When John Marinatto stated that he planned to hold Pitt and Syracuse to their contract and that it will be 27 months before they could be off to the ACC, reaction was mixed. With the hypothetical Big East and Big 12 leftovers discussing a merger it didn't seem like it would really help anyone to keep Pitt and Syracuse around, either the new conference would be able to stand on its own or it wouldn't- and TCU would be able to survey the situation and decide between the new conference and heading back to the MWC.
Then the Pac-12 decided 12 was enough. And suddenly by keeping Syracuse and Pitt on retainer the Big East has bought itself some of the most valuable resource available in this conference Armageddon scenario- time. By holding on to Pitt and Syracuse now, the Big East keeps its AQ bid firmly secure for at least the next two years- which means that not only is there time for the Big East to add teams to replace the defectors, but it gives TCU the golden opportunity to improve its status in the realignment picture. As of right nor the most likely (or at least most talked about) scenario is that after the four most powerful conferences (Big Ten, SEC, Pac 12 and ACC) get to sixteen they'll break off from the rest of college football, form a four team playoff and bathe in money- while still making sure that Auburn is the only team to make sure the players get a cut (oh snap!).
However, at the moment the conferences are at a crossroads (Unless Mizzou finishes the Big 12 off) and things will proceed more slowly from here, and if Texas remains committed to being more than "First among equals" in any conference things may remain relatively peaceful until the timer runs out for Syracuse and Pitt's holding pattern in 2014. Which means that in order for TCU to make sure it's too attractive for the superconferences to pass up, these will be the two most important seasons in TCU's history. What will we have to do to make sure that we're left with a chair when the music stops? As Jake Taylor said in Major League: "Win the whole f***in' thing".
Easier said than done, of course, but there is a very real chance that TCU is left out of the superconferences if the hypothetical big four moved today, despite the fact that we've been in as many and won more Rose Bowls than the Arizona schools combined. Why was Miami so coveted in the original ACC expansion plan when they were only a small private school? Because they were in the middle of a talent rich state, because they are a big name in college football, because people will watch them when they play on TV and (most importantly) because they won national titles- including in 2001, soon before the ACC extended them an invitation. TCU is in much the same position as Miami was then with two exceptions: No coke and hooker parties on yachts, and no national titles since 1938. Would the SEC, self proclaimed "Conference of Champions" miss out on a change to further its claim to absolute football dominance by inviting West Virginia and Kansas instead? I think not. Would the ACC be looking for a team that could singlehandedly boost their football reputation instead of taking Rutgers/UConn as a pair and continuing their perceived status as the weakest of the AQ conferences? History has shown that they would.
So all that is well and good, all TCU has to do is win the national title and they'll likely assure themselves of a spot in a superconference when the time comes. "But Hawkeye," you may protest, "TCU has gone undefeated twice in the past two seasons and didn't spend a week in the top two places in the poll. Even if we do everything right, we'll still get screwed over if a team from the Big 12, Big Ten, SEC or Pac 12 goes undefeated!" There is merit in this protest, certainly, but the 2012 and 2013 schedules actually set up perfectly for TCU to take one of those top two spots and not let go of it. Whether you believe the Big East is a tougher league than the Mountain West or not, it is an AQ league and as such gets the automatic benefit of the doubt over an undefeated non-BCS team (I'll believe it when I see it, Boise). 2012 also handily sets up with West Virginia coming to Fort Worth for our meeting, along with conference visits from Louisville, USF and Cincinnati. That's every team who's represented the Big East in the BCS apart from UConn (who looks abhorrent this year) and Pitt (who got in as a result of shady politicking in a four way tie). And perhaps most importantly we have the ultimate non-conference scalp to claim that would lift us above a Pac 12 or Big 12 champion: Oklahoma comes to Fort Worth to finish off our four game series. Shock 0U again and everything will be on the table for us going forward, and as this 2011 team matures it really looks like the 2012 team could be the sort of team to do just that. In 2013 we have another high quality non-con game as the frogs travel to the other Tigers from the other Death Valley, win there and we'll be sitting pretty in the polls until we lose- which under senior Casey Pachall will not happen easily. In this time that is most crucial to TCU's future we will likely have two of our best teams in school history, which could put us firmly in the "haves" category for the first time since the demise of the SWC. All we have to do to secure it is win the National Championship. No pressure, guys.