It’s been less than a year since Texas Christian University (TCU) announced its move to the Big East Conference. However, reports began circulating Thursday that the Horned Frogs may now be joining the Big 12 conference – becoming the third school to leave the Big East in a matter of weeks.
According to ESPN, TCU has not officially accepted the Big 12’s invitation to join the conference, but at this point, that only appears to be a formality. If TCU accepts the invitation, their defection could happen as soon as next year – leaving the Big East with only eight football members in the 2012 season and six when Pittsburgh and Syracuse make their move to the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) in 2014.
Because TCU was not scheduled to become an official Big East member until July 1, 2012, it does not have to wait the 27 months required by Big East bylaws before switching conferences.
With the Big East in shambles, league presidents met for a conference call Friday to reportedly discuss a possible expansion and determine exit fees for the schools leaving the conference.
According to the Associated Press, if TCU leaves the conference it may still have to pay a $5 million exit fee.
“We are confirming that presidents and athletic directors were on the Friday call, but nothing further than that,” said Big East spokesman John Pacquette.
However, Pacquette did say the most likely option for the Big East is expansion, something Big East Commissioner John Marinatto is “working aggressively” toward.
It is possible that service teams like Navy and Air Force could receive an invitation to the Big East, yet nothing is confirmed at this point. For now, the conference has few possibilities.
If the conference expands, it could add schools like East Carolina, the University of Central Florida or Temple, which have all been reportedly vying for an invite. Pacquette declined to comment on which schools the Big East is considering, but did say it is “looking for institutions that add value” to the conference.
Yet, given the conference’s uncertainty, schools willing to join may be few and far between. If the Big East does not expand, it could lose its automatic Bowl Championship Series (BCS) bid – a serious blow to member teams.
Conferences with automatic BCS bids must contain at least seven football schools. Given the Big East’s current outlook, with only six members for 2014, that option is gone. Even if the conference does expand, there’s no telling whether other schools such as the University of Connecticut and Rutgers would look to apply to other conferences like the ACC, which could be looking for a 16-team conference.
For now, the fate of the Big East is a waiting game.