The rumors had been out there. Now, it's reality. And the landscape of college athletics continues to shift.

Forget about geography. If Boston College can be a part of Tobacco Road, why shouldn't Texas Christian call the Big East home?

Well, starting in 2012-13, the Horned Frogs will indeed be piling up those frequent-flier miles.

The Big East recently said it was looking to add two teams for football. After yesterday, it needs only one more, with the addition of a school from the Central time zone.

The second could be Villanova, which has played football at the FCS level since 1985, but has been a Big East member for all other sports virtually since the inception of the conference some 3 decades ago. The university is considering an offer to join for football, as well. What impact TCU's decision might have on Villanova's, if any, is mostly conjecture.

The school's board of trustees will meet in December. But a vote isn't expected until at least February, and even as late as April. How the Big East feels about that timetable, nobody from the conference will say for public consumption. But the assumption is it would rather know sooner than later, either way.

"We are excited about the addition of TCU, as they bring a great deal of value to the Big East," Villanova athletic director Vince Nicastro told the Associated Press. "However, our timeframe has not changed. We are continuing to move forward with our comprehensive evaluation of FBS level football, and are still targeting a decision by the spring of 2011."

Ironically, Villanova's choice could be largely influenced by basketball. The Wildcats, who played what was then called Division I football before the program went away in 1980, have become a national hoops brand again under Jay Wright. And since nobody seems to know for sure what the future holds, there's a concern over what could happen if the Big East football schools ever break off on their own. Or if the BCS football schools do likewise.

Football is where the money, and the bulk of the power, lies.

That's why TCU to the Big East makes sense. Forget about basketball. Or nonrevenue sports. Those will work themselves out. But Big East football for the most part hasn't been the same (i.e., relevant) since Miami and Virginia Tech left 7 years ago. There's a growing concern that if something doesn't change, it could perhaps someday even lose the automatic qualifier to a BCS bowl. TCU, which could be playing in the national-title game and is, at worst, going to the Rose Bowl, brings a serious dose of credibility to the equation. Imagine that.

The Frogs made it to the Fiesta Bowl last January.

"Located in one of the top five media markets in the country [Dallas/Fort Worth], TCU also enables the Big East to extend its media footprint, which already encompasses more than a quarter of the country," Big East commissioner John Marinatto said.

This will be TCU's fourth conference since the Southwest broke up in 1995, and it wasn't among the Texas schools that were asked to become part of the Big 12. TCU was in the Western Athletic from 1996 to 2000 before switching to Conference USA for four seasons. Since 2005, it has been in the Mountain West.

If Villanova elects not to move up, the school most often mentioned as a possibility is Central Florida, although South Florida, not surprisingly, would strongly oppose that nomination because of the proximity issue. The list of other potential candidates includes East Carolina, Memphis and perhaps even Temple, which was a Big East member for football only from 1991 until it was asked to leave in 2004.

But in these times, the only certainty seems to be that things will keep swirling. *