Back on Sunday, I tweeted this sentence in response to the news that the Big East would pursue SMU as a travel partner for the TCU Horned Frogs, who were all set to join the conference on July 1, 2012.
For each university president in favor of adding a Texas school to an Eastern conference, there's an accountant who thinks that person is an idiot.
Why did I type that? Well, this current wave of conference realignment is not only football-based, but also set in the idea that TV revenues will continue to be outrageously high, and will therefore cover the cost of competition for all sports, even non-revenue ones (read as "everything but football and perhaps men's basketball with a heaping helping of 'maybe' on top" for the overwhelming majority of cases).
It simply makes NO fiscal sense for a school based in one part of the country to send most or all of its teams a ridiculous distance for conference competition. Remember, you need to sponsor a minimum of seven men's teams and seven women's teams (or six for men and eight for women, to get really technical) to be part of Division I. That's a lot of travel dollars to spend at a time when costs are skyrocketing and university budgets are being slashed. Plus. there's the significant amount of classroom time student-athletes miss when they're forced to make at least one long-distance trips a week in season to compete. (That concern disappears if we're thinking that term "student-athlete" is a charade at this point. Even though I'm a tremendous cynic, I'm not quite there yet, especially when I think of the non-revenue sports.)
So, I was pleased to see a modicum of sanity appear today in the news that the Big 12 (Motto: Now Less Numerically Accurate than Before) has invited TCU to replace future SEC member Texas A&M. The school's Board of Trustees is expected to vote on the matter either Friday or early next week. The proposed move would not only reunite the Horned Frogs with three former Southwest Conference rivals--Baylor, Texas, and Texas Tech--it would also create several new, more geographically-appropriate rivalries. Meanwhile, on the basketball side, TCU trades one tough future loop for another, as the step up from the Mountain West to Big 12 is one that's just about as difficult as the canceled one to the Big East, especially given the conference's double-round robin schedule. (Chances to get hammered by Kansas and Texas home and away...hooray!)
As for the Big East, even with the departures of Pittsburgh and Syracuse, it's still a solid 14-team loop for most sports, but a six-team football league is a significant problem for both scheduling and FBS eligibility. Expect more talk around the candidacies of Air Force, UCF, East Carolina, Navy, and Temple in the coming days.
Of course, it's possible that 10 won't be the final number for the Big 12 either. Missouri is currently shopping for a new conference, with the SEC the Tigers' preferred landing spot. That would drop the conference down to nine members. (Hey, I have the perfect name in mind!) However, it's possible Mizzou is forced to stick around, as it may not have the nine votes necessary to gain admission. In any case, there are rumblings that BYU, Louisville, and even Notre Dame may be in line for an invite if Missouri splits, with Cincinnati, West Virginia, and Tulane (Yes, Jason Kirk, I'm as dumbfounded as you are.) potentially in the frame.
In other words, the Big 12 may once again an accurate conference name, or it may not. Keep in mind the league office owns the trademark for the name Big 14.