Moving Perks: TCU to the Big 12

Last Updated on October 12, 2011

Mere weeks ago, many were drafting eulogies for the Big 12, as Texas A&M announced its departure from the conference to join the SEC.

However, with TCU’s acceptance of an invitation to join the conference on October 10, the Big 12 not only gained a tenth member, but arguably reclaimed some stability.

TCU is presently a member of the Mountain West Conference and was set to join the Big East next summer.  However, in announcing that it will join the Big 12 in 2012, TCU effectively exited the Big East before ever competing within the conference.

TCU’s move to the Big 12 presents several incentives which will be enjoyed by the university and conference.

1.  Money

a.  For TCU

As noted above, TCU was set to join the Big East next summer.  That being said, its 11th hour switch to the Big 12 does not come without financial consequences.  Reports indicate that TCU will have to pay the Big East a $5 million exit fee.

Most would balk at the thought of a school shelling out $5 million to swap out its conference affiliation.  However, the size of the Big East’s exit fee and TCU’s willingness to pay it signals just how much the school expects to gain financially by joining the Big 12.

Last week, the Big 12’s members voted to distribute revenue earned from its television contracts equally amongst its members.  Presently, the Big 12 is a party to a first-tier television rights contract with ESPN worth $480 million.  Next year kicks off the start of a 13-year second-tier television rights contract with Fox worth $1.17 billion.

The Big East’s first-tier television rights contract with ESPN expires in 2012 and is worth $200 million.  The Big East is also party to a second-tier television rights contract with CBS worth $54 million.

Thus, while for some it may seem preposterous that TCU was willing to fork out $5 million to exit a conference it never played a game in, its Board of Trustees arguably realized the television revenue earning potential the school could reap through Big 12 membership.

b.  For the Big 12

Although some believed the Big 12 to be on its deathbed several weeks ago, the conference’s extension of an invitation to TCU was not one made out of pity for the university.

Rather, the Big 12 clearly realized the money-making potential TCU brings to the conference.  TCU is located in Fort Worth, Texas, which is less than forty miles away from Dallas.  Dallas is home to the fifth-highest rated TV market.  This ranking makes Dallas the highest-rated TV market for all of Texas.  By adding TCU to its conference roster, the Big 12 enters this fruitful market and can use this to negotiate future TV contracts.

2.  Geography

Along with providing the Big 12 with a connection to the fifth-largest media market, geography likely factored heavily into both TCU and the Big 12’s decision to join forces.

a.  Recruiting

It is no secret that Texas is a hotbed for high school football talent.  Securing a fourth Texas school into its conference gives all Big 12 members a significant advantage over other conferences in recruiting this talent.

Big 12 college coaches can lure Texas recruits to play for them by promising them the ability to play before their family and friends in their hometown.  With four Big 12 teams being located in Texas, a recruit who signs with a Big 12 team will play at least four games a season in his home state.  Additionally, schools like Oklahoma are a short drive away from TCU.  Thus, non-Texas based Big 12 schools can likewise use the addition of the Fort Worth-based TCU to the Big 12 as a recruiting tool.

b.  Costs

As noted above, TCU was set to join the Big East.  While likely a small factor when considered in the grand scheme of things, the university’s athletic department will incur much lower travel expenses by moving to the Big 12.  Four of the ten Big 12 schools are located in Texas.  When forced to travel outside of Texas, TCU will visit Oklahoma, Missouri, Iowa and Kansas.  Had TCU remained in the Big East, it would have to travel on a frequent basis to places like Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New York, Wisconsin, Washington D.C. and New Jersey to compete.  Staying closer to home undoubtedly curbs travel expenses.

3.  Football

TCU has had well-documented success on the gridiron in recent years.  Last season, the Horned Frogs went undefeated in football and won the Rose Bowl.

The Big East has a storied history as a basketball powerhouse.  In fact, its basketball teams perform so well, that it is one of the only conferences which earned more money from its basketball teams than its football teams.

For the period between July 2009 to June 2010, TCU’s football revenue was $20,609,361.00.  The average football revenue for Big East teams was $18.8 million, while football revenue for Big 12 teams was $35.4 million on average.  Thus, although TCU’s football revenue is less than its new Big 12 peers’, it was larger than teams in the Big East.  By moving to the Big 12, TCU has arguably set itself on good footing to earn even larger amounts of money from one of the biggest revenue streams in college sports.

All in all, it appears that TCU’s move to the Big 12 is a win-win situation for the university and the conference.

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  • Jeffery Roy
    October 12, 2011

    Alicia, I’m going to guess the Big East 2nd tier rights are closer to $54 million and not the net worth of the NFL, NBA, and MLB combined. Will TCU’s move convince BYU to join the party? After that, just one more school and Chuck Neinas can paraphrase Spinal Tap: “But this league goes to 12, just like the name!”

  • badger
    October 12, 2011

    OU and OSU were not members of the old SWC

    • OleAg65
      October 12, 2011

      Back in the early 1900’s.

  • Alicia Jessop
    October 12, 2011

    Jeff, good catch on the $54 Billion. The Big East’s TV contract for second-tier rights is actually worth $54 MILLION. I guess billions look like millions after a long day of lawyering. It will be interesting to see what BYU does, but in a sense, I think TCU’s move gives the Big 12 some leverage in attracting other schools.

    Badger, in stating that OU and OSU were former members of the SWC, this was my reference: Oklahoma left prior to TCU’s entrance. Given Oklahoma’s proximity to Dallas however, there’s the possibility that a new rivalry will be born.

  • OleAg65
    October 12, 2011

    Good article in general. However, the SWC was the Southwest Conference. The SWAC is the Southwestern Athletic Conference and is composed of historically African-American colleges in the same area.

  • Jeffery Roy
    October 12, 2011

    When the SWC collapsed in 1994, OU and OSU were members of the Big 8. The Big !2 was constructed from its eight members and 4 Texas schools: UT, A&M, Baylor, Tech. And Alicia, when you’re that tired try not to pay any bills. I have and the results are not pretty.

  • Alicia Jessop
    October 12, 2011

    Haha! Great advice, and I can only imagine how ugly that could get. Thank you all for your comments and great information.

  • Matthew Smith (@cfn_ms)
    October 12, 2011

    Worth noting: the Big 12 already has a presence in Dallas. RRS is there every year, and Texas and Texas Tech both have substantial fanbases in the area. Probably Oklahoma has more than a few as well.

    Also, Big 12 was already the pre-eminent league for Texas recruiting, and TCU doesn’t really change that in any meaningful way (pro or con). SEC will have A&M but Big 12 has Texas and Oklahoma, as well as a number of other regional programs.

  • Andy
    October 12, 2011

    Two comments on the future and why this was a no-brainer for TCU:

    (1) Does anyone think the differential in tv contract does not grow even further when the Big East renogiates sans Pittsburgh and Syracuse? The Big East is reported to have walked away from a $1 billion contract a few months ago. Bet they wish they had that offer on the table now.

    (2) The BCS ends after 2013. I think that BCS bowl payouts are around $14 million. If I was TCU, which conference is more likly to be let out when the arrangment is redarwn.

  • superdestroyer
    October 15, 2011

    There are more graduates of Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech living in the Dallas-Forth Worth metropolitan area than graduates of TCU. The adding of TCU does little if anything to media value in DFW.

    TCU gets a BCS conference and will play against schools that recruit the same players. The alumni will care more about beating Oklahoma and Texas Tech and beating Rutgers or West Virginia.

  • Chip (@user7145)
    October 17, 2011

    Alicia, you wrote:

    “With four Big 12 teams being located in Texas, a recruit who signs with a Big 12 team will play at least four games a season in his home state.”

    I am assuming you meant “a recruit who signs with a Big 12 team in Texas,” since Big 12 teams obviously aren’t going to play exclusively road games against the Texas-based teams.

    I don’t think it was a slam-dunk for the Big 12, but I think given their limited options it is a pretty good choice. I think it is fantastic from TCU’s perspective.

    • Alicia Jessop
      October 18, 2011

      Great catch, Chip. You are correct–Texas recruits who sign with a Big 12 team in Texas will play four games in their home state. However, even if the recruit lands outside of the state, TCU adds an extra opportunity to play in front of families and friends.