TCU Expected to Accept Big 12 Offer

Just four days after meeting with Big East presidents and renewing a vow to join the conference in 2012-13, it appears TCU is on the verge of accepting an invitation from the Big 12. If that is the action taken by TCU, the defending Rose Bowl champions, it would be a crushing blow to the Big East.

UConn football coach Paul Pasqualoni, speaking on his weekly conference call with Connecticut beat writers, was asked for his reaction just minutes after the news about TCU broke. He was already speaking in the past tense when discussing the Horned Frogs.

"Obviously it is a conference issue," Pasqualoni said. "I'm confident that the leadership of the Big East will do whatever and everything they can in the best interest of the Big East. TCU is certainly a very quality program. They would have brought a top 20, top 25 caliber, top 10 caliber football team to the conference, no question. But this realignment of conferences issue is part of it right now and I'm sure in the Big East we'll do everything we can do to move forward in the Big East. That's all I can say right now."

The Big East is playing this season with eight teams in the football conference. Syracuse and Pittsburgh announced last month they intend to move to the Atlantic Coast Conference. TCU was viewed as a replacement for one of those programs and the remaining presidents, including Dr. Susan Herbst of UConn, on Sunday authorized commissioner John Marinatto to pursue expansion discussions with programs interested in joining the Big East.

Navy and Air Force reportedly are the top names on the Big East wish list. However, the departure of TCU – before the Horned Frogs even join the conference – would make the Big East considerably less attractive to outside programs.

The Big East would drop back to six teams, including UConn, in the football conference. But the Big 12, under interim commissioner Chuck Neinas, is actively putting together the pieces after losing Nebraska, Colorado and Texas A&M in just over a year.

Missouri, which was not included in the decision to pursue TCU, is awaiting an invitation from the SEC. That may or may not happen. But if Missouri departs, the Big 12 will without a doubt, pursue more new members. Big East teams West Virginia, Louisville and Cincinnati are expected to in that group – along with the possibility of BYU. "Acting upon a unanimous recommendation of its expansion subcommittee, the Big 12 Conference Board of Directors has authorized negotiations with Texas Christian University to become the Conference's 10th member, and instructed interim commissioner Chuck Neinas to immediately begin discussions with TCU.

"The action of the Board was without dissent. On the advice of legal counsel, The University of Missouri did not participate in the vote."

Pasqualoni said he is still confident the Big East can stay together.

"I'm sure the Big East is working and will move forward as quickly and positively as possible," he said. "From a coaching standpoint, the focus has to be on [running your program] right now."

UConn (2-3) opens Big East play at No. 16 West Virginia (4-1) Saturday.

The TCU board of trustees met Thursday to discuss the Big 12 offer. A report by CBSSports.com said TCU would accept the offer. TCU Chancellor Victor J. Boschini Jr. represented the school at the Big East meeting Sunday and Marinatto described Boschini as "very positive." Thursday, Boschini released a statement confirming TCU is considering the Big 12 offer.

"These discussions with the Big 12 have huge implications for TCU," Boschini said. "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."

If TCU is removed from the Big East's future, it would only increase the urgency of UConn finding a new home – most likely in the ACC, if offered. The Big East already was in grave danger of losing its BCS status. Rutgers, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Louisville, South Florida and UConn are the six remaining football teams at this point.

Asked Monday if she thought the Big East could remain UConn's future destination, Herbst said, " Sure it's possible. But there's a lot of uncertainty right now. Nothing that anybody says is definite."

That statement looks stronger with each passing day.

Herbst released the following statement Thursday afternoon:

"Conference realignment continues to be a very fluid situation as we have seen developments and new rumors nearly every day. It is important that none of us here at UConn become too anxious over this situation. We will continue to monitor the national landscape and be in communication with officials from other schools and leaders from around the country. UConn has always competed at the high level of collegiate athletics and will continue to do so in the future."


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