(from Forbes Magazine, October 26, 2013) Over the past decade there has been change in NCAA Division 1 football almost every year. One change that keeps showing up year after year is realignment of the athletic conferences. Over the past three years, there has been a number of high caliber teams moving either from one conference to another or losing the ‘’independent” label and joining a major conference for the first time. Texas Christian University (TCU) is one of those high caliber transfers.
It was a long road for TCU to switch conferences. TCU initially was in the Southwest Conference, which no longer exists, joining in 1923. During the time of the Southwest Conference, TCU developed rivalries against their in-state competitors including Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and Baylor. These rivalries ended for TCU in the mid 1990’s as all four of their in-state rivals left the Southwest Conference to join the Big 12.
After the disbursement of the Southwestern Conference, TCU found itself joining and leaving multiple conferences including stops in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC), Conference USA and the Mountain West Conference (MWC). While TCU never failed to find a home conference, in 1998 TCU realized that they had not yet found a home that allowed them to be eligible for one of the greatest opportunities in college football: the chance to become an automatic qualifier for a BCS bowl game.
Automatic qualification means a lot to a school impacting enrollment, funding, credibility, and national exposure. When the BCS set up their automatic qualifying terms, they provided six conferences with automatic bids including the ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Big East, Pac-23 and the SEC. The financial impact that automatic qualification can have for a team offers the opportunity to be involved in big revenues that are distributed to participants in the game including between $17-$18 million dollars most recently.
When TCU originally announced in 2010 that they would be joining the Big East conference (which later was negatively impacted by conference realignment), 19,000 season tickets were sold. In 2011 when TCU announced that they would officially be joining the Big 12, the sales jumped up to 24,000. In the first year of playing in the Big 12, TCU saw an 8,000 increase in ticket sales. With the success in the previous season while playing in the Big 12, TCU sold nearly 33,000 season tickets.
Through conference realignment TCU has got attention from two groups that have had a positive impact on their school and football program. A Navigate Marketing study found that through last year’s Rose Bowl game Stanford received more than $11 million worth of television exposure value. This type of value for TCU (2010 Fiesta Bowl and 2011 Rose Bowl) has shown increases in enrollment and funding. Freshman applications to TCU have increased by 155-percent since 2009; their highest increase coming in 2012 when joining the Big 12. Funding has also increased as TCU used funds from back-to-back bowl games and funding from Alumni to complete a $164 million renovation to Amon G. Carter Stadium where the football team plays.