul.  The other non-football teams have deep roots with the conference, providing decent protection.  Seton Hall, Providence, Georgetown and St. John's are all charter members and Villanova came on in Year 2.  Finally, John Marinatto, the Big East's commissioner is a Providence grad and former athletic director, giving the Friars a nice safety blanket.

It very possible that the Big East will expand again soon.  If so, the rumored target has been Central Florida.  UCF would increase the conference's foothold in Florida and give Central Florida a natural rival.  Memphis has also been bandied about, but they represent an academic risk and bring a horrendous football team.  Houston and East Carolina have also been mentioned.