Across the two major college sports – football and basketball – TCU has won 2 Big 12 conference games this season.
Two, that’s it. They went 2-7 in football. They are currently 0-16 in basketball. It makes you wonder if the folks at the Big 12 offices are going around asking themselves, “Why the hell did we invite TCU?”
At this point, there isn’t a good answer and if the Big 12 suffers the same fate as the Big East over the next five to ten years, the obituaries will start with the Big 12’s needless inclusion of TCU.
I know what you’re thinking – conference realignment has nothing to do with wins and losses. That is absolutely correct. That’s why the AAC added Tulane and will look at big markets when they get to 12 basketball teams. It’s why Rutgers hasn’t won anything of consequence in a century of playing sports but got a golden Big Ten ticket.
And that is exactly why the Big 12 should not have invited TCU – they brought nothing to the table except wins in football.
Have I mentioned yet that the Big 12 could have added Cincinnati and/or Louisville instead of TCU? Which would be better for the conference, programs in major metro markets with Top 10 basketball programs and Top 25 football teams, or TCU?
The recent history of the Big 12 is defined what could have been, and how it stayed together. Remember, there was a time in the not-so-distant past in which Baylor, pre-RG3, and Iowa State were offering themselves to the Big East. There was also the very real possibility that Texas, Oklahoma and friends would head west to form the Pac-16 and lock up the entire Western half of the United States.
But in the extended game of risk that was conference realignment, neither option came to fruition. The Big 12 lost Missouri, Texas A&M, Nebraska and Colorado to three different conferences.
Stuck now with 8 teams, the Big 12 had to act as Texas signed its massive Longhorn Network/ESPN deal to keep itself happy and Oklahoma is going to do whatever Texas is going to do. The other 6 teams, particularly Texas Tech, Baylor and Oklahoma State, exist as leeches on the Red River Rivals. This is not to disparage – being tied to Texas and Oklahoma is good business – but to explain the situation.
So at 8 teams, what did the Big 12 do? With the Big East crumbling, the Big 12 could have had their pick and had U.S. Senators engaged in political warfare to determine if the league would add Louisville or West Virginia. Or? Why not and?
Cincinnati, as they have made crystal clear over and over, would jump at a Big 12 invite in less than a heartbeat. Think about a conference that could trot out Louisville, Cincinnati and West Virginia – inarguably the three strongest Big East football programs from 2005 to 2011 – in addition to Texas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State?
Do you think Kansas and Iowa State, both potential NCAA Tournament champions, would rather enjoy an RPI-killing duo of games against TCU as opposed to a trio of games against former Big East powers?
Think about it this way – the Big 12 essentially chose TCU over Louisville. That sound you hear in the background is ACC commissioner John Swofford cackling in delight.
Conference realignment is about markets, though, and TCU does play in the shadow of Dallas, Texas. This should mean something, except for the fact that the Big 12 already owned Dallas because it has Texas. It owns every city in Texas except for College Station because it has Texas. Adding TCU provided little to no benefits in terms of markets or the financial bottom line.
TCU was invited to join the Big 12 in October 2011 for two reasons – Texas and the 2011 Rose Bowl. Once Texas decided against the Pac-16 and a flirtation with independence, it needed to keep the Big 12 together. By adding TCU, they essentially added another home game every other year – giving coaches a chance to show over for Metroplex high schoolers in person without forcing them to come to Austin. Also, it’s TCU. Texas has been dominating TCU in football since before you were born. Why does Rice play Texas? Why does TCU play Texas?
The 2011 Rose Bowl victory by TCU gave the Big 12 a legit, football reason for joining the conference. The TCU football program has been a mirage for the past decade. Now that it has joined the Big 12, that foundation is being rocked.
When it comes to success in college football, rarely do teams stray from their mean for too long – unless you have Phil Knight writing checks for you on a daily basis. There is a class system in college football that is not going to change and will likely only get worse as the money thrown around increases.
This is not to say a school like TCU or Purdue or Washington State can’t rise up every now and then to compete nationally, but that success is fleeting and almost always comes with a once-in-a-generation quarterback.
Purdue played in a Rose Bowl with Drew Brees. Washington State played in one with Ryan Leaf. Nevada was a Top 15 team with Colin Kaepernick. And TCU won a Rose Bowl because it had Andy Dalton.
While Dalton never got the respect he fully deserved in college, his pro success has confirmed what he meant to the TCU program. Simply put, TCU is not going to win another Rose Bowl in the next 25 years unless they find another Andy Dalton.
TCU started this past college football season ranked for reasons I have yet to grasp, coming off of a 6-7 2012 season. They were outclassed by LSU in the opener and limped to a 4-8 season. They continued to garner far too much respect from people who thought they should be good and were an even more atrocious 4-8 versus the spread in 2013 – a fact I exploited multiple times during the season.
I don’t need to go into detail about the basketball, except to say that TCU is by far the worst team playing in a major conference and maybe one of the worst in recent history – they are DePaul-like bad, without the benefit of playing in Chicago.
The Big 12 is in no danger of falling apart, yet. But much like the Big East felt safe before it was picked apart, the Big 12 is now a clear #5 on the pecking order of major conferences. And much has to do with its inclusion of TCU – a mid-major in every sense of the word – into the fold.
When the next round of conference realignment starts – and have no doubt, there will be another round – the Big 12 will be targeted. Texas and Oklahoma will be wooed and will eventually leave because the grass will be greener on the other side.
If the Big 12 had any forethought at all, if the Big 12 had Louisville and Cincinnati in the fold, if the Big 12 had not acquiesced to Texas, the league would be on equal footing with the other four major conferences.
Instead, they are not. The clock is ticking on the Big 12 even if they don’t know it yet. As a UConn fan, I witnessed the destruction of the Big East and understand what “pride before the fall” means.
Don’t worry TCU – there’s always a spot in the AAC for you.
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