TCU, a school approximately 400 miles west of the Mississippi, will soon play sports in a conference called the Big East, FanHouse informs. You have to admire the Big East. It never fails to be the hardest-working lapdancer in the room.
TCU is a big deal these days, especially now that it has swiped Boise State's crown of thorns and become everyone's new favorite BCS martyr, and there is no conference in college sports more dedicated to the pursuit of the big deal than the Big East. It was born in 1979 as a collection of lucrative television markets along the East Coast, and as a body it dispensed entirely with the pretense that a conference was about quaint things like rivalries and traditions and regional affinities. It was our first made-for-TV league, and it was nakedly all about making money. A decade later, when the Big East's football independents threatened to bolt for the likes of the Big Ten amid the same kind of realignment that had everyone ducking frogs and locusts all this past summer, Miami signed up — even though, geographically and culturally speaking Miami is about as far from, say, Syracuse as Havana is from Buffalo — and that was nakedly all about making money, too. Like that, a basketball conference became a football conference, and just in time for the launch of the Bowl Coalition. If the Big East proved to be a sort of Fredo among BCS conferences over the years, it still served its purpose well, as Michael Oriard has noted, merely by giving the system its East Coast representation, and that helped everyone make money, which is all the Big East has ever been about.
That brings us to this TCU deal, which will put the Horned Frogs in the conference in 2012, a year before the Big East's television contract expires. Here's how the league's commissioner, John Marinatto, once explained the prospect of expansion:
"Membership — quality membership and quality inventory — drives value," Marinatto said. "We're certainly cognizant of the value that expansion and quality inventory would bring to a television partner."
Crass as it is, it's almost refreshing to hear a commissioner openly discussing major college sports as if they were just another plot point on someone's P and Q graph, which is all they are, no matter how much hooey about amateurism the NCAA shovels at us. That's the glory of the Big East — it never pretends to aspire to any nobler tradition than that of making another buck in the champagne room.