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TCU once considered quitting football. It's in the title game


SoFi Stadium will be the site of the NCAA College Football National Championship Playoffs on Monday.

SoFi Stadium will be the site of the NCAA College Football National Championship Playoffs on Monday.


To appreciate TCU’s place in Monday’s national title game, you have to go back to the discussions when TCU considered whether having a football team was worth the money and the money.

“There were discussions (among university leaders), early in my career, ‘Is athletics really that important for a university? to 2020.

In the mid-1990s, after the breakup of the Southwestern Conference, TCU launched the same proposal as Rice University.

“Rice actually went to vote (to quit football), and TCU never got there,” Bailey said.

Former TCU board member Malcolm Louden said: “I don’t think it was ever really that serious. It came more from the religious (members of the council).

Even though the concept was never voted on by the board, TCU football in the 90s was so bad for so many decades (think four) that dumping was plausible.

Georgia has had a tough time over the past 40 years, but never to the point of considering giving up football. Even Kansas did not come up with such an idea.

Former TCU Chancellor Dr. Bill Tucker, who died last year, has said quitting athletics or soccer is a bold NO. Around 1998, former TCU Provost Dr. Bill Koehler ensured that the TCU made athletics and football a priority.

They both recognized that athletics was the school’s best chance for national publicity. If it worked.

For anyone familiar with TCU from 1959 to 1997, it’s inconceivable that the Horned Frogs would face the Bulldogs in Los Angeles for a national championship in any sport, let alone football.

In the mid-1990s, TCU’s football program and the entire athletic department was one of the worst in the country. Morale was south of Depressing.

From 1996 to 1998, when TCU was at WAC, I was a graduate assistant in the athletics media relations office. We all knew we were small, one click north of the I-AA divide.

Attendance at home football games did not appear to exceed 12,000 per game. At many games we just made up attendance figures, knowing the figure was a lie and no one would notice.

It was sad to see the parking attendants, minutes before home football games, sitting in chairs at the gates with no traffic to direct.

In the fall of 1996, there was an athletic staff party consisting of students and graduate assistants; I did an informal poll of the participants to see if they wanted the football team to lose.

Every hand was up; they then wanted football coach Pat Sullivan fired.

“My joke was maybe the best modality I have is a 2×4 to get some of the football players out of the practice room,” said Bailey, who was the school’s head athletic trainer. from 1978 to 2000 before moving into a supervisory role. facilities. “No one was motivated to play back then.”

Pat, God rest his soul, quit midway through the 1997 season.

Shortly after, TCU acknowledged the obvious.

TCU gets real

The story has been told and retold, but one detail of TCU’s rise that was mostly private was the school’s boldness with bowl games.

After going 6-5 in 1998 under first-year head coach Dennis Franchione, the Sun Bowl was poised to take on TCU, largely because of its business plan.

Basically, TCU promised to fill X number of seats. He did, and TCU upset Southern Cal in a game, and the result, that garnered national attention.

“We went to the Houston Bowl and the (Poinsettia Bowl) in San Diego and changed the management of those bowls,” Louden said of TCU’s respective Houston Bowl (2005) and Poinsettia Bowl (2006) appearances.

“We bought these bowls thinking we could make some money for them. Then we started watching new conferences and (then) sporting director Eric Hyman was great about it. We sat down with the ESPN folks one day at Colonial (Country Club) and we were talking about doing a Fort Worth Bowl. We made a deal with them and they said they would pick us up in bowling matches.

It was the exhibition.

And when TCU wasn’t budgeted for certain expenses, people like Louden spent their own money to make any project a reality.

Under head coach Gary Patterson, TCU continued to win.

TCU creates a new national image

For the men and women who worked at TCU in the mid-1990s, and since then, to see the university in a football national title game is beyond rewarding. It is validating the time and effort invested to make such a scenario possible.

Frank Windegger is a TCU alumnus who played and coached baseball in school and served as athletic director from 1975 to the spring of 1988.

He was often blamed for TCU’s exclusion from the new Big 12, even though the school had a 00.001% chance of being invited. The school didn’t spend the money, and the athletic department was treated with the same priority as the school’s communications.

“They’ve done a great thing and it’s a big thrill to see that,” Windegger said from his home in Fort Worth. “Everything in life is possible, and you have to live with that kind of hope and adage.”

Windegger agreed that the TCU that exists today bears little resemblance to the school he attended or worked for decades.

After Hyman left TCU in 2005 for South Carolina, he was replaced by Danny Morrison. Morrison served as the TCU’s AD from 2005 to 2009 before leaving to become president of the Carolina Panthers.

It was Morrison who often used the phrase to sell TCU, “Big enough to compete and small enough to care.”

He and his wife Peggy will attend the national title match as guests of TCU Chancellor Victor Boschini.

“The kind of continuity they’ve had with the same Chancellor for 20 years is one of their most underrated assets,” Morrison said. “I will qualify that; it is continuity always striving to improve. This adapts TCU to a glove.

One person who was invited to the game by Boschini but cannot attend is Morrison’s successor, Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte.

When Del Conte was hired in 2009, he was tasked with moving TCU into a BCS conference and building a new football stadium. Both have arrived.

“The common denominator in all of this is that their board has been focused on reinvestment and a big part of that is athleticism,” Del Conte said. “Gary has built a successful program.

“This (title game appearance) is not a flash in the pan. It has been an odyssey for 25 years. The board made the difficult decision to leave an iconic coach (Patterson) last year , and all of this is a testament to each of them. I am proud to play a small part in this infrastructure.

“But that’s not a Cinderella. That’s who TCU is.

To think that it all started unofficially with the question: “Is football really worth it?”

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Mac Engel is an award-winning columnist with extensive experience covering Fort Worth-Dallas area sports for 20 years. He covered high schools, colleges, the big four sports teams as well as the Olympics and the world of entertainment. It combines dry wit and first-person reporting to complement an almost unfair hairdo.
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