FORT WORTH, Texas - An even bigger dividing line in college athletics is coming, and regardless of what the commissioner of the American Athletic Conference says both he and his membership schools can only pray they aren't on the wrong side of this line when it is drawn.
According to this interview with Dennis Dodd of CBSSportsline.com, American Athletic Conference boss Mike Aresco thinks they will be invited to join the latest version of the Big Time Country Club when the split happens.
TCU was this close to being on the wrong side that now looks like it will include cross-town rival SMU, which has doggedly tried to avoid this from happening.
Aresco better have a few senators, and a giant pile of cash, to ensure his membership schools - Cincinnati, UConn, Houston, Louisville, Memphis, Rutgers, South Florida, SMU, Temple and Central Florida - are invited.
The AAC has already been picked clean - Louisville and Rutgers are leaving; Cincy and UConn are leaders of a conference neither wants to be in. Perhaps UConn can raise the late Texas governor Ann Richards' spirit to Baylor its way on the right side of the line.
The power conference commissioners at their respective football media days all individually referenced the need for a major NCAA shakeup; that's not a coincidence. It is mostly anchored around the TV contracts the Pac 12, SEC, Big 12, ACC and Big 10 currently enjoy. There are roughly 120 Division I football programs, but only 63 command big money (this figure includes Notre Dame).
As desperate as all of these new 24-hour sports channels - FoxSports 1, NBC Sports Channel, CBS Sports Network - are none needs to pay massive figures for the likes of the Mountain West, or AAC. The lower conferences need the exposure, so they take what they can get and play whenever is asked for TV.
When TCU director of athletics Chris Del Conte and I talked about a conceptual new class of Division I athletics, we both shook our heads at how many variables had to break right for TCU to be in this secure spot. As much of an inconceivable dream as it was for TCU to play, let alone win, the actual Rose Bowl was when the Southwest Conference collapsed, the far greater challenge was not to be left behind when the "big split" happened.
TCU people had been fearing this sort of split since 1996.
Yet they are secure for a variety reasons, mostly their own determination and success, but had Texas A&M not jumped for the SEC there is an excellent chance TCU would be in the American Athletic Conference (the old Big East) today with SMU as a conference rival.
When Del Conte was hired he was asked two questions: Can he raise money for a "new" football stadum, and can he get TCU into a BCS conference?
After securing a spot in the Big East, he was there. And then the Big East began to fall apart not long thereafter and he was in a professional state of "OMG! OMG! OMG! :-( :-( :-("
"Then Texas A&M went to the SEC and a spot opened," Del Conte said. "Had that not happened, and Texas not decided to stay in the Big 12 I'm not sure where we'd be."
Go with screwed. That spot in the Big 12 was big when TCU accepted it, and it will only grow when this new class of Division I is formed.
While other universities have spent similar millions and millions to improve athletic departments in an effort to make the school more attractive for donors and student applications, TCU may be the nation's greatest example that the plan works.
To follow the paradigm is wise, to expect similar results is dicey. TCU did everything right, and it needed a help from an Aggie to complete this amazing narrative.
Not all schools are as fortunate. Just ask SMU.
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