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Big East Football: Peeling Back The Expansion Onion

-- SB Nation New York ponders what does TCU's move to the Big East mean? -- The Syracuse Orange will play Kansas State in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl.

For months there was speculation that the Big East Conference was targeting the No. 3 ranked TCU Horned Frogs as part of its expansion plans.

On Monday, all speculation ended when TCU accepted an invitation to join the Big East and increase the conference's football membership for the first time since 1991 when Miami, Temple, Virginia Tech, West Virginia and Rutgers were annexed.

Nineteen years ago, expansion allowed the Big East to call themselves a major football conference. Monday's addition of TCU is an attempt to bring back that image.

The Horned Frogs add a flourishing football program, a fifth-ranked television market and a hungry fan base.A trifecta for any league that would like to invest in a program and grow with it.

The Big East made the right move by inviting TCU to join because it will probably save the conference. The Horned Frogs made the correct move by joining the Big East because it needed that automatic BCS bowl berth.

No one can argue against those main points that allowed this historic addition to happen.

But if you peel back the layers on the expansion onion, something doesn't smell right.

"TCU in the Big East is going to feel odd for awhile," wrote Dallas Morning News Columnist Tim Cowlishaw on Tuesday. "We know the Frogs have been flirting with other conferences. Heck, they leave leagues at the rate of once every four years. I mean, haven't the Frogs played in the SWC and the WAC and Conference USA and the Mountain West in the last 15 years?"

"But usually when a school makes a major change like the one TCU is announcing today, it can at least try to sell the idea that it's good for all the sports at the school. This one seems strictly designed for men's football."

Keep peeling...

"... Many a Frog fan also may be wondering, uh, exactly how do we get to the University of South Florida? Or, does anyone know of a cheap flight to Syracuse? Where is Syracuse, anyway?" wrote the Morning News in an Editorial on Friday.  "You have to wonder what this new world order eventually will do to college athletics. The ESPNs of the world see conferences in terms of TV markets, while fans still value some kind of natural geographic rivalry."

Oh. Oh God. Smell that?

"But, naturally, the lure of football and its seemingly unceasing cash flow was irresistible," wrote Fanhouse's David Steele on Monday. "Eventually the schools gave in, even while the most powerful voices from their basketball programs shouted disapproval and warned that they were investing in fool's gold."

Are you tearing up yet?

"Ah, the sounds of hypocrisy," wrote columnist Mike DiMauro on Friday. "A more cynical fellow might ask today the whereabouts of Richard Blumenthal who, given the same circumstances seven years ago, was shooting lawsuits from a confetti gun."

"Seven years ago, though, the Atlantic Coast Conference was a cavalcade of pirates - dirty, nasty, dishonest - when its expansion plans included Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College. Blumenthal's lawsuit, a complete farce, accused the ACC, Miami and BC of "predatory conduct" and "conspiratorial actions." Turns out that one quick dose of hypocrisy can turn one conference's "conspiratorial actions" into another's "survival."

See there's always two sides to every story. Always something more pungent at the core of the onion. And even though the Big East got stronger on Monday it seems as if greed won, again.

According to Pink Floyd, "Money, so they say. Is the root of all evil today."

Now, I am sure the legendary band didn't think of college football or the BCS when their song, Money, was written over 35 years ago.

However, if a YouTube video creator where to make a highlight film full of unfair, college football heartbreaks that the BCS was responsible for -- there're too many to mention -- with Money as the background music. Every college football fan opposed to the current non-playoff system would shake his or her head in agreement then go and try to find their Dark Side Of The Moon album.

The truth is, TCU couldn't beat them -- the BCS college presidents and bowl administrators -- so they were forced to join them by accepting a invitation that places them in a conference hundreds of miles from its closest league opponent (Louisville).

The Big East didn't want to lose the millions of dollars and its elite BCS badge, so they elected to bypass teams such as ECU, UMass and possibly UCF -- programs that would sell their souls to join the conference -- to no longer be an outcast in the BCS fraternity. 

"ECU has been to more bowl games (and won them), has won more conference titles, won more head-to-head games, has beaten more BCS opponents, more ranked opponents, been feature on national TV more, has a larger "real" stadium and 50,000 fans to fill it," wrote passionate e-mailer Russell Webster, who made a strong case for his Pirates over UCF after my initial Big East expansion column.

SB Nation's Cardiac Hill was disappointed that UMass showed a lot of interest in joining the Big East but were snubbed like a math geek trying to get into a post-game football party.

"The answer was a polite 'not really interested.' It, of course, makes perfect sense for the Big East to have little interest. UMass, which is an FCS (I-AA) football school, unlike Villanova, has had some football success in the past, but most recently has only been a middle-of-the-road program."

Orlando Sentinel Columnist Mike Bianchi is asking for the Big East not to blow it's chances of adding UCF.

"... Don't stop before you finish the job, Big East. You have a chance to annex a similar program right here in Orlando."

"This is your chance to get a program that built its own 45,000-seat on-campus stadium and has boosters willing to contribute big money to build an indoor practice facility like the Nicholson Fieldhouse."  

"This is your chance to get a thriving public university that is the largest in the state of Florida and the second-largest in the nation."  

"This is your chance to have a built-in rivalry between UCF and USF — a game that would sell out both stadiums and bring national attention to a league that desperately needs it."

Again, it comes down to money, which is holding back Villanova from accepting the last invitation to join the Big East. 

"The biggest name at our school wants to move up," wrote Chris Lane of TheNovaBlog on Tuesday. "So why are we not running to the BIG EAST scream 'Yes! Yes! A Thousand Times Yes!' - I have no idea. Maybe it's because the teachers are completely against it. Maybe the rumours that the development office are trying to kill it are true. The fact remains that the one major issue I see is money."

Ironically, the Big East and its administrators, who have been the BCS outcasts the past couple of season because of their league's mediocre play in football, are acting high and mighty to any program not a BCS member.

Yes, we get it. The Big East is still a part of the BCS club but don't act like the move with TCU wasn't out of desperation to stay in a system -- which last week docked Nevada $1 million dollars for a victory -- that hands out multi-million-dollar bowl bids to four-loss teams and keeps the undefeated TCUs, Utahs and Boise States out.

Some in the college football world think a playoff, which would help those non-BCS squads, is close to happening.

But moves like TCU joining the Big East, prove that money still rules college football, a sport where passion, pride and playing for the love of the game are the backbone to its cult-like following.

Sadly, Monday didn't peel away any layers to the college football playoff onion. It just added a few more.