On Monday afternoon it was announced that TCU would depart the Mountain West Conference and head east, to the Big East, in all sports beginning with the 2012 football season. Besides the fact that Boise State's move to the MWC now looks to be insignificant, does TCU's move have any further ramifications in the conference realignment game?
With the addition of TCU the Big East will shape up to what currently amounts to a nine team football league. TCU, Connecticut, West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, South Florida, Louisville, Cincinnati and Rutgers. Not exactly a juggernaut but TCU's addition does pave the way to the football rich state of Texas for the rest of the league. Fact is, exposure in the state of Texas helps recruiting in the state of Texas, just ask a recruit from Texas.
On the basketball court the league now expands to 17. A rather odd number and TCU's addition really does little in the way of aiding the league that already has one of the highest basketball profiles in the nation.
Nine teams and seventeen teams, two rather odd numbers in the grand scheme of things. Scheduling oddities in basketball and a bit of a no man's land in football. At this point the Big East would seem to be positioning themselves for two things, both requiring three more schools. A 12 team football conference with a conference championship and a 20 team basketball conference representing the nation's first basketball super conference so to speak.
After an offseason where Kansas was caught in limbo this might represent a decent option for the Jayhawks should the realignment madness continue in the near future. Further realignment is a possibility that is already being kicked around by the Big 10 as they prepare for December meeting's
Delany said the next potential movement with the Big Ten and expansion would be in December when he met with the league's presidents.
If the Big 10 should decide or even begin posturing toward a second move it's hard to tell which dominoes might begin to fall.
Imagine a scenario where Texas, a resurgent Texas A&M and Oklahoma see greener pastures and do feel threatened enough to make a move. The Big 12(-2) is already viewed with a bit of skepticism by most due to the manner in which things ultimately came together. Say for a moment that the option once again presents itself sending Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to the Pac10(+2). It's now clear that Oklahoma is tied to Oklahoma State so there wouldn't appear to be much wiggle room for a team like Kansas based on Utah's addition this summer.
Now a Texas A&M team that seems to be getting back on track bolts for the SEC as most of their fanbase seemed to want anyway. That leaves Kansas, Baylor, Iowa State, Missouri, and Kansas State. The Jayhawks are tied to the Wildcats, we now know that. Baylor is in a bit of a no mans land so they're likely in trouble. That leaves Missouri and Iowa State.
The best scenario and a great option for Kansas if all else fails might be a jump to the Big East with their rival schools. Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri all elect to join the Big East. The three schools allow for a 12 team football conference divided into East/West divisions and a 20 team basketball superconference that only gains credibility by adding three teams currently holding a top 10 status. Can you say basketball juggernaut?
Now obviously if the uber-conference scenario plays out it's possible Missouri finally gains their coveted Big 10 invite in which case Iowa State joins the Kansas schools in the Big East. This scenario still accomplishes the same end game, just to a lesser scale based on the current state of their programs. And I suppose there is still the chance that Kansas could end up in a Big 10 or SEC but that discussion never seemed likely during the last go-around.
Either way the Big East would amount to:
East: Connecticut, West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, South Florida, Rutgers
West: Kansas, Kansas State, Louisville, Cincinnati, TCU, Missouri or ISU
If electing to go with a two division format it breaks down to 11 v 9 geographically so one of the basketball only teams from the East likely plays a bit out of whack. The possibility would still be there to play a full 20 team round robin if approved.
East: Connecticut, West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, South Florida, Rutgers, Providence, Villanova, St. Johns, Seton Hall, Georgetown
West: Kansas, Kansas State, Louisville, Cincinnati, TCU, Missouri(or ISU), Notre Dame, Marquette, Depaul
Is it the best option? Probably not. Some form of the current Big 12 is the best option for Kansas. After that any consideration by the Big 10 would be attractive. But a Big East built under the following scenario isn't the worst thing that could happen to Kansas. It's certainly far better than the MWC talk that floated around at times.
From a basketball perspective Kansas has no problem competing with the best in the country. The move likely eliminates the ability to go on a 6 year conference championship streak, but it does elevate the level of competition and put a battle tested, tournament ready team into the big dance every year.
On the football side of things the geography doesn't get so substantially out of whack as the division would include the states of Kansas, Missouri, Texas, Kentucky and Ohio. It isn't as ideal as the current situation, but it's not much different and this is an all else fails alternative that doesn't seem all that bad.
In theory Jayhawk football can be more competitive simply by making the switch, they stay tied to the fertile Texas recruiting grounds and maintain the biggest rivalries that fans have grown to identify with in both sports. Kansas also adds exposure in Big 10 country and the state of Ohio where the MAC conference finds plenty of solid football players year after year. I'm not suggesting you fill a roster with MAC talent and expect to compete, but you certainly can develop depth and fill out a team in Ohio as well as anywhere, like say the state of Kansas.
TCU to the Big East was a football move. There is no benefit in adding TCU as a basketball program, but in doing so it does better position the Big East when looking to add three more football schools if that time should come in the near future.
Conference realignment may be finished, but I'd guess it's not. Monday's move by the Big East and TCU might just have provided a better option than first believed for Kansas when looking East if that time should come.