One Year Later, Real Winners in Conference Expansion Are TCU and West Virginia
Texas A&M has the Heisman winner, a stadium expansion plan and an expected Top 10 team in 2013. The Aggies are on top of the world after Year 1 in the SEC.
However, the real winners in the 2011-2012 round of expansion both reside in the Big 12. Although Texas Christian and West Virginia only banked $11 million from the conference this year, considerably less than the other schools that changed affiliation, they won in a way that the other schools did not.
Texas A&M and Missouri have been a part of the fabric of big time-collegiate sports for the bulk of their existence. As a result, they never feared being caught on the outside looking in. So, while both teams decided to move from the Big 12 to the SEC, their standing on college football's main stage remained unchanged.
The same can't be said for TCU or West Virginia. The Horned Frogs, until 2012's Big 12 season, had not been a part of the world of major college football since the final Southwest Conference football season in 1995. For West Virginia, the Mountaineers were members of the BCS elite, but their longtime conference, the Big East, was quickly being relegated to the minor leagues from a financial and access standpoint.
While the Aggies and Tigers rearranged their cards, the Horned Frogs and Mountaineers were dealt a whole new hand, this time with cards that will let the teams play the game for a whole lot longer.
The same thing happened for Utah in 2011. Sure, in moving from the Big 12 to the Pac-12, Colorado got financial relief and is planning a $170 million facilities upgrade, and in moving from the Big 12 to the Big Ten, Nebraska escaped the tyranny of Texas. But in moving from the Mountain West to the Pac-12, the Utes punched their ticket into the big leagues.
TCU and West Virginia have done the same, and as the landscape evolves, they will not be on the outside looking in. Rather, they are with the in-crowd, sitting at the cool table, helping make decisions, instead of hoping that the decisions made by the likes of the newly minted Big Five conferences do not leave them too far behind.
Money will increase for both teams in the future as full shares start to come to each school. However, right now, the stability and opportunity are worth more than the money. Boise State, despite on-the-field-success, is now looking at TCU as a team that is better positioned for the future. The same goes for former West Virginia conference-mates UConn and Cincinnati.
That's especially true with NCAA president Mark Emmert, as reported by the Houston Chronicle, being more open to discussing the possibility of another football subdivision, another subdivision that would officially separate the SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 schools from the rest of the FBS.
TCU and West Virginia are on the good side of that divide. They leveled up and grabbed ground through expansion. Bottom line and exposure gains are nice, but don't let the money fool you. In the grand scheme of things, the Horned Frogs and Mountaineers are the real winners.
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