Texas Christian University has accepted membership into the Big East Conference for all sports.
The announcement was made by school and Big East officials at a news conference this afternoon on TCU's Fort Worth, Texas, campus. The Horned Frogs will begin playing in the Big East in the 2012-13 school year and will become the Big East's ninth football member and 17th basketball member.
"It is a great day to be a Frog," TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte said as he stepped to the podium. "It is a great day to be in the Big East."
And the Big East seemed thrilled to expand into the southwest.
"Our membership is genuinely excited to add an institution of the caliber of TCU to our conference," Big East Conference commissioner John Marinatto said. "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."
TCU currently plays in the Mountain West, a conference without an automatic bid to the BCS football championship and one going through transformation of its own. The Mountain West is in the midst of gaining Boise State, but losing conference members Utah and Brigham Young University.
The TCU football team is ranked No. 3 in the Bowl Championship Series poll and is 12-0 this season. It could play for a national title if Auburn or Oregon, the two teams ranked ahead of them, lose this weekend.
"It will be great," Louisville coach Charlie Strong said. "They can come into our conference and be welcome, and I think would be a huge addition to our conference."
Pitt football coach Dave Wannstedt said of TCU: "They are an outstanding program. A lot of my [assistant coaches] know coaches down there and they have great facilities and an outstanding national reputation."
The TCU campus is on average about 1,100 miles from the current football-playing members of the Big East.
Could geography be a big concern?
Seems some Big East football coaches aren't too worried about the travel.
"You look at our away games already on our schedule with South Florida, Syracuse, Rutgers and to UConn," Cincinnati coach Butch Jones said. "For us [TCU] is a relatively short flight. So I don't see that being any issue at all."
Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said of the travel: "I don't think there is a big difference. I think it is a little different if you go tip to tip, if you go to [Los Angeles] or somewhere. But, I've always looked at it like a trip is just a trip."
The Big East extended an invitation earlier this year to Villanova, which participates in the conference in all sports but football, to become its 10th football member. Villanova, which currently plays Division I-AA football, has yet to make a decision. If Villanova decides to pass on the Big East's offer, Central Florida, Houston, Temple, East Carolina, Memphis and Navy are all, to varying degrees, considered an option to become the conference's 10th football member.
A tenth football member is pivotal to scheduling, as it would give teams nine conference games and at least four conference home games. In some seasons there would be five conference home games.
Schools can make millions of dollars in revenue from home games and, in a 12-game regular season, having seven home dates is important to financial stability for a program such as Pitt or West Virginia.
Having at least four built-in conference home games would alleviate the need to find as many out-of-conference opponents, which command a payday for traveling to a place such as Heinz Field or Mountaineer Field, while in-conference opponents do not.
"It has to be a nightmare for our athletic directors having to schedule five [non-conference] games," Pitt football coach Dave Wannstedt said.
In terms of basketball, the Big East tournament is expected to stay the same, with all 17 schools participating. There will be two cross-over games now instead of three. For example, this year Pitt is playing Villanova, West Virginia and South Florida home and home. In the future, the South Florida game would go away. West Virginia is the protected rival and television scheduling dictates the Villanova games.
Pitt basketball coach Jamie Dixon is quite familiar with TCU. He is a 1987 graduate of the school.
"Everyone said it was too big when it went to 16 and when it was 13 and 12," Dixon said. "It will be fine. It won't change too many things. Talking to some people the last couple of days, I think the conference tournament the possibility that everyone will still go and play five games the first day. The 18-game schedule stays the same with the slight adjustments that there will be two cross-over games instead of three. [Television] will still be able to get the games they want to get. Other than 17 not being a round number, a perfect number, that's it. But there's nothing negative about it.
"The Big Ten has 11. Numbers in conference and geographics are out the window now. Names do not represent conferences, teams represent conferences. We have strengthened ourselves both football-wise and basketball-wise with the addition of TCU. That's a good thing in every way."
Ray Fittipaldo contributed to this report. Colin Dunlap: cdunlap@post-gazette or 412-263-1459.