A recent ESPN.com survey indicated that if anything bad should happen to Auburn or Oregon this week, only the states of Alabama and Louisiana would be opposed to TCU playing in the national title game.
Moving to the Big East won't necessarily swing those states, too, but it sure couldn't hurt.
TCU has made a pretty good case for its BCS title game hopes the last couple of seasons. But when going undefeated back-to-back isn't a good enough argument, it's time for a change of venue.
In exchange for the nation's fifth-largest TV market and a foot in the door of Texas recruiting, the Horned Frogs get the following:
A conference with an automatic BCS qualifier, meaning a four-loss team gets a shot at a $17 million bowl, whereas, if they'd lost one in the Mountain West, they'd be looking at an $800,000 payout; a higher national profile, particularly back East, where most of the nation's TV sets are; a football league they could still win, and they don't have to apologize for it; a basketball league where they'll get clobbered, and even that's not so bad.
Bottom line: Since the demise of the late, lamented SWC in 1995, TCU has been affiliated with more leagues than Nike. From the WAC to Conference USA to the Mountain West to the Big East beginning June 2012, the Frogs have proved themselves to be social climbers. This simply constitutes their biggest, most impressive leap.
Actually, it was a no-brainer. Never mind the complaints, starting with geography.
Granted, coming from a town that proudly bills itself "Where the West Begins," it's a bit startling to join a club called the Big East. The conference also includes members from Florida and the Midwest. This ain't a bus league, pal.
Of course, neither was the Mountain West. In welcoming TCU at a news conference Monday, John Jenkins of Notre Dame, president of the Big East, noted that "conferences tend to be shaped by geographic proximity and historical contingencies." He said this move "transcends" traditional boundaries.
What Father Jenkins means is that the rules have changed, and if you don't change with them, your fans will be trying to find you on Versus.
The seismic shift that nearly took the Big 12 with it proved the point last summer. For me, the epiphany came earlier.
Why in the world, I asked a well-connected insider, would Texas want any part of the Big Ten? What about travel costs? What about old rivalries? What about freezing to your seat in Happy Valley?
The guy looked at me like I'd arrived by horse and buggy.
TV markets and revenue, he said. Forget everything else.
As it turned out, Texas didn't go to the Big Ten or the Pac-10. But it's not because it wasn't tempted. Only financial concessions, notably the possibility of its own TV network, and potential pressure from the legislature smoothed things over.
A&M and Oklahoma could have left for the SEC, but it would have been a much tougher road to a national title game, let alone a respectable finish. And despite a weak showing this year from all the Texas teams but the Aggies, the Big 12 remains a viable league, at least for now.
With BYU going independent in football and Utah leaving the Mountain West for the Pac-10, the Frogs didn't have a similar fallback position. The Big 12 has no interest because it already owns the Dallas-Fort Worth area TV market. The gulf between the haves and have-nots continue to widen. The Frogs had to jump.
There will be problems. Will they struggle in men's basketball? At least initially. But crowds at Daniel-Meyer will improve with West Virginia, Louisville, Cincinnati, UConn and Pitt, which will help recruiting, too.
"If you want to play in the best basketball conference in the country," TCU athletics director Chris Del Conte said, making the first official pitch, "you can come right here.
"You don't have to leave the state of Texas."
Not until the Frogs go on the road, anyway, and then it's a haul. But sometimes you have to leave home. Contrary to an author's warning, it doesn't necessarily mean you won't be welcomed back. All you have to do is win.
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