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For TCU hoops, joining the Big East will be 'tremendously tough'

Jeff Eisenberg
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Ex-TCU basketball coach Billy Tubbs spent time in three different leagues during his eight-year tenure at the school, so he wasn't exactly shocked to hear Monday's news that the Horned Frogs are on the move again.

"The only league I don't think they can get in is the NFL or the NBA," Tubbs said Monday. "They've been in every other league imaginable."

Compared to the four previous conferences TCU has been affiliated with in the past two decades, Tubbs believes joining the Big East in all sports by the 2012-13 school year will be "tremendously tough" for the school's basketball program.

In the 12-plus years since TCU last made the NCAA tournament under Tubbs in 1998, the Horned Frogs have rarely been relevant basketball-wise in their own conference let alone nationally. They went 13-19 in coach Jim Christian's second season last year and have not finished above .500 in conference play since their final season in the WAC in 2001.

"Joining the Big East is going to be a difficult task for them," Tubbs said. "It will open doors for recruits because people will want to play in the Big East because of the reputation of the conference. On the other hand, even though the recruits may be better, they're still way down in the pecking order as far as that conference goes. They're going to get better recruits than they get right now, but so does everyone else in that league."

Like everything else regarding conference realignment, TCU's move from the Mountain West to the Big East is based on football revenue. Utah and BYU bolting from the Mountain West killed the conference's hopes of earning BCS affiliation, so TCU's juggernaut football program will benefit in that respect by joining the Big East.

In almost every other regard, the move to the Big East makes minimal sense for TCU athletics. Not only will the basketball program suffer from the massive upgrade in competition, TCU's other sports probably can't be too thrilled about annual 1,500-mile treks to Providence, St. John's, Syracuse and the rest of the league's Northeast-based schools.

The lone upside Tubbs envisions for TCU basketball is that the football program's sustained success could have a trickle down effect. The Horned Frogs will need to upgrade their aging facilities and begin recruiting a higher caliber of basketball player, but Tubbs believes the combination of the Big East's reputation and the school's football publicity can only help.

"The success that football program is having opens a lot of doors because people will have heard of TCU," Tubbs said. "When I went to Oklahoma, it wasn't a basketball school but the football program opened a lot of doors for me. Certainly their football program will open a lot of doors for them."

The final message from Tubbs to TCU fans: Don't get too comfortable in the Big East because this could be another temporary move. If the Big 12 decides to expand to 12 teams again in a few years, Tubbs envisions that as TCU's potential next destination.

"TCU is an interchangeable part," Tubbs said. "They've had more divorces than Zsa Zsa Gabore. They've married and divorced more leagues than anyone in the nation. They've got to be leading the nation in that category."

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