Darren Hellwege, sports commentator
Clarification: According to a statement released by the Big 12 Conference, Missouri was advised by legal counsel not to participate in the vote to allow TCU into the conference.
Even as signs indicate the University of Missouri may be on the way out, one of the nation’s strongest football programs in recent years is on the way in. The Big 12 Conference announced today that the schools have voted unanimously to begin negotiations with Texas Christian University in hopes that the Horned Frogs will become the 10th member of the Big 12.
Acting Commissioner Chuck Neinas has been authorized by the conference to begin negotiations immediately with TCU. The school, located in Ft. Worth, Texas, has an enrollment of about 8,200 students, somewhat smaller than Baylor, the league’s current smallest school with nearly 14,000. TCU, founded in 1873, is affiliated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
In a statement on the university’s web site TCU Chancellor Victor Boschini Jr. said, “These discussions with the Big 12 have huge implications for TCU. It will allow us to return to old rivalries, something our fans and others have been advocating for many 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.”
The decision comes as a major blow to the Big East Conference. TCU had agreed to join the Big East next season after spending the last several years as part of the Mountain West. The decision to break their agreement with the Big East comes on the heels of the conference losing two of its most prominent football programs, Syracuse and Pittsburgh, to the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The Horned Frogs have had a great deal of success in football in recent years. TCU was undefeated last season and beat Wisconsin 21-19 in the 2011 Rose Bowl. They also finished the 2009 season undefeated before falling to Boise State in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. They’ve been a regular in the top 10 of football polls after years of being underrated and under appreciated.
Ironically, the move to the Big 12 will actually bring them back to some familiar foes. TCU was part of the now-defunct Southwestern Conference which included rivalries with Texas, Texas Tech and Baylor. The program has a rich history, including national championships in 1935 and 1938. The school also produced Heisman Trophy winner Davie O’Brien, NFL Hall of Famer Sammy Baugh, and current NFL superstar LaDainian Tomlinson. TCU is currently unranked and has a 3-2 record. They lost to Baylor early in the season and again last weekend to archrival Southern Methodist.
The big question that now arises is quite simple—will the addition of TCU be enough to convince Missouri to stay in the Big 12? The school announced this week that it has authorized Chancellor Brady Deaton to “explore options” regarding conference affiliation, and it’s the worst kept secret in college sports that the program may join the Southeastern Conference. In addition to the addition of TCU, the Big 12 has announced revised financial operations, meaning revenues from athletics, mostly football, will be shared more equitably between the schools. The unequal financial balance was seen as giving an unfair advantage to the league’s larger schools, in particular Texas.
However, fan opinion seems to be very strongly in favor of the Tigers leaving the Big 12 for the SEC. The Columbia Daily Tribune reported this week that after a Freedom of Information Act request, they had examined one day’s worth of emails to the curators. The Tribune estimated that about 90 percent of MU fans favored the move.
Deaton has given no indication as to when the decision will be made. The Tiger football team will play at Kansas State Saturday then returns to Columbia for the Homecoming game against Iowa State on Oct. 15th.