TCU could cash in with Big 12

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TCU head coach Gary Patterson runs onto the field with his team before a game against SMU last week. Leaders of the Big 12 Conference cleared the way Thursday to add TCU to the confernce.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

AUSTIN — After more than a year of watching their league get picked apart, leaders of Big 12 Conference finally made a proactive move Thursday by voting to add TCU as early as next season.

It was the first aggressive act by a league desperate to secure its membership amid dramatic shifts in conference affiliation. And if the Horned Frogs join the Big 12, it would be another sharp blow to the Big East, which was expecting to welcome TCU next season.

TCU Chancellor Victor Boschini Jr. suggested TCU is all but ready to join the Big 12.

“These discussions with the Big 12 have huge implications for TCU,” Boschini said. “As always, we must consider what’s best for TCU and our student-athletes in this ever-changing landscape of collegiate athletics. We look forward to continuing these discussions with the Big 12.”

TCU, which is leaving the Mountain West Conference, has a rising football program that won the Rose Bowl last season and will play in a sparkling new stadium next year.

“We’re proud that TCU has been invited to join the Big 12,” said Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds, who touted their academic and athletics success as an “excellent fit” for the Big 12.

Although TCU would not expand the league’s television footprint, the Horned Frogs would add a Big 12 member in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, which is already a rich target for Oklahoma, Baylor and others. It also would bring in a football program that boasted a 36-3 record from 2008-1020 and went to BCS bowls the last two years.

The move also would be a financial windfall for TCU.

Big 12 chancellors and presidents have agreed to equally share revenue from the conference’s most lucrative television deals if member schools agree to give those top-tier rights to the league for at least six years. The agreement is subject to approval by university governing boards.

The revenue-sharing plan would give each school about $20 million in June and that figure is expected to grow by 2013 when the league’s new 13-year contract with Fox Sports kicks in. The Big 12’s contract with ABC/ESPN expires in 2016 and likely will bring in additional money when renegotiated.

TCU’s football stadium is undergoing a $143 million modernizing renovation scheduled to be completed by the 2012 opener. TCU, which got left out of the Big 12 when the league was formed in 1996, would join Baylor as the Big 12’s only private schools.