It is easy to think of the football team and the automatic BCS bid when thinking about TCU’s move to the Big 12 Athletic Conference in 2012. But the move has effects on all of TCU’s sports. All Horned Frog athletic programs will benefit from closer geographic distances between Fort Worth and opposing destinations.
The average current Mountain West Conference foe is located 1,009 miles away from Fort Worth. In next year’s Big 12, opponents would be approximately 450 miles from Cowtown. That number will remain true if West Virginia’s move to the conference is finalized. Morgantown, W. Va., is a 1,200-mile trip from Fort Worth. The other eight Big 12 schools are within an average distance of 355 miles.
The football team, with four conference road games, would save 2,236 travel miles going on the road.
The men’s and women’s basketball teams would each save 3,913 travel miles for their seven conference road games, and the baseball team would travel 6,708 less miles playing 12 conference games away from home.
In total for those three major sports alone, TCU athletics saves 16,770 miles of travel being in the Big 12 rather than the Mountain West.
TCU Director of Media Relations Mark Cohen said the shorter trips would be good for the team, but also for the fans.
“I think it will get the students more invested in TCU sports, because even the casual fan will have reasons to go to these games,” Cohen said.
Cohen also said student-athletes will miss less class time, and that is a huge benefit for them academically.
The conference switch also means more money for the school.
“As a private institution, we don’t release any financial figures,” Cohen said. “But it’s no secret that moving to the Big 12 will afford the school more revenue opportunities.”
The Big 12 athletic conference has a 13-year TV contract with Fox Sports. That contract includes a revenue-sharing deal for Big 12 football, men’s basketball and NCAA tournament games. Cohen said ESPN is also a partner with the conference.
TV revenue and the BCS status of the Big 12 are both potential contributors to revenue gain for TCU, no matter what the figures are.
Cohen said recruiting would be enhanced in the Big 12. More athletes want to play in a more competitive athletic conference like the Big 12, and the geographical situation in the new conference will appeal to recruits from this region.
“The main knock on TCU in recent years, especially in football, has been the conference they play in,” he said. “It was always that TCU didn’t play in the Big 12, and now that criticism is gone.”
The other main effect the move has on every sport is an increase in competition. Across the board, Big 12 athletic programs boast more competitive opponents.
Several of these major effects are relevant to all sports. Following is a rundown of how the move will affect other TCU athletics programs, beyond football:
Six of TCU’s future Big 12 opponents find themselves ranked in the top 51 teams in the country.
TCU has established itself as a College World Series contender over the past couple of seasons, and Cohen said the team would likely only improve in the new conference.
Cohen said attendance would be a big upgrade for TCU, who already boasted an average crowd of over 4,000 fans, placing them in the top 10 nationally.
“Imagine a three-game home stand against the [University of Texas] Longhorns,” Cohen said. “Lupton Stadium will be filled on a regular basis for these conference games.”
An average Big 12 men’s basketball contest draws more than 11,000 fans, which would sell out the Daniel-Meyer Coliseum (maximum capacity of 8,500). The largest crowd in TCU men’s basketball history is 7,267, according to GoFrogs.com.
The addition of West Virginia brings a Big East program that attracts almost 11,500 fans to home basketball games, and has 23 NCAA appearances.
Cohen said the men’s basketball program would be the program to benefit most from the move in conferences, aside from football.
“More recruits from the state of Texas see that TCU is in the Big 12 and look forward to playing against that level of competition,” he said.
Cohen said the program is “getting the ball rolling” with the influx of local recruits, and that trend should continue in the Big 12.
The Big 12 has led the nation in women’s basketball attendance for 12 straight seasons.
Four Big 12 women’s basketball programs are nationally ranked, including Baylor, who holds the nation’s No. 1 spot according to the latest rankings.
The recruiting trail for women’s basketball should see a similar trend as men’s basketball with more local players wanting to play for TCU.
The Big 12 has ranked in the top three conferences in average women’s volleyball attendance over the past three seasons.
Mountain West volleyball matches have averaged less than half the amount of fans as those in the Big 12.
TCU’s volleyball team attracted an average crowd of more than 1,300 fans over the past two seasons.
Cohen said the team moving to the Big 12, like with other sports, would provide them with more competition. Four schools that will be competing in the Big 12 in 2012 finished in the top 28 ranked teams for volleyball this year.
The Horned Frog volleyball team finished the 2011 season ranked no. 56.
The men and women’s tennis teams will also have tougher competition in the new conference.
The programs will see the same amount of conference foes in the Big 12. The Mountain West and next year’s Big 12 each have five other schools with tennis programs. The Big 12’s six tennis programs will be reduced to five when Texas A&M leaves for the SEC.
One of TCU’s Big 12 opponents will be Baylor, whose men’s and women’s teams are each ranked no. 6 in the nation by the NCAA. Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma are also each ranked in the top 25 in the same poll on the men’s side.
Baylor, Texas and Oklahoma each have women’s teams ranked in the top 25 as well. The Mountain West does not have a tennis program ranked in the top 25 in men or women’s tennis.
Media relations representative Chris Perry said the move would vastly improve recruiting for the tennis programs.
“It should allow TCU to continue recruiting some of the best international and American players in the country, as well as attract great players from the state of Texas,” Perry said.
Golf isn’t tallied in conference standings. Instead, the team competes in tournaments throughout the fall and spring.
The effect the move in conferences will have on the golf team is simply that TCU will face different opponents in the Conference Championship at the end of the spring season.
The tournament schedule will remain essentially the same for the golf team.
“The golf team will still do their own thing,” Cohen said. “It’s just a matter of going to a different conference tournament.”
Track & Field, Cross Country
Big 12 competition does not change the landscape of these sports as much. These programs will still participate in meets and tournaments rather than one-on-one conference match-ups.
The 2012 Big 12 alignment has five track & field teams ranked in the top 25. Texas A&M won the track & field national championship last year.
Swimming & Diving
The main effect on the swimming & diving program is the ability to compete against top competition, but do it close to home.
“TCU can continue to swim against teams from all across the country, as well top-notch competition within our own state,” Perry said.
The Big East would have been an upgrade in competition as well, but would not have solved the geographic distance issue that exists in the Mountain West.
“The great thing about the Big 12 is that every team will have a home,” Cohen said.
This includes the equestrian team. However, there are only 23 equestrian teams nationwide.
18 of those 23 teams are in Division 1, the same division as TCU. Of those 18 teams, three are teams that will be in the Big 12 Conference next year.
Texas A&M University is also in Division 1, but will leave the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference in 2012.
The Mountain West does not have a university with an equestrian team.
Women’s rifle will remain an independent sport, media relations representative Brandie Davidson said.
“There are a couple of conferences that sponsor Rifle, but the Big 12 is not one of them,” she said.
West Virginia carries a co-ed rifle squad.