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Addition of TCU to Big East will benefit both parties

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Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2010

Several Big East football coaches were hunkered down watching film Monday morning and knew little or nothing of the big news about Texas Christian joining the conference in 2012. They had little to say. But South Florida's Skip Holtz was happy to share an enthusiastic thumbs-up.

"I'm all for anything that strengthens the Big East Conference, that helps us as an overall conference," he said. "If this is what the presidents and chancellors feel is in the best interest of the conference, I support their decision 100 percent."

Holtz added that TCU, which has bloomed as a national power during the last decade, adds "splash and value" to a football league that will expand from eight to nine teams, with a 10th team, perhaps Villanova, likely on the way. "It certainly will help," he said.

Still, Holtz was practically a wallflower compared with the boundless joy of TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte.

"Hot dang, it's a great time to be a Frog," Del Conte exulted at a news conference on the TCU campus in Fort Worth, referring to the school's Horned Frogs nickname. He noted that his unbeaten football team is probably going to the Rose Bowl, repeated the "great day" line about a dozen more times and never stopped beaming.

The TCU board of trustees unanimously voted its approval during an emergency meeting on Monday.

"If you allow yourself to dream a little bit, it's unbelievable," Del Conte said. "It's good to be wanted. And we were wanted by a great league."

Those representing the Big East, whose reputation as a football conference has taken a hit this year, returned the love.

"What an exciting and historic day to be the commissioner of the Big East Conference," John Marinotto said.

"I think it's an excellent move for our conference all the way around," Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson said. "We've said for some time that eight football teams was not an ideal number for a number of reasons."

But all signs point to the conference not stopping at nine teams.

"We're gonna continue to explore expansion," Pederson said. "This one made sense to move quickly. There was no debate, and it seemed appropriate to move as quickly as possible, and now is a time to take a good look at other possibilities."

Pederson downplayed any potential travel issues — Fort Worth is about 1,098 air miles from Pittsburgh — by pointing out the sizable distance to Big East rival South Florida and noting that the football team had a road game against Utah this year. There also will be one less nonconference game.

Addressing the geographical disconnect of a once-Southwest Conference member now competing in the Big East, Notre Dame chancellor and Big East executive committee chairman the Rev. John Jenkins quoted former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, a consultant to the conference.

"He said the Dallas Cowboys play in the NFC East and TCU and their fans will feel right at home in the Big East," Jenkins said.

"TCU is a great addition to the Big East and makes the conference that much stronger," West Virginia AD Oliver Luck said.

Added Mountaineers basketball coach Bob Huggins, "It's exciting for us because it opens up another recruiting area."

It also opens to the Big East the fifth-largest TV market in the country.

"I think every decision made today has been based on television," Del Conte said.

But this decision seemed to have as much to do with football as anything else.

Competing in the Mountain West Conference, which is not part of the Bowl Championship Series, the 12-0 Horned Frogs rank third in the latest BCS standings and appear destined for a Rose Bowl berth. TCU is 24-1 with Mountain West titles the past two years.

"My job is to put him in position to win a national championship," said Del Conte, who called Patterson "the best football coach in America."

Basketball is another story. The TCU men's team has one winning season in the past eight and has not reached the NCAA Tournament since 1998. TCU will give the Big East 17 basketball teams.

Adding a strong football program comes at a good time for a conference whose overall football strength has been criticized. And the jeers will grow louder when a team with four or five losses — UConn, Pitt or West Virginia — gains the automatic BCS berth, most likely in the Fiesta Bowl.

The Big East will continue to have an automatic BCS bowl berth at least through the 2013 season.

Big East football coaches and administrators stick to the same story, that football has been a quality product in the past and that this is simply a down year. But Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim seemed to speak for many when he told the New York Times, "I think it's obvious the football side has got to get better, either with the addition of someone or our teams have got to get better."

Going the distance

A look at the distance, as the "crow flies" from Texas Christian University, located in Fort Worth, Texas, to the 16 other Big East Conference schools:

School Distance in miles

Providence 1,551

Connecticut 1,509

St. John's 1,403

Seton Hall 1,391

Rutgers 1,377

Syracuse 1,352

Villanova 1,330

Georgetown 1,214

Pitt 1,098

West Virginia 1,079

South Florida 946

Marquette 875

Notre Dame 865

Cincinnati 842

DePaul 822

Louisville 754





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