T-C-U, what should you do?
The Mountain West is by far the strongest of the mid-major conferences. Built around Utah, TCU, BYU, and Air Force, the MWC has had a very successful decade.
But what if the Pac-10 steals away Utah and BYU (or Colorado, in which case the Big 12 comes for BYU)? Then TCU will be the biggest fish in an ever shrinking and failing conference.
Wyoming, Colorado State, Air Force, UNLV, San Diego State, and New Mexico will not be able to expand fast enough to save the conference. Why would Boise State leave its conference to join one where it would be the new guy?
So what is the last resort? In my opinion their only option is to merge into the WAC once again.
If TCU felt like an outcast before, this will only increase their feeling with new travel costs of going to Idaho and Hawaii. Fans may become even more disenchanted with TCU’s athletics since they can only (reasonably) see TCU at home games because travel costs are too significant.
In addition, TCU is in the Central Time Zone, while everyone else will be in the Mountain or Pacific Time Zones, which makes many of TCU’s game times later in the evening. These later games often conflict with Pac-10 and prime-time Big 12 games, so TCU also gets less national attention than it would playing in a conference in the East or Central Time Zones.
TCU joining the Mountain West Conference was a smart decision at the time. The MWC was on their way to an automatic BCS bid and was the only elite mid-major conference out there. The MWC has gained some momentum, but if it loses Utah/BYU, then it was all for nothing. TCU should cut its losses and move on.
Where to, you ask?
Well, the Big 12 may be looking to expand (since everyone else is), and TCU would definitely be at the top of their wish list. Conference USA would take TCU back in a heartbeat and maybe add Troy or Middle Tennessee to balance out their new 14-team conference.
Or TCU should...
REVIVE THE SOUTHWEST CONFERENCE.
One of the most storied conferences of all time slipped away in the '90s due to NCAA sanctions and the loss of Arkansas to the expansion of the SEC. If the Big 12 North runs for the Big Ten (Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri) or Pac-10 (Colorado), the four former SWC schools and their new Big 12 South buddies in Oklahoma could revive the SWC by rejoining TCU, SMU, Houston, and Rice.
The new SWC could even try to persuade their Eastern neighbors in Arkansas and Louisiana (LSU, Tulane, and LA Tech) to join up since they both already heavily recruit from Texas anyway, and this would increase their exposure in the state. This would also give LSU and Arkansas an easier road to a BCS game than the SEC offers.
But this solution depends on the destruction of the Big 12, which I think is a long shot (and it would be nearly impossible to get Arkansas and LSU to leave the SEC).
Assuming the Big 12 stays intact and TCU is not invited to join, TCU should still try to revive the SWC.
Conference USA has been a decent conference over the years but the conference footprint is scattered from Florida (UCF) to El Paso, TX (UTEP) to West Virginia (Marshall). C-USA (the name also sounds weird) has no identity, and the average fan couldn’t tell you who is in the conference.
In addition, just like in 2005, the Big East and possibly the ACC are also about to pick off two or three of their most successful members, Central Florida (UCF), East Carolina University (ECU), and possibly Memphis, which would devastate the conference.
With TCU, SMU, Houston, and Rice preemptively starting the SWC, they could solidify themselves as an elite mid-major conference (similar to the current MWC) and be in the hunt for a BCS bid by taking the best of what’s around and trimming the fat.
I would invite to join the conference UTEP, Tulsa, Tulane, Memphis (or UAB), and Southern Miss from C-USA, New Mexico from the MWC, and LA Tech and New Mexico State from the WAC.
The conference could be divided into East and West divisions like so:
EAST: Houston, Rice, LA Tech, Tulane, So Miss, and Memphis (or UAB)
WEST: TCU, SMU, Tulsa, UTEP, New Mexico, and NM State
This would reduce travel cost for all schools and reignite old rivalries and start new ones. New Mexico and New Mexico State will be in the same conference, giving their games more meaning (the NM state legislature would love it). UTEP and New Mexico State can revive their Battle of I-10 rivalry from the old WAC as an in-conference game.
SMU and TCU can be in the same conference again and battle for the best of DFW in the Battle of the Iron Skillet, and Louisiana Tech and Tulane can finally have in-state rivals.
C-USA would be destroyed. East Carolina and UCF could probably join the Big East (UCF and USF could revive their War on I-4 rivalry), and Marshall could rejoin the MAC (where they belong). This would leave only UAB to join up with the Sun Belt (the Big East may also want Memphis, so if that happens, UAB would be next in line to join the SWC).
This gives the conference a clear-cut footprint from New Mexico to Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. A new SWC also reduces travel cost for division games; currently UTEP in far West Texas has to play Marshall in West Virginia (1,650 miles away) or Central Florida (1,700 miles away) every year. Now the furthest game would be from New Mexico State to Southern Mississippi, which is only 1,150 miles away.
TCU can’t just stand by and let itself be thrown into the WAC. It suffered through the travel and time zone in order to improve its standing, but now it is only going to hurt them. Joining the new SWC bring a sense of pride back into the state of Texas that TCU can take advantage of in recruiting.
Starting new rivalries with their neighbors to the east and west will also give their rivalry games more meaning than the Utah-TCU rivalry. While that’s still a good game, Texas and Utah people rarely see each other and thus are not that interested in a rivalry that is only exciting when both teams are good.
TCU has a BIG decision coming up, and it will be interesting to see what they will do. Hopefully they can make it out of this situation unharmed and possibly still obtain a BCS bid, but in a new conference with their old friends.
BONUS: The WAC will now make sense again (assuming Utah/BYU leave).
The new WAC can be divided into East and West divisions too, or North and South divisions (even though Nevada is more north than Air Force).
EAST or NORTH: Colorado State, Air Force, Wyoming, Utah State, Boise State, and Idaho
WEST or SOUTH: Nevada, UNLV, Fresno State, San Diego State, San Jose State, and Hawaii