TCU worth whatever hassles for Big East

Here are a couple of prospects that don't excite Big East administrators:

  • A 17th basketball member, especially one that has averaged 12 wins per season the past five years while playing in a non-power league.

  • Sending volleyball, field hockey and track teams up to 1,500 miles each way for competition (that's the distance between Syracuse and Fort Worth, Texas).

Those are legitimate concerns, which is a major reason the Big East is interested in having TCU come on board as a football-only member and not necessarily join the all-inclusive resort. My unsolicited advice to the league would be this: Do whatever it takes to get the Horned Frogs, and do it today.

All the proof you need could be found Saturday when TCU destroyed Utah 47-7. It was one of the most impressive beatdowns of the season by anybody. The Utes came into the game ranked No. 5 and had their home crowd in a frenzy thanks to the "GameDay" atmosphere. Yet they had no chance. And remember, this is the same Utah team that beat Pittsburgh in the opener this season, the same Pitt which is currently leading the Big East by a wide margin.

The Big East shouldn't make long-term decisions based on one game or even one season. But it's clear that TCU has built a program to last under Gary Patterson. The Horned Frogs are working on their second straight undefeated season. They finished fourth in the BCS standings last year and 11th the year before that. They also won 11 games in 2005 and 2006.

At No. 3 in the BCS standings right now, TCU is perfectly positioned to play in the national title game if either Oregon or Auburn slip up. And I don't need to remind you that the Big East has never played in the BCS title game since the 2005 restructuring, or that the league currently has no teams in the top 35 of the BCS standings.

What if the Horned Frogs were to actually win the national title this year? Think they might have a little cachet and leverage after that? No wonder the school doesn't sound like it's all that enthused by a potential football-only offer from the Big East.

"We’re an athletic department,” TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte told The Sporting News' Dave Curtis. “Whatever endeavor we do, you’re united as one. That’s who we are. That’s how we always compete. We compete as one unit."

Make no mistake, though. TCU needs the Big East. The Mountain West's cred will be severely weakened by the departure of Utah and BYU, and the Big 12 doesn't need another Texas market, especially if a new member is actually going to challenge Texas and Texas A&M for recruits and victories. The Horned Frogs are on a roll, but they have to go 12-0 every year to have a chance at the BCS. Even an 11-1 season means a second-tier bowl. Pitt might make a BCS game this year at 9-3 or even 8-4.

The Big East, though, now needs TCU more. The Horned Frogs should continue to be good as long as Patterson stays (and an influx of BCS cash could certainly help keep him in Fort Worth). If TCU started playing in the Big East in 2012, it would get more TV exposure and possibly produce some great matchups against West Virginia, Pitt or whoever the league big dogs are by then. That, in turn, would help the Big East in TV contract talks when its deal comes up before the 2013 season.

Yes, bringing on TCU in all sports means a 17th basketball team and more travel for the Olympic sports. So what? Go to two divisions if you must in order to cut down some of the airfare. League basketball coaches shouldn't mind too much; wouldn't they rather face TCU once a year than play a second game against, say, Georgetown, Villanova or Louisville?

Expansion requires sacrifices and hard choices. For the Big East, the benefits of adding TCU to the football side is worth any possible downsides.