TCU will announce it is leaving the Mountain West to join the Big East today according to two sources within the Big East.
The announcement will be made at a 2 p.m. ET press conference at TCU.
The league had voted earlier this month to expand by two teams, ostensibly to make the weakened league for viable for BCS membership and more attractive to television. The eight-team Big East is the smallest in Division I-A. TCU is among the smallest in enrollment but its athletic profile has been boosted by the football program under Gary Patterson.
The Horned Frogs all but clinched a Rose Bowl on Saturday and will become the first team from a non-automatic qualifier conference in to play in consecutive BCS bowls. TCU was defeated by Boise State in last season's Fiesta Bowl.
It is not clear if TCU will also join the Big East in basketball. TCU would be the 17th member of a basketball league that is already as unwieldy to some.
If TCU joins the Big East before the 2012 season its recent on-field success could count toward the Big East's BCS credentials. The BCS evaluates membership on a rotating four-year basis. The 2010 season marks the halfway point of the current four-year cycle. In the first two years of that cycle TCU has gone 24-1 with consecutive BCS bowls.
The Big East is one of the six BCS conferences with a berth for its champion into a BCS bowl. In December 2008, the Big East was granted a waiver to remain a BCS automatic qualifier after television partners made it clear they wanted access to the lucrative Northeast television markets. The Big East claims seven of the top 13 TV markets in its footprint, including New York.
This could be a crippling blow to western football. After the loss of Utah (to the Pac-10) and BYU (to independence), the Mountain West has been desperately chasing viability. In the last six months Boise State, Nevada and Fresno State have announced they will leave the WAC and join the Mountain West in the future. Meanwhile, the WAC has been scrambling, adding Texas State, Texas-San Antonio and Denver (basketball only).
Hawaii reportedly is considering leaving the WAC to join the Mountain West in football only.
The closest Big East schools to TCU are Cincinnati and Louisville. The Big East already stretches from Connecticut to Florida. The move west could open fertile recruiting grounds to Big East schools.