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The Big 12 will play football

That’s their plan, anyway.

The start of the Big 12 Conference’s college football season will move forward as scheduled, conference officials said Wednesday, meaning four major Texas football programs are one step closer to playing this fall.

“Ultimately, our student-athletes have indicated their desire to compete in the sports they love this season and it is up to all of us to deliver a safe, medically sound, and structured academic and athletic environment for accomplishing that outcome,” said Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby in a statement. The season will kick off Sept. 26, with the conference championship pegged for Dec. 12.

Baylor University, Texas Christian University, Texas Tech University and the University of Texas at Austin are Big 12 members. The conference presidents’ decision to allow football during the coronavirus pandemic was made official Wednesday morning, a day after the Big Ten and the Pac-12 announced their seasons would be postponed until the spring semester.

Bowlsby said member schools have committed to enhanced COVID-19 testing, with three tests per week in high contact sports. Non-conference football opponents must also adhere to testing protocols that match conference standards.

Texas A&M University is part of the Southeastern Conference, which has also signaled its intent to allow teams to play this fall.

“We will continue to further refine our policies and protocols for a safe return to sports as we monitor developments around COVID-19 in a continued effort to support, educate and care for our student-athletes every day,” said SEC commissioner Greg Sankey in a statement Tuesday.

So that’s two Power 5 conferences not playing in the fall, two that say they are, and the ACC. Of course, there are a ton of questions that will have to be addressed before this can be taken seriously, such as “how exactly are you going to keep all those people safe”, “what will be the protocol when someone (or several someones) tests positive”, and “do you really think that allowing fans in the stands is a good idea”. You can have all the bravado you want, but you better have some idea of what you’re doing when something inevitably goes wrong. In the meantime, all I can say is that it’s going to be an interesting autumn. Or possibly spring, if things do change. Reform Austin has more.

The first college football playoff

How about that committee selection process?

As it turns out, it wasn’t a case of Baylor or TCU in the collective mind of the College Football Playoff committee after all. It was neither, and the joke’s on both.

TCU wins by 52 points and falls from third and a spot in the playoffs to sixth and oblivion?

“The committee doesn’t see the fall being very far,” chairman Jeff Long said.

Off the top of my head, Jeff, I’d say it’s the longest free fall by a Top 10 team after winning its last game by half-a-hundred in the history of polls, rankings or cave markings.

[…]

The only surprise Saturday was the Buckeyes’ big win with a third-string quarterback.

But that was nothing compared with Sunday’s shocker, especially if you’re a TCU fan or were under the impression the committee really meant to provide more clarity than the BCS’ much-maligned process. As impossible as it seems, the committee mucked it up even more.

Frankly, I was startled last week when TCU vaulted from fifth to third over Florida State. The move seemed less a vote of confidence in TCU than a shot across the bow of the Seminoles.

Florida State beat a pretty good Georgia Tech in the ACC title game, but it was a typical FSU win this season, a little less than convincing, the kind that started it on a slow slide from first to fourth.

Until Sunday, anyway, when the Seminoles moved back up to three.

And TCU fell in a black hole.

“I wouldn’t be honest if I wasn’t a little surprised dropping from three to sixth,” Gary Patterson told ESPN, smiling, playing good cop for a change.

Had the committee made TCU fifth or sixth last week, it wouldn’t be an issue now. All this result does is feed the conspiracy theorists. For that matter, the weekly release was probably a mistake. Long insisted it was a new world every week, but that’s a hard sell for a public unused to seeing such volatile movement from one Tuesday to the next. Made you think it was less about providing transparency and in reality just an excuse for an ESPN dog-and-pony show.

I have no dog – or pony – in this fight. Honestly, if I’d been on that committee, I have no idea who my fourth team would have been. Given all the past hubbub and controversy that led to the creation of this committee as a replacement for the unloved and unmissed BCS system, it’s quite the irony that in the first year of a four-team playoff for all the marbles, four slots weren’t enough. When does the drumbeat to expand this sucker to eight teams officially begin, I wonder.

And speaking of expanding

The Big 12 commissioner says the conference will reconsider how to declare its champion after being left out of the four-team college football playoff.

In a phone interview on the College Football Playoff Selection Show, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told ESPN’s Rece Davis: “It’s clear that we were penalized for not having a postseason championship game. It would have been nice to have been told that ahead of time.”

“We have to weigh whether this is substantial enough to add institutions. … It’s certainly a major consideration.”

The Big 12 would need to add two teams or have the NCAA approve a waiver to have a conference championship game. The Big 12 has 10 teams, and a conference must have 12 teams to have a conference championship game.

Clearly, there had been too much stability in conference composition lately. Round and round she goes…

Big East settles up with departers

Everyone who wants to leave the Big East is now free to do so. Well, maybe “free” isn’t exactly the right word.

Pitt and the conference announced that the school will pay $7.5 million to join Syracuse in leaving the Big East for the Atlantic Coast Conference on July 1, 2013. The Big East reached a similar deal with Syracuse earlier this week.

The agreement with Pitt includes the $5 million the school already paid after it announced it was switching leagues last September. It also puts an end to an acrimonious split between the Big East and one of its longest standing members.

[…]

The Big East later Wednesday night confirmed it had dropped its lawsuit seeking $5 million from TCU for reneging on a commitment to join the league and instead joining the Big 12. The conference said in a statement that “TCU has fully discharged its obligations to the Big East and the lawsuit is amicably settled without admission of liability of any party.”

Conditions of the settlement weren’t released, but a person familiar with it told The Associated Press the Big East will receive $5 million from TCU. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because no announcement was to be made on the agreement.

The Big East filed the suit last month in Washington, claiming TCU failed to pay the league the $5 million it agreed to when the school joined the Big 12.

TCU was never an official member of the Big East but accepted an invite in November 2010 to join in 2012. The Big East contended TCU agreed to pay $5 million if it didn’t. TCU accepted an invite to the Big 12 in October and will start playing in the conference this year.

Add to the $20 million the Big East is getting from Pitt, Syracuse and TCU another $20 million that West Virginia agreed to pay the conference earlier this year when the school and the league settled their dueling lawsuits, and the Big East earned $40 million in departure fees.

Not a bad day’s work. The Big East can now concentrate on getting a new TV deal and deciding whether or not the name “Big East” makes sense for a conference that will have teams in all four continental time zones.

TCU to join Big XII

For now. Until something better comes along, of course.

TCU accepted an invitation to join the Big 12 on Monday night, seizing an opportunity to be a part of a conference with natural geographic rivals despite the league’s recent instability.

The board of trustees unanimously approved the move and Chancellor Victor Boschini Jr. made the expected announcement in front a packed room of more than 200 people. Athletic director Chris Del Conte fought back tears as he recalled receiving the phone call from the Horned Frogs’ new conference last week.

“This is living proof that dreams do come true,” he said.

They’re quitting the Big East before ever officially joining it, thus becoming the Britney Spears and Jason Alexander of college football. (I’ll leave it to you to decide if that means that the Big XII is K-Fed.)

The move could provide some much-needed stability for the Big 12, which lost Nebraska (Big Ten) and Colorado (Pac-12) over the summer and will lose Texas A&M to the Southeastern Conference next year. Missouri is also exploring a move to the SEC.

Yes, we’ll see how long that stability lasts. And if the SEC ever wags a finger at TCU, don’t get between them and the exit clause. Now we wait to see who the Big East will go after to fill the holes left by TCU, Syracuse, and Pittsburgh. Everyone in Conference USA, either brush up your resumes or hold onto your seats.

Missouri on the move?

Still no stability for the Big XII.

It wasn’t too long ago that Missouri chancellor Brady Deaton spoke of “working every day to hold the Big 12 together.” Now he’s been tasked with helping decide whether the Tigers are the latest program to leave a troubled conference fighting for its future.

University curators voted unanimously Tuesday night to consider leaving the Big 12 instead of committing to the league for the long term. The governing board’s members agreed unanimously after a 4-hour closed meeting at the system’s St. Louis campus to give Deaton authority to look elsewhere, specifically “any and all actions necessary to fully explore options on conference affiliation….which best serve the (school’s) interest.”

And Deaton, the conference’s public face through its recent turmoil, is resigning as chairman of the Big 12’s board of directors to avoid the obvious conflict of interest.

Just one day earlier, the conference announced that presidents and chancellors of the remaining nine members — including Deaton — had agreed to equal revenue sharing and to seek approval from each university to hand over the most lucrative television rights to the conference for six years.

Now it looks as if the Big 12 might be losing two members for the second straight year.

“The University of Missouri is a member in good standing in the Big 12 Conference, and I anticipate the University will continue to be a member of the Big 12,” interim Big 12 Commissioner Chuck Neinas said in a statement released soon after Missouri announced its intentions.

[…]

Speculation has centered on a possible Missouri move to the Southeastern Conference, which recently agreed to accept Texas A&M from the Big 12 starting next year

Deaton declined to specifically answer a reporter’s question about interest in the SEC on either the school’s part or the other conference. He said there is no timetable for the decision, whether by a self-imposed deadline or a Big 12 loyalty demand.

“We’re going to be exploring options generally and will be making no comments about specific areas where we have begun to look at,” he said.

Conceivably, Missouri could remain in the Big 12, Deaton said, but the Tigers are officially on the market now. And the SEC could use a 14th member to balance a league that now has an odd number of teams.

“We certainly are not ruling out continuing in the Big 12,” he said. “But we want to be sure to do what is best for our university.”

That boat sure has a lot of leaks, doesn’t it? It’s unclear at this point if or when an invitation for Missouri to join the SEC might come; they are wrestling with how to preserve rivalries in the event of another western school joining. Who knows how long that might take? In the interim, the Big XII is now seeking to expand as well.

Leaders of the Big 12 Conference cleared the way Thursday to add TCU, a move that would bring in a rising program and potentially shore up a league that seemed ready to fall apart just a few weeks ago.

The Big 12’s presidents and chancellors voted unanimously to authorize negotiations with the Horned Frogs, who play in Fort Worth, Texas, and boast the defending Rose Bowl champion.

TCU was planning to leave the Mountain West for the Big East next year, though the Big East is reeling from the loss of Pittsburgh and Syracuse to the ACC.

TCU Chancellor Victor Boschini Jr. suggested a move to the Big 12 might be a better decision for his school, a former member of the old Southwest Conference that once included current Big 12 members Texas, Texas Tech and Baylor. It also included Texas A&M, which is leaving the Big 12 for the SEC next year.

“These discussions with the Big 12 have huge implications for TCU,” Boschini said. “It will allow us to return to old rivalries, something our fans and others have been advocating for years. As always, we must consider what’s best for TCU and our student-athletes in this ever-changing landscape of collegiate athletics. We look forward to continuing these discussions with the Big 12.”

More here and here. The Big XII, assuming it continues to exist as a viable entity, is surely a better option for TCU, which is to conference affiliation what Liz Taylor was to marriage. Never mind the Big East’s own issues with volatility, the Frogs’ travel budget will be much more manageable in the Big XII. One wonders if the Big XII will look for another school to invite in the event Mizzou bolts. And one wonders how embarrassing it would be in the event TCU says “thanks, but no thanks” to the Big XII. Has that ever happened to a BCS conference before now? Anyway, the ongoing drama of As The Conferences Turn seems unlikely to end any time soon.

TCU to the Big East

Can’t say that this was unexpected, given that TCU changes conferences more often than some people change clothes.

TCU, located “Where the West Begins,” is headed east. To the Big East Conference, to be exact.

The school announced Monday that it has accepted an invitation to join the conference in 2012. All sports will participate in the Big East.

TCU has competed in the Mountain West Conference since 2005 and will remain in the league for the 2011-2012 school year.

Rumors of the move have been circulating since September, but TCU wasn’t officially asked to join the conference until Sunday evening.

Father John Jenkins, the Notre Dame chancellor and chairman of the Big East Executive Committee, made the offer to TCU Athletic Director Chris Del Conte by phone.

TCU’s Board of Trustees, knowing the offer was coming, held an emergency meeting Monday morning and voted unanimously to accept.

Since the breakup of the Southwest Conference in 1995, TCU has been in the WAC, C-USA, and the Mountain West. You have to figure that if the Big XII comes calling some day, they’ll be receptive to yet another move.

Is it a good move for them? Well, it means that they’ll have a guaranteed shot at a BCS bowl every year, at least until 2014 when the current agreement expires. Beyond that, it’s a good question.

[U]sually when a school makes a major change like the one TCU is announcing today, it can at least try to sell the idea that it’s good for all the sports at the school.

This one seems strictly designed for men’s football.

We know that TCU is no powerhouse in men’s basketball. It’s going to play in the Big East with UConn and Louisville and Syracuse and Pitt and the rest of those big boys? Good luck.

As for women’s sports and the smaller men’s sports, the travel through the Big East would seem to be prohibitive although there was obviously some very difficult travel in the Mountain West as well.

But I think without question this is being done strictly for the opportunity to pursue an automatic BCS bid…which hasn’t really been a problem for TCU lately, anyway. The Frogs are going to the Rose Bowl this year. Outside of playing in the BCS national championship game, the stage doesn’t get any bigger than the Rose Bowl.

I realize that Frogs fans believe their team is just as deserving of that national championship game as Oregon or Auburn. I get that. But this move doesn’t get rid of the possibility of being left out of the title game in the future.

If everything was the same with Oregon and Auburn this season and TCU was just finishing an unbeaten run against the likes of Rutgers and Cincinnati and their new Big East foes, wouldn’t the Frogs still be, in all likelihood, No. 3 behind the Ducks and Tigers?

I would think so.

For what it’s worth, the highest BCS ranking of any Big East school is West Virginia at #24, though it’s Connecticut that has the edge in getting to a BCS bowl this year. I have to figure that if there were a real college football playoff, this move would be less likely to happen, as TCU would have its shot at a championship and wouldn’t have to worry about being passed over by forces beyond its control.

I dunno, I mostly think of the Big East as a basketball conference. As far as that goes, it won’t be pretty for the newcomers.

TCU spent the past five seasons as an also-ran in the Mountain West; its best finish was seventh (at 6-10) in 2007-08. Its highest rating in kenpom.com’s adjusted efficiency rankings during that stretch was 124th, in ’08-09. Because the efficiency rankings are best way evaluate teams from different leagues on the same plane, we can use them to project where TCU would’ve ranked in the Big East from 2006-10:

2009-10:
TCU Efficiency Ranking: 178
Big East Teams with lower efficiency rankings: 0 (Closest: No. 172 DePaul, No. 156 Rutgers)

2008-09:
TCU Efficiency Ranking: 124
Big East Teams with lower efficiency rankings: 3 (No. 135 South Florida, No. 141 Rutgers, No. 198 DePaul)

2007-08:
TCU Efficiency Ranking: 169
Big East Teams with lower efficiency rankings: 0 (Closest: No. 164 Rutgers, No. 126 St. John’s)

2006-07:
TCU Efficiency Ranking: 152
Big East Teams with lower efficiency rankings: 1 (No. 166 Rutgers)

2005-06:
TCU Efficiency Ranking: 229
Big East Teams with lower efficiency rankings: 0 (Closest: No. 162 South Florida, No. 108 St. John’s)

Those numbers indicate that the Big East is adding a team that would have finished 17th, 14th, 17th, 16th and 17th, respectively, in the league over the past five years. TCU’s ’09-10 team was, improbably, worse than the DePaul squad that went 1-17 in conference play that season. The Horned Frogs give the league a new TV market (Dallas-Fort Worth, which is the nation’s fifth-largest), but they will not make for quality hoops TV.

And that’s before you consider scheduling and tournament issues. Obviously, the Frogs can strive to improve their hoops program – they’ve done all right with football, after all – but it could be ugly for awhile. Anyway, congrats to TCU for finally getting what they want, at least until something better comes along.

Is the Big XII in UH’s future?

Now that we know the Big XII will survive, one question that now arises is whether it will try to replace defectors Nebraska and Colorado, and if so with which teams. Already, there’s a drumbeat for UH being included. Richard Justice runs out to the front of the parade.

The Big 12 almost certainly will add two teams at some point. It may be two years from now, maybe longer. TCU would seem to be a slam dunk for one of the invitations, and UH needs to position itself for the other.

To do so will require work on multiple fronts, to do things UH has been unable to do in the past. But this is a new era at UH.

I’ve kind of lost count of the number of New Eras there have been at UH since I came to town in 1988. I can’t help but feel like I’ve heard this all before – IF they can maintain recent success, and IF they can upgrade their facilities, and IF they can draw bigger crowds, then it will all come together. If they can in fact do these things, then UH makes some sense; there’s enough UT and A&M alums here to make Houston a part of the Big XII TV market already, so that’s not much of a factor. Let’s just say I’m not going to hold my breath on this.

UH President Dr. Renu Khator gets some space on the op-ed pages to chime in as well with a rah-rah piece for her school. I noticed that the one thing neither she nor Justice mentioned was the concept of rivalries – UH rivalries, I mean. As that was a large subject of discussion when everyone thought the Big XII was headed for the junk pile, and especially when it looked like A&M might part ways with UT, that seems a curious oversight. Not to put too fine a point on it, but UH’s biggest rival these days is Rice, whom UH would be leaving behind in this scenario. Yes, I know, UH sees UT as a rival. I have news for you: UH and UT are rivals in the same way that Rice and UT are rivals. The rivalry means a lot more to one school than it does to the other. If all that lip service to rivalries meant anything, then the UH-to-the-Big XII advocates should be calling for Rice to come along as well. As TCU is also being mentioned, bringing Rice along would give the conference 13 members, so we may as well go whole hog and grab SMU, too, to balance out TCU and get things back to an even number. And since that would make the Big XII moniker as accurate as “Big 10” and “PAC 10” are right now, a new name for it would be in order. I have a suggestion for that, too.

Anyway. If you want to see the UH thing happen, there’s a University of Houston Should Join The Big 12 Facebook group for you. There’s a similar group for TCU, too, if your tastes go that way. If you want to read more about how Dan Beebe pulled this off, read Kevin Sherrington and especially Dan Wetzel, who reminds us that this is a temporary peace. Sooner or later, something like what the PAC 10 was trying to do will come up again. Burka, the Trib, and Sean Pendergast have more.

More on streetcars in Fort Worth

The TCU Daily Skiff writes about Fort Worth’s plans for streetcars.

The city of Fort Worth plans to move forward with bringing in a nationally recognized consultant to finalize aspects of a modern streetcar system that would consist of an initial loop through downtown Fort Worth as early as 2014 and possibly connecting to campus in the future, a city official said.

David Gaspers, a senior planner in the city’s planning and development department, said plans for the modern streetcars began in 2008 when Mayor Mike Moncrief and the city council appointed an initial study committee to look at the feasibility of a streetcar system for central Fort Worth. The committee found the streetcar system to be a feasible option and recommended an initial route spanning from downtown, Gaspers said.

Even though the initial route would connect nearest to campus at the Cultural District, Gaspers said he did not see why the streetcar line would not connect to the campus in the future. Historically, streetcars connected downtown Fort Worth to campus during the 1920s, he said.

“It would make sense that many of the new lines that would go in place would follow lines that were there, the historic streetcar lines,” Gaspers said. “It is hard to tell at this point when that would happen.”

That’s the same basic idea as what they’re doing in San Antonio. I don’t know the geography of Fort Worth, but if their plan is anything like SA’s, then the area in question is likely still pretty walkable, and thus at least reasonably well-suited for this kind of transit. I wish them luck in getting it done. Via Houston Tomorrow.