With the announcement Monday that Texas Christian University is joining the Big East Conference in all sports, one ESPN commentator had the ingenious observation: "TCU is neither big nor east."
While the remark seems a bit trite, it's correct, and it underscores just how ridiculous conference alignments are getting in big-time NCAA sports.
The purists among us would like to point out how Nebraska doesn't belong in the Big Ten and even how Penn State, after almost two decades, doesn't belong in the conference. I don't have a problem with that per se. It's a conference of middle America, which, to me, includes both western Pennsylvania and the Great Plains. That opens it up to a pretty wide area.
But I do have a few problems with the conferences, and most of them have to do with their names. I work in words, so the words bother me when they don't work.
Let's first of all point out that when realignment takes hold in a year or two, the three major conferences with numbers in their names will all be wrong. The Big Ten will have 12, the Big Twelve will have 10 and the Pac 10 will have 12.
And while we're at it, the Pacific 10 currently includes two teams from Arizona, and will soon include one each from Colorado and Utah. Those places are not terribly near the Pacific.
Next there's the aforementioned Big East. Can you tell me what's east about Cincinnati, DePaul (Chicago), Louisville, Marquette (Milwaukee), Notre Dame (South Bend) or Texas Christian?
Absolutely nothing, that's what.
To go to slightly smaller conferences, Xavier and St. Louis University are both Atlantic 10 members, in spite of being firmly in the Midwest, while Temple, in the heart of Philadelphia, is a football-only member of the Mid-American Conference.
I'm sure the lists could go on, but the point is made -- these conference names make little sense, neither numerically or geographically.
So, I would not propose an overhaul of the conference system. The NCAA should not step in and get it's hands on things -- that would make it worse. I'm only asking that we reconsider the way the conferences are named. Let's get the numbers right and the locations right.
I have a son who I hope to be molding into a sports fan, and I hope not to give him a headache when explaining why the Big 10 isn't the Big 12 -- or vice versa.