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Horned Frogs A Welcome Addition

November 30, 2010
By JIM ELLIOTT

Texas Christian University athletics director Chris Del Conte said Monday was "a great day to be a Frog."

And seriously, who could argue with that?

Of course, Del Conte was talking about TCU's decision to accept an invitation to become a full-fledged member of the Big East Conference, beginning in the 2012-13 academic year.

Now, I've never been big on discussing news that won't really impact anyone for roughly 20 months, but this is a fairly significant headline.

TCU's decision was easy. As members of the Mountain West Conference, the Horned Frogs had been competing in a non-automatic qualifying BCS football conference, meaning unless it was enjoying a magical football season like it is right now, it was an afterthought when the BCS suits started filling their bowl slots.

Not anymore.

TCU, which is ranked third in the current BCS standings and is unbeaten at 12-0, soured on the Mountain West not only for that reason, but because BYU and Utah are leaving just as Boise State prepares to enter.

"A significant blow," Del Conte said, adding something about how they bought a home, only to see the landscape change.

And who wants that? In today's housing market, you better get what you pay for.

As far as the Big East was concerned, the league spent the day touting TCU's academic emphasis and its conference-champion men's and women's tennis teams, women's basketball team and its men's swimming team, which is all well and good, but the reason you invite a school to travel more than 1,000 miles to play most of its league foes is football.

Nothing more.

The Big East has had a handle-with-care label on it all season, many will say far longer than that. As it stands, a four-loss Connecticut team that was whipped by Temple and edged by Rutgers, is in the driver's seat to take its BCS bid this season.

Ugh.

West Virginia coach Bill Stewart, the self-proclaimed biggest supporter of the Big East, is happy to reel off a list of impressive numbers piled up by the league during its recent out-of-conference schedule. They're real, but they lie. No stats needed here, the eye test is just fine, though most people have had theirs covered while watching.

The most impressive showing for a team against a non-league foe this season, if you exclude South Florida getting Miami coach Randy Shannon fired last weekend, was a loss by West Virginia on the road to LSU. Adding a top-ranked program that will soon have the ability to tell its recruits they're in an automatic BCS qualifying league is a spectacular move.

There are already those who are predicting the Horned Frogs will be the league's preseason football favorite the season after next. However realistic that might be, it's something of a punch in the gut to existing member schools, and perhaps, a wakeup call all at the same time.

Get better, or play for second.

Clearly, the big question here is geography. An institution located in Fort Worth, Texas will soon be playing women's tennis matches against schools in Connecticut, Ohio, West Virginia, Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, New York, Indiana, Washington D.C., Rhode Island, Illinois, and Wisconsin.

Makes perfect sense. Or, you know, none at all.

Can you see the TCU guys wearing "304" on their eye-black, assuming that was still legal?

Sports geography has been messed up for some time and leagues should really have stopped using cardinal directions long ago. Anything farther than a few hours in West Virginia's case, Cincinnati and Pitt and you're boarding a plane anyway. Besides, TCU had been traveling to map dots in Utah and Wyoming as it was.

Come to TCU, see the country!

Anyway, here's a tip of the cap to Big East Commissioner John Marinatto for getting this done and giving the folks in the nation's fifth-largest media market something to do Monday.

He's been on the job for a while now, and my most lasting impression of him is his announcement of the league's new bowl alignment earlier this year.

"By all accounts, the Big East bowl lineup is stronger than it's ever been," he said that day. "We have aligned ourselves with great bowl games in first-class destinations.'"

Umm. No.

Another handshake goes to Del Conte for seeing the positives far outweighed the negatives and proceeding. For deciding to move out of that house.

There haven't been a lot of good days for the Big East lately, but Monday most certainly was one.

Just as it was a great day to be a Frog.

Jim Elliott can be reached via e-mail at: elliott@theintelligencer.net