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TCU Magazine Feature

Headed west once more

TCU accepts invitation to join the Mountain West Conference in 2005.

After months of deliberation, TCU announced in January it would leave Conference USA and join the Mountain West Conference, ending speculation about the university's athletic future. Starting July 1, 2005, TCU becomes the ninth member of the Mountain West, joining Air Force, Brigham Young, Colorado State, Nevada-Las Vegas, New Mexico, San Diego State, Utah and Wyoming.

The move is expected to generate millions more in television revenue and ticket sales than the university would have received by staying in C-USA.

"Conference USA helped elevate us to where we are today, and our experience in the league was overwhelmingly positive," Athletics Director Eric Hyman said at the press conference announcing the move. "However, for us now the debate is over. We look forward to new and exciting opportunities in the Mountain West as we continue to build our nationally prominent athletics program."

The Mountain West is believed to offer more stability in the future and could be in position to gain access to college football's highly lucrative Bowl Championship Series. Currently, the Mountain West, like C-USA, does not have an automatic bid into the BCS.

TCU has been on the move since the Southwest Conference dissolved in 1995. The Mountain West is TCU's fourth conference in 10 years. TCU joined the Western Athletic Conference in 1996 and left for Conference USA after the 2000-01 season.

Westward, ho! or Westward, no?

We heard it all when we asked TCU people past and present for a reaction to the latest conference shuffle.

Frank Windegger '57
Athletics director 1975-97

"There are pros and cons both ways. I think a majority of TCU's students come from Texas and the Midwest and it would be wise to stay in that region. But with Cincinnati and Louisville leaving, Conference USA is diminished and it certainly won't have BCS opportunities. The Mountain West is a stronger football conference with more state schools. They have better football atmosphere. The TV times will be later and that's a definite con. But overall, if they keep the BCS as it is, it's not likely there will be a championship tournament, so TCU is probably enhancing themselves being in a more competitive league that will gain more television revenue."

Dan Jenkins '53
Award-winning novelist

"Frankly, I don't know what's best for us. But I remember how happy we were to get out of the WAC and move into the Eastern time zone. Now we've moved back West, where I'm troubled that Robert Merrill could gain 2,500 yards in a season, but nobody east of the Mississippi River will ever know about it. And it looks like we're going to bring more than we get. On the other hand, C-USA appears to be crumbling by the hour. It's a roll of the dice whatever we do."

Gary Patterson
Football coach 2001-present

"I know it's supposed to be a tougher conference. I haven't looked at everything, because my job is just to get my [team] ready. But the other moves helped us, so I don't see why this one wouldn't do the same. Both sides have plusses and minuses. What we as a university are trying to decide is what is best long-term and how the landscape of college football is going to change and the situation for the other sports, too."

Billy Tubbs
Men's basketball coach 1994-2001

"What marriage is this one now for TCU? TCU reminds me of Elizabeth Taylor. The thing I liked about C-USA better than the WAC was being in the Eastern and Central time zones. It made our media coverage better and got us away from those 11:00 p.m. [basketball] games. The other thing is that the Mountain West is an altitude conference and it affects teams dramatically, especially at Air Force, Colorado State and Wyoming. But football and finances drives this whole thing, and MWC will be a tougher football conference, so I am not surprised."

Neil Dougherty
Men's basketball coach 2002-present

"The Mountain West has some strong basketball programs, great coaches and some great venues. The Pit in Albuquerque, the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City and Thomas & Mack Center in Vegas have all hosted NCAA Regionals or conference tournaments. My only concern is geographically going West with late tipoff times. But we're going to be ready to play no matter what league we are in."

Victor J. Boschini, Jr.
TCU Chancellor 2003-present

"I am extremely excited about the opportunities ahead in the Mountain West Conference, but we also need to say that we had a great experience competing with the fine universities in Conference USA and with that association. We leave with nothing but high regard for those institutions and will continue to work with them in many ways."

Jim Schlossnagle
Baseball coach 2003-present

"I'm in it for what is best for the university as a whole. Certainly I would much rather be the baseball coach at a school that is in one of the five or six top leagues in the country as opposed to the coach where the baseball program is in a good situation but everyone else is not. That's not to say that the new C-USA isn't. I trust Eric Hyman on those decisions. Rice has won the national championship in the WAC. We can be successful in any direction we go."

Jeff Mittie
Women's basketball coach 1998-present

"I like the move. I'll say this, in the past five years I haven't had a problem accumulating frequent flyer miles. The Mountain West has great venues. New Mexico draws over 10,000 each game and Colorado State has a great tradition as well. It's great to be in a league that has had success in the NCAA Tournament and in the stands. I like being in a nine-team conference because it allows for a true round robin tournament and that's the way a champion should be determined. I hope the move provides TCU with some stability athletically and that we continue to develop rivalries with other schools.

Bob Lilly '61
Football player 1957-61

"I think this is a wonderful move for TCU. The Mountain West is pretty consolidated, not spread out the way Conference USA is. And our fans will get a chance to see a part of the country they don't normally see. BYU and Colorado State have good programs and New Mexico is improved. They're good in basketball as well. I think it is a wonderful fit."