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FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — TCU accepted an invitation to join the Big 12 on Monday night, ignoring the conference's recent instability and seizing an opportunity to be a part of a league with natural geographic rivals.
Chancellor Victor Boschini Jr. made the expected announcement in front a packed room of more than 200 people, and athletic director Chris Del Conte fought back tears as he recalled receiving the phone call from the Horned Frogs' new conference last week.
"This is living proof that dreams do come true," he said.
The move could provide some much-needed stability for the Big 12, which lost Nebraska (Big Ten) and Colorado (Pac-12) over the summer and will lose Texas A&M to the Southeastern Conference next year. Missouri is also exploring a move to the SEC.
TCU has a strong football background that includes celebrated athletes from the 1930s — including Heisman Trophy winner Davey O'Brien and All-American Sammy Baugh, who both played in the NFL. More recent alums include New York Jets running back LaDainian Tomlinson and Cincinnati Bengals rookie quarterback Andy Dalton.
The Horned Frogs went 13-0 last season and won the Rose Bowl. They also went undefeated in the 2009 season, then lost to Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl.
"We are excited to add TCU to our lineup of prestigious members," Big 12 Interim Commissioner Chuck Neinas said in a release. "Not only do they bring an excellent football program to our Conference, but numerous other programs that have been successful on a national level as well."
TCU currently competes in the Mountain West Conference and was set to join the Big East next July. Instead, the Big 12 went public with its interest in TCU last week and set the stage for TCU to stay closer to home.
Del Conte said TCU will pay an exit fee, but declined to confirm it was the $5 million required by the Big East policy.
Several Big 12 coaches welcomed the idea of having TCU in the league.
"TCU has earned that right. They've won as much as anybody. I think they are very deserving," Texas coach Mack Brown told reporters earlier Monday in Austin.
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, whose staff recruits heavily in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, echoed those sentiments.
"I think it's great, you know? They're an excellent program," Stoops said. "You see what they've been doing throughout the year. I love the proximity for the fans. It's another game that's relatively close and in this region, so I think it's great. It's going to work out well."
Also Monday, Big East school leaders authorized the conference to add enough members to have 12 teams for football. With Syracuse and Pittsburgh leaving for the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big East would be down to six football schools without TCU: West Virginia, Louisville, Cincinnati, South Florida, Rutgers and Connecticut.
SEC leaders also met Monday for their regularly scheduled fall session but took no action on expansion. The league will have 13 members once Texas A&M joins in July, leading to speculation about whether Missouri or other schools will be added to balance things out.
As for the Big 12, adding TCU would give it 10 members going into next season without further changes.
Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said he has "always been in favor of a Big 12 Conference with 12 teams, and two divisions and a championship."
Snyder said he would be sad if Missouri decides to leave.
"They've been a part of the conference ever since I've been in it. There's been some great relationships," Snyder said. "I think it's been good for them from a football standpoint, a basketball standpoint. They add an awful lot to the conference and you know, I'm just hoping they choose to stay."