Big 12 Conference Welcomes TCU
July 1, 2012
Wendell Barnhouse, Big12Sports.com Correspondent
Celebrations and countdowns usually occur during the transition on the calendar from one year to the next. Both are appropriate, however, in the middle of the summer instead of the last day in December.
At 12:01 a.m. July 1, TCU and West Virginia officially become members of the Big 12 Conference. The addition of both schools were announced months ago but the reality of the start date means a new era for both schools.
It's also historic for the Big 12, which for the first time in its 16-year history is adding new members.
"We are extremely proud to call TCU and West Virginia members of the Big 12 and welcome Horned Frog and Mountaineer students, faculty, staff and fans to the Conference," Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowslby said. "Both institutions bring with them academic and athletic credentials that advance the Conference's standing within intercollegiate athletics. I couldn't be more excited for the future of the Big 12 Conference."
Adding TCU and West Virginia allows the Big 12 to continue at 10 members. That allows the Conference to maintain round-robin scheduling in football and basketball. It also expands the Big 12's footprint into the Eastern Time zone.
The Horned Frogs and the Mountaineers should make football even stronger. Both TCU and West Virginia won their conference championships last year. Plus, the Big 12 will have six schools going into the 2012 season coming off campaigns with 10 wins or more.
Men's basketball coaches are convinced that adding TCU and West Virginia will make the Big 12 even tougher.
"I think statistically the last few years the Big 12 is the only conference that's been ranked in the top three [each year]. We've been very successful in getting teams into the [NCAA] tournament and winning games in the tournament," Baylor coach Scott Drew said. "And when you bring West Virginia and TCU in, it just helps with the numbers. In some areas, it comes out better.
"The big thing is the core of the Big 12 is together. There's been so much tradition and success since the Big 12 was founded and I think people realize this is an elite conference and that year in and year out you can argue it's the best conference in the country."
West Virginia has sold nearly 37,000 season tickets. Only twice in the past 16 years has the school sold 38,000. The folks in Morgantown are giddy about lining up against Big 12 competition.
"There are other metrics like ticket sales and in football's case, season ticket renewals, which are off the charts now," West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck said. "There is a lot of excitement right now. It is going to be a lot of fun and challenging, no question about it.
"There are all sorts of different indicators, but our coaches are very excited. They all seem to have an extra spring in their step, no matter what sport it is because it is a new challenge."
TCU's transition is a well-timed end to a long migration. When the Southwest Conference disintegrated in the mid-1990s, the Fort Worth-based school was left out when the Big 12 was formed. TCU competed in the Western Athletic Conference, Conference USA and the Mountain West, plus had agreed to join the Big East before the Big 12 came calling.
Particularly in football, the Horned Frogs have earned the right to step up in class. TCU went 13-0 and defeated Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl in 2010. Nine of the last 12 seasons, the Frogs have won at least 10 games and seven times have won 11 or more.
The success has translated into record ticket sales. For the first time, the school has sold 30,000 season ticket sales. The fans this season will be treated to a renovated Amon G. Carter Stadium. In the offseason, new stands were built on both sides of the stadium. Construction included new suites and a press box. The stadium capacity will be 43,000 with the possibility to expand to 50,000.
In addition to the $164 million stadium renovation, TCU has added a new locker room and training room. Those improvements follow a new state-of-the-art weight room that opened last fall.
"We'll have one of the finest stadiums in the country starting this year and we have all the facilities, all the bells and whistles a coach needs to be successful," TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte said. "This school has invested in itself and now is the time for that investment to pay off."
With a new commissioner along with unprecedented solidarity and stability throughout the Conference, the official induction of TCU and West Virginia are part of a bright future for a "new" Big 12.