COLUMBIA — A little more than 10 months after it announced it would join the Big East Conference, Texas Christian University announced Monday that it was joining the Big 12.
The Horned Frogs will replace Texas A&M as the 10th team in the league on July 1, 2012. The Aggies joined the Southeastern Conference on Sept. 25.
"TCU has traveled a long path, it's been a lot of different places," Interim Big 12 Commissioner Chuck Neinas said at Monday’s press conference. "I'd like to welcome you home, to the Big 12 Conference."
A lot of different places indeed. After the Southwest Conference disbanded in 1996, TCU played football in the Western Athletic Conference for five years. From 2001 to 2004, the Horned Frogs played in Conference USA before jumping to the Mountain West from 2005 through the current season.
The press conference seemed to be a joyous occasion. Mimicking what happens with recruits on signing day, Neinas presented a Big 12 hat to TCU Chancellor Victor J. Boschini Jr., which he happily placed on his head.
TCU Athletic Director Chris Del Conte said that he was so excited about joining the Big 12 that when Neinas called him Wednesday night, he "about passed out."
"I got the call, and I was like 'Excuse me,'" Del Conte said. "I went inside, and I shed a tear. We've worked so hard to be here."
Del Conte said the decision to dump the Big East for the Big 12 was tough, but unanimous.
"It was absolutely a unanimous conversation," Del Conte said. "But there were lengthy, deep conversations. Our chancellor is a very thoughtful individual, and when you have a board of trustees that is so thoughtful and thinks and cherishes this institution with all of their heart, they had really good conversation. ... It was a very difficult conversation because you feel for the human spirit."
The current Big 12 football coaches were extremely positive during Monday's teleconference regarding the addition of the Horned Frogs.
"I think it's great. I think it’s going to work out well," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. "They're an excellent program, you can see what they’ve been doing through the years."
Texas coach Mack Brown agreed and also mentioned the importance of keeping conferences that make geographical sense because of the increased travel burden on both players and their families.
"I'm really worried about conferences becoming national," Brown said. "I really think that we need to consider our fans more, we need to consider the student-athletes and their parents more, and TCU seems to be a perfect fit from my standpoint."
Kansas State's Bill Snyder said he was happy for TCU and coach Gary Patterson, but doesn't think the conference should stop at 10 schools.
"From a football standpoint, I think Gary (Patterson)'s excited about it," Snyder said. "I've always said, and it's been documented very heavily, that I'm in favor of a Big 12 conference that has 12 teams and two divisions."
Whether the Big 12 will even have 10 teams is still a matter of debate with Missouri still unwilling to commit long term to the league. The UM System Board of Curators authorized MU Chancellor Brady Deaton to explore the school's conference options, and Deaton recused himself from an otherwise unanimous league vote to invite TCU because of legal reasons.
This move backs up the sentiment that Neinas expressed last week, when he implied that the Big 12 was ready to move on with or without Missouri after being asked whether he was confident in making offers to other schools given Missouri's uncertainty about the conference.
"That's a good question, and I think the answer is yes," Neinas said Oct. 3.
SEC presidents held their regular fall conference call Monday, and issued the following statement afterward: "The presidents and chancellors of the Southeastern Conference met on Monday for its regularly-scheduled fall meeting. While they discussed a wide range of issues dealing with the changing landscape of intercollegiate athletics, no actions were taken with regards to expansion."
No deadline has been given for Missouri to stick with or leave the Big 12, regardless of the addition of TCU.