TCU officially announces move to Big East, says gaining AQ status ‘a priority’

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Reported earlier today after being rumored for months, TCU officially announced at a press conference this afternoon that they will be moving from the Mountain West Conference to the Big East.

They also confirmed what’s been suspected for months: any move to the conference would be due in large part to the Big East holding one of the six automatic qualifying BcS spots.  While securing a home for their other sports was certainly a consideration, it was the prominence of the football program that appears to have driven the decision to leave the non-automatic qualifying MWC.

“We take tremendous pride in having a nationally-prominent athletics program and joining the Big East Conference will allow us to further grow our brand and increase our visibility and exposure,” TCU director of intercollegiate athletics Chris Del Conte said. “We are most appreciative of our time in the Mountain West Conference. The league helped elevate us across the board. We treasure the relationships we formed and the outstanding leadership provided by Commissioner Craig Thompson.

Having BCS automatic-qualifying status was a priority for our football program and a great reward for the success we’ve had the last decade under Gary Patterson. Keeping all our sports together was also critical. We are very excited to accomplish both these goals and look forward to our new home in the Big East Conference.”

TCU’s move to the Big East brings along with it the No. 5 television market in the country, giving the league a presence in 10 of the top 35 markets.  Such a situation would certainly make a conference network, which appears to be on the not-too-distant horizon, more attractive to potential advertisers.  Combine the mammoth TV footprint and TCU’s on-field football success — a priority given the conference’s dip in quality this year — and it made their addition a no-brainer.

“Our membership is genuinely excited to add an institution of the caliber of TCU to our Conference,” stated commissioner John Marinatto.  “Chancellor [Victor] Boschini and athletic director Chris Del Conte clearly share the same academic and athletic aspirations of our current members and are similarly committed to sponsoring a very highly competitive athletic program.  Located in one of the top five media markets in the country, TCU also enables the Big East to extend its media footprint, which already encompasses more than a quarter of the country.”

As reported earlier, the move to the Big East will become official July 1, 2012.

“Joining the Big East will enhance our student-athlete experience and continue raising TCU’s visibility on a national level,” Boschini said. “We have many championship winning teams within our athletics program and student-athletes across the board will now enjoy greater recognition. This move also provides an opportunity for TCU to recruit more students in different areas across the country, which will further diversify our student body.”