The Big East will expand, but can they lure TCU away from the Mountain West?

FORT WORTH, TX - OCTOBER 23: Head coach Gary Patterson of the TCU Horned Frogs leads his team on the field against the Air Force Falcons at Amon G. Carter Stadium on October 23, 2010 in Fort Worth, Texas. TCU beat Air Force 38-7. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

The question is not whether or not the Big East will expand, because it will. The question is which teams will it expand with?

The conference presidents voted Tuesday to push forward with an expansion plan that would increase the football playing membership in the Big East from eight to 10. The Big East has staved off expansion for years but as other conferences have expanded, the Big East must too or face folding entirely.

The current members of the Big East are in favor of this idea, as scheduling conflicts have been a topic of debate for the past couple of years. While commissioner Jon Marinatto failed to make a move this past summer as the Big Ten, Pac-10 and Big 12 changed dramatically, he’s obviously not going to sit on his hands for very long.

But who will join the conference? Villanova is an easy fit, but the conference needs to add a big-time program so that it can push forward with a possible television network. That’s where TCU comes in (or rather, could come in).

With both Utah and BYU leaving the Mountain West next year, TCU could be a perfect candidate to join the Big East. Unfortunately, that would leave Boise State (who is leaving the WAC to join the MWC next year) in the lurch, but the goal for TCU is to position itself to play for a national title. With the current BCS structure in place, that’s a pipe dream for a team like the Horned Frogs, who are annually criticized by voters for playing a weak schedule.

This will certainly be an interesting story to keep an eye on moving forward but either way, the Big East is as we know it will be no longer very soon.

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Pac-12 divisions announced – California schools will split

California captains' Chris Guarnero, Cameron Jordan, Mike Mohamed and Kevin Riley and USC captains watch referee Jack Folliard tosses a coin before the game against USC at LA Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California. USC defeated California, 48-14. Photo via Newscom

When the Pac-10 officially becomes the Pac-12 next year the conference will have two divisions and the California schools will be split.

UCLA, USC, Arizona, Arizona State and newcomers Utah and Colorado will be in one division, while Stanford, Cal, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington and Washington State will be in the other.

The conference needed the split in order to generate a “lucrative” title game in December, but it won’t make some traditionalists happy. Cal and USC have played every year since 1929, while Cal has played UCLA each season since 1933. Stanford has also played UCLA and USC every year since 1946.

Count USC athletic director Pat Haden as someone who doesn’t like how the new divisions are structured.

“I told [the rest of the athletic directors] my alumni will kill me if we don’t play the Northern California schools,” Haden said a week ago when word of the alignment leaked out.

“I proposed a 5-2-2 model that has us playing the five schools [in our division] every year and then have the Northern California schools as part of our regular two and then rotate the other two. We need to play Stanford and Cal.”

Haden’s proposal is pretty sound and it would satisfy those who were opposed to expansion because it’ll keep with the tradition that the conference has maintained over the past however many decades.

So much for the MWC getting stronger: Utah headed to Pac-10

When the Mountain West Conference added Boise State to its ranks last week, it was one step closer to finally earning an automatic BCS bid for its champion.

But then Utah had to go and ruin the party.

Utah UtesESPN.com reports that the Utes are likely headed to the Pac-10, as an announcement about their decision should be forthcoming. Along with recently added Colorado, the Pac-10 (which would have 12 teams if Utah officially joins) can now implement a conference championship if it so desires.

It’s hard to criticize Utah for the move. They’ve wanted the opportunity to play for a national championship for the last couple of years and never had a realistic shot at that goal playing in the MWC. But a move to the Pac-10 would at least give them the opportunity to play for a national title as long as they were crowned conference champions.

But while the move makes total sense for the Utes, it leaves the MWC in a bind. One of the reasons why the Mountain West doesn’t receive an automatic bowl bid for its champion is because the average computer rank at the end of the regular season for all the teams in their conference is so low. Adding a consistent winner like Boise was going to help in that area, but losing Utah (a team that hasn’t had a losing record in the last seven seasons) hurts the MWC from getting closer to its goal.

It’s going to be interesting to see how Utah fares against the likes of USC, UCLA, Stanford, Cal, Oregon and the rest of the Pac-10. But it arguably would have been more interesting to see how quickly the Utes and their MWC partners could gain an automatic BCS bid.

About face: Texas likely to stay in Big 12

They say that money is the root of all evil. It’s also the reason why Texas might wind up staying in the Big 12 after all.

In a rather surprising turn of events, it appears as though Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe has saved the conference by constructing a TV deal that could pay Texas upwards of $25 million per year.

ESPN.com has the details:

Texas stands to earn between $20 million and $25 million annually in television revenue in the reworked deal, including money from its own network, according to Orangebloods.com.

The Longhorns network figures to generate between $3 million and $5 million, according to the report. Because the Big 12 has unequal revenue sharing, the deal will mean more money for Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma, who all would receive at least $20 million annually from the new deal.

The other seven schools in the Big 12 would make between $14 million and $17 million, doubling what they currently receive in TV revenue.

Assuming this deal gets done, this would be a big win for all parties involved. Beebe keeps the Big 12 from completely imploding, the remaining 10 schools in the conference increase their TV revenue and rivals like Texas and Texas A&M won’t split. (Before this report surfaced, the Longhorns seemed destined for the Pac-10, while A&M was likely to join the SEC.)

Considering the events that have transpired up to this point, it is surprising that Texas is on the verge of staying in the Big 12. But what isn’t surprising is why they inevitably might stay.

Money was going to win out in the end here. As I wrote earlier today, expansion has always been about money. The schools that were considering expansion were doing so because they want to increase revenue and joining other conferences was a way for them to do that. But if Beebe found a way to generate more TV revenue (which it looks like he did), then there was no reason for Texas to join the Pac-10 or any other conference for that matter.

Personally, I think this is good news. College football is about tradition and rivalries and I thought it was absurd for programs like Texas and Texas A&M to split. I also hated the idea of a 16-team Pac-10 with no conference championship game, which was one of the proposed scenarios last week. Sure, the conference still lost Nebraska and Colorado, but most of the Big 12 will stay intact and as long as Beebe’s plan comes to fruition, I think everybody wins.


Photo from fOTOGLIF

Report: Texas getting closer to joining Pac-10

ESPN.com is reporting that Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are getting closer to joining the Pac-10. The report also states that Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe is trying to put together a plan to save the conference, although sources say that he has “zero” chance of succeeding.

Beebe’s last-ditch plan included an emotional plea about preserving rivalries and maintaining the best welfare of the student-athlete, one source said.

Texas A&M is now most likely to join the SEC, a source within the Big 12 said. This move, in the wake of Colorado and Nebraska’s departure, would further diminish the chance of Beebe’s plan succeeding, one source said.

Texas’ decision is expected to come no later than Tuesday. One source familiar with Texas’ plans suggested a hearing on Wednesday at the Texas House of Representatives is “a nonfactor.”

A report on Orangebloods.com said that Texas is committed to discussions with the remaining 10 schools in the Big 12 about a plan put together by Beebe that would keep the league intact with its current programs.

The plan includes assurances that a TV deal could net each school between $14 million and $17 million, Orangebloods.com reported, and schools such as Texas could still have their own TV network.

College football expansion is all about money, so Beebe’s plan isn’t completely hopeless. That said, things don’t look good for him and the Big 12. These schools are going to go where the TV deals are bigger and where they can generate more revenue. As of now, the Pac-10 offers the better “deal” for teams like Texas, so it seems inevitable that that is where they’ll wind up.

We’ll see if Beebe’s last-ditch effort can save the conference but as of now, it appears that the Big 12 is on the verge of imploding.

Update: Now ESPN is reporting that Texas is leaning towards accepting a deal to stay in the Big 12.

Based on a TV deal in the works that could pay them upwards of
$25 million per year, Texas is leaning toward staying in a 10-team Big 12 for the foreseeable future, Orangebloods.com has reported, citing sources familiar with negotiations.

Texas was meeting Monday with the other remaining nine schools in the Big 12 about a TV deal included in a plan put together by Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe that would keep the league intact with its current programs, according to multiple reports.

Texas stands to earn between $20 million and
$25 million annually in television revenue in the reworked deal, including money from its own network, according to Orangebloods.com.


Photo from fOTOGLIF

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