Frogs should head west

How would you like to spend a fall weekend out of the cold, under the sun-soaked rays of San Diego? What about catching a view of the scenic Rocky Mountains, or spending a night in that sinful delight known as Las Vegas?

If you’re a Horned Frog sports fan, you will soon get these opportunities if TCU athletics puts down its anchor in the Mountain West Conference.

It’s going to happen, and it is a good thing too.

It’s apparent Conference USA had reached its ceiling. Commissioner Britton Banowsky sat on his hands during the recent conference carousel.

He watched as Louisville, Cincinnati, South Florida, Marquette and DePaul were plucked by the Big East Conference, much in the same manner as the Big East was raided by the Atlantic Coast Conference.

He then replaced his departing schools with the likes of Tulsa, SMU, Rice, Marshall and Central Florida, hardly the quintet as its predecessors.

While some have enjoyed success in certain sports, none can match the quality football programs of C-USA’s soon-to-be ex-members.

Look, I like and respect all sports. I have been to TCU volleyball matches, baseball games and tennis matches. The point is college football drives the NCAA bus. It draws the crowds and large TV contracts, which in turn makes the majority of the money for a school’s athletic budget.

Banowsky also wasn’t there for TCU during its recent bowl issues. TCU officials warned the GMAC Bowl about inviting them prior to the team’s loss to Southern Mississippi.

They had exams. Those exams conflicted with the bowl schedule. How hard could that be?

Hard for the GMAC Bowl, which still invited TCU even though it was playing the game earlier than the bowl contract calls for.

And real hard for Banowsky. Not only did he not support his school, he painted TCU in a corner, which almost kept an 11-2 team from going bowling.

The previous incidents seem to say that C-USA doesn’t want TCU, so why should TCU want it?

I know some of you out there are worried about certain issues, but you are worrying in vain.

I think academics is the a priority in the athletic program. According to an NCAA report, 62 percent of all NCAA student-athletes who entered Division I colleges and universities in 1996 graduated in the six-year window established by the U.S. Department of Education as the standard.

TCU student-athletes graduated at a 72-percent rate, the study said. It is inevitable that student-athletes will miss class at times due to sporting events, but TCU is showing it’s still making the commitment to having its athletes educated.

Regional exposure would be beneficial in recruiting. The Lady Frogs will have five incoming freshman in fall 2004, and none are from Texas. According to the swimming and diving media guide, only 28 of 50 team members are from Texas. I won’t even touch on the non-Texas track and tennis athletes.

An estimated budget increase of $220,000 can easily be made up. TV contracts can be re-arranged. I promise ESPN does not want SMU/East Carolina taking up its primetime Thursday slot.

The now hated Bowl Championship Series might also become the not-so-bad BCS. After the BCS contract expires, the Big East will be without premier teams Miami and Virginia Tech, and could lose its BCS status. There is also pressure to open up the system to more schools and TCU (along with possible additions of Boise State and Fresno State) would be in a prime position in the MWC to be welcome to the BCS party.

And the time change isn’t as significant as some people like to argue. Currently, only two schools in the MWC are in the Pacific Time Zone. During a football season, a maximum of two games would have that ugly 9 p.m. start time.

College athletics is very much a business, and TCU must to do what is best for them to continue their athletic success. I have nothing wrong with that.