The University of South Florida's path to a conference football championship will be much tougher in two years.
The Big East Conference announced Monday that TCU will join the league beginning with the 2012 season, a move that not only significantly bolsters the league's reputation but also will make things more challenging for USF and the seven other current football members.
"I'm all for anything that strengthens the Big East Conference. That helps us as an overall conference and helps better South Florida and the members that are in the Big East," USF coach Skip Holtz said Monday.
"If this is what the presidents and the athletic directors and the board of trustees and the people that make the decisions feel is in the best interest of the conference, I support their decision 100 percent."
TCU's board of trustees unanimously approved an invitation to join the Big East in football and all other sports. The move from the Mountain West Conference becomes official July 1, 2012.
"I think this is a great move for the Big East," USF athletic director Doug Woolard said. "TCU is really a quality institution, both academically and athletically. I think this is going to strengthen our league."
The Big East will provide TCU automatic access to the Bowl Championship Series and its five big-money games. The league has one of six automatic BCS slots.
"Having BCS automatic-qualifying status was a priority for our football program and a great reward for the success we've had the last decade," TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte said.
The third-ranked Horned Frogs (12-0) wrapped up their second consecutive undefeated regular season and Mountain West title with a 66-17 victory at New Mexico on Saturday. TCU is third in the BCS standings, the highest for a school from a conference without automatic access into the Bowl Championship Series.
"They have been one of the football teams probably over the last five years that has been one of the leaders in this whole BCS busters thing, and they've done it on a consistent basis," Holtz said. "They've proven that they can compete at that level, that they can play at that level and have been deserving of the opportunity of being in a BCS conference.
"So, I think they'll bring an awful lot of value to the table."
TCU could play for a national championship if Auburn or Oregon loses this weekend. The Frogs likely would wind up in the Rose Bowl if Auburn and Oregon both win.
But the Horned Frogs might not have been headed to a BCS game without Boise State's loss Friday in overtime at Nevada. Had the Broncos remained undefeated, there was a distinct possibility that the Broncos could have passed TCU in the BCS standings and been the only non-automatic qualifier school to get into a BCS bowl.
The Frogs have won 25 consecutive regular-season games, and 38 of 41 overall. The only losses in that span were in the Fiesta Bowl, and games at Oklahoma and Utah.
Holtz has been too focused on building his program at USF to pay much attention to the Big East's efforts to expand, but said he liked the choice of TCU to join the fold.
"At this point in time during the year it's kneecaps and elbows as you're flying around trying to get everything done," he said. "And you get your head in the sand and you're knee deep into your program and this news comes out, which I think is going to create a lot of excitement and energy for the program, especially from a football standpoint with all the success TCU's had on the field."