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To me, TCU’s marriage to the Big East Conference is a match made in reactionary heaven. It is my belief that when the history of this round of conference expansion is written, neither party will be viewed as a winner (many more will be seen as losers).
With TCU, Boise State, Nevada, Hawaii, et al., the MWC was still on its way to BCS-AQ status (especially if it were to add Kevin Sumlin’s resurgent Houston program). I also think the Big East’s AQ status was never at risk. There are too many people living in the Northeastern United States (especially New York and Philadelphia) for the BCS to risk abandoning those markets. If the MWC were to get AQ status, it would not have been at the Big East’s expense; instead, there would have been a seventh AQ conference.
TCU’s decision moves it to a conference where the closest school is over 600 miles away (the majority of the Big East is 1,000 miles from Fort Worth). Though not a problem for football, this could become an issue for TCU’s non-revenue sports, particularly baseball. Moving TCU’s strong baseball program from the MWC to the Big East is at best a lateral move.
The decision to expand in the name of football has the potential to lead to a split of the Big East to two (or three) conferences. Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim was the first to express his displeasure. This decision would likely be enough to drive Syracuse to the Big Ten, should the conference choose to expand again.
There are multiple rumors about what the next move will be for the Big East’s non-football members. The first option is the formation of an eight-team basketball conference. The other popular option is slightly more convoluted: Marquette and DePaul (possibly Notre Dame, too) have discussed the idea of working with Dayton, Xavier, St. Louis and the private schools of the Horizon League to form a new conference of Midwestern private schools with an emphasis on basketball.
Essentially, the Big East sacrificed its status as the nation’s best basketball conference to slightly upgrade its football status.