FORT WORTH, Texas — TCU is moving to the Big East Conference, where the Horned Frogs won't have to worry about busting the BCS to play for a national championship.
TCU's board of trustees unanimously approved an invitation Monday to join the Big East in football and all other sports. The move from the Mountain West Conference becomes official July 1, 2012.
The Big East will provide TCU automatic access to the Bowl Championship Series and its five big-money games. That league, currently with eight football teams, has one of six automatic BCS slots.
TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte said gaining automatic-qualifying status "was a big factor" in the move and gives the Horned Frogs "the greatest opportunity to compete for the national championship."
The Big East has schools in nine of the nation's 35 largest media markets and will soon add Dallas/Fort Worth, the fifth largest.
"Located in one of the top five media markets in the country, TCU also enables the Big East to extend its media footprint, which already encompasses more than a quarter of the country," league commissioner John Marinatto said.
The pending departure of TCU continues a big shuffle for the Mountain West, which next season is losing Utah to the expanded Pac-12 and BYU, which is going independent in football. Boise State, another big BCS buster, is moving from the WAC to the Mountain West along with Fresno State and Nevada.
"Today's intercollegiate athletics environment is very fluid," Mountain West Conference commissioner Craig Thompson said in a statement. "Our board of directors and directors of athletics, as they have throughout the history of the MWC and with even more focus recently, will continue to analyze the landscape and chart our course in the context of ongoing changes."
Thompson said there were "conversations already under way with potential future members."
Del Conte said losing BYU and Utah was a "significant blow" to the Mountain West.
"It was not the same league that we joined," he said. "It's not the same home that we bought, it's not same home we were invited to, and things changed, the landscape changed."
The third-ranked Horned Frogs (12-0) wrapped up their second consecutive undefeated regular season and Mountain West title with a 66-17 victory at New Mexico on Saturday.
TCU is third in the BCS standings, the highest for a non-automatic qualifying team, and in line for a chance to play for the national championship if Auburn or Oregon lose next weekend. The Frogs likely will play in the Rose Bowl if Auburn and Oregon both win — players were holding roses on the field after their win Saturday.
The only current Big East team ranked in the AP poll is No. 23 West Virginia (8-3, 4-2 Big East), which is 24th in the BCS standings. Connecticut (7-4, 4-2) could get the league's automatic BCS spot.
TCU might not have been headed to a BCS game without Boise State's loss Friday night in overtime at Nevada. Had the Broncos remained undefeated, there was a real possibility that the Broncos could have passed the Frogs in the BCS standings and been the only non-AQ team to get into one of the top-level bowls.
"This is a great move," coach Gary Patterson said. "I'll say this, we don't seem to get bored around this place. ... The one last mark people have held against in recruiting is that we were not an automatic qualifier. Now that's been erased."
TCU was a BCS buster for the first time last season, then lost to Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl.
The Frogs have won 25 consecutive regular-season games, and 38 of 41 overall. The only losses in that span were in the Fiesta Bowl, and games at Oklahoma and Utah.
With all TCU sports moving to the Big East, it will create a 17-team basketball league.
Marinatto said the league was aware of the logistical issues associated with having 17 basketball teams and nine football teams and that those issues would be addressed soon. He wouldn't discuss the possibility of even more schools being added to the league.
The Big East will be the fourth conference for TCU since the Southwest Conference broke apart after the 1995 season and the Frogs weren't among the Texas schools that became part of the Big 12.
TCU was in the WAC from 1996-2000 before going to Conference USA for four seasons and then joining the Mountain West in 2005.
When Nebraska announced it was leaving the Big 12 for the Big 10 and Colorado declared its move to the Pac-10, the Big 12 opted against adding TCU or anybody else and plans to move forward as a 10-team league for now.
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