When Jamie Dixon was coming out of high school, he claims he had few options when it came to where he would continue his basketball career. He chose to attend TCU, because they basically offered him a scholarship.
"They wanted me," Dixon said. "They offered me a scholarship. I wasn't heavily recruited."
He went on to be an all-Southwest Conference selection at TCU, where he graduated in 1987. That decision to attend TCU was a huge decision for him personally, as it laid the groundwork for his eventual career as a college basketball coach.
Monday, TCU's board of trustees unanimously approved a move to the Big East, starting for the 2012-13 schoolyear. As it turns out, Dixon was instrumental in both gauging and sparking some interest from his alma mater. TCU gave him a chance and a start on his career path, which obviously impacted how his life would turn out. With Dixon getting some wheels in motion, it turns out his actions may have impacted the school's athletic program, both immediately and for the long run.
"It's exciting," Dixon said. "It's probably even more exciting because it's something that would seem so far-fetched years ago. As you look at it now, it's the right thing for both the conference and for the University. It's good. I am excited."
Though Dixon wouldn't get too specific, he met up with his good friend, TCU athletic director Chris del Conte in September for TCU's Hall of Fame weekend. The Horned Frogs football team was playing Baylor that weekend. Dixon was inducted into TCU's Hall of Fame in 2007. Dixon didn't single-handedly put TCU in the Big East, but he was instrumental in stirring up interest on del Conte's part.
"Chris and I are friends, we go way back," Dixon said. "We've talked about it months ago, prior to the football game. I was down there, then I went to the football game. It was Hall of Fame weekend. Going back to Dallas and going down there, Steve (Pederson) and I were going down there, so it kind of worked out well."
While the move was made mostly for football--to add another number to the football side of the Big East, and also add a football power of sorts. TCU has gone 35-3 over the last three seasons as a member of the Mountain West Conference. During that same stretch, the two biggest names in the Longhorn State--Texas and Texas A&M--have gone 30-9 and 19-18, respectively. The knock on TCU has always been that they're not in a BCS conference. By joining the Big East Monday, combined with a strong track record of being able to recruit despite other big name schools in Texas, a trip to a BCS bowl last year and possibly another trip waiting in the wings in a few weeks, the program not only enhances its reputation but opens itself up to even more opportunities. This, is just the football side of it.
TCU has managed to put up a successful record, despite having to compete in-state with Texas and Texas A&M, and in some cases, having to take a back seat to those schools in terms of recruiting in-state players. By joining the Big East, they can now market themselves as a BCS school, but also open their brand into new recruiting areas. It all starts, however, with their recent track record.
"At the time, I think if you're going to add, you might as well add the best, and they were the best available football team," Dixon added. "I also know their commitment to athletics and what they're doing there. I know we're looking for very good academic institutions. Once you look at all the positives, and all the advantages it brings to you, you can see why we made this decision. The timing was right. The program, the University is the perfect fit."
And this is the basketball coach talking. While TCU's football program brings some much needed credibility to the football side of things, there's a problem on the basketball side. With 16 teams in the Big East for basketball, how is a 17th team going to affect the conference's outlook?
"Sixteen worked fine, Seventeen doesn't bring too many changes," Dixon said. "We have to admit what's happened has worked. It's definitely going to work in a lot of areas. I can't see any negatives.
"Big Ten has eleven (teams), Big Twelve. Numbers in conferences and geographics are out the window now. Names do not represent conferences. Teams represent conferences. We have strengthened ourselves football-wise and basketball-wise. I can guarantee you with that. That's a good thing in every way. Our football conference gets stronger, the rest of the conference gets stronger. That's a good thing. They work hand in hand."