Big 12 Football
As you well know, the Big 12 is in transition. After losing four teams and a conference commissioner in the last two years, the league decided to hire new management and remodel. The terrible carpet (Missouri's field) has been replaced and the weird guy in accounting that freaks everyone out (Texas A&M) finally quit and moved away. A win-win for everyone.
Also new are West Virginia and TCU, who bring with them football success, enthusiasm, cool uniforms and new places for the rest of the conference to visit. Last time, we talked about West Virginia in our “Get to Know Your Conference Opponent” segment, so let's do that with TCU, who isn't quite as new as the Mountaineers, but new nonetheless.
Texas Christian University Horned Frogs
Town: Fort Worth, Texas
Colors: Purple and White
Nickname: Horned Frogs
Mascot: Super Frog
Main Rival: Baylor, Narcs
Most Awesome Alumni: Rod Roddy
If you are 35 or older, you surely remember the TCU Horned Frogs playing in the Southwest Conference. And you remember the Southwest Conference. If you are under 35, not from here or didn't pay attention to mediocre football teams that were cheating in the 1980s, the Southwest Conference was a Texas-only conference comprised of Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Baylor, Houston, Rice, SMU and TCU.
It was a powerful nine-team conference historically, but the allegations of rampant cheating (see: Eric Dickerson Recruitment), the death penalty for top 10 SMU for said rampant cheating and the departure of Arkansas (making it a Texas-only league) had the SWC on life support in the mid 1990s and those that could get out of the league were on the move. The Big 8 conference was looking to expand and create a 12-team super conference like the SEC had, so obviously the Big 8 needed four teams for that to happen.
Texas and Texas A&M were no-brainer additions, so two spots were left open. Texas Tech, being a large public school with powerful backing in the Texas legislature, got one, meaning only one spot was left. The remaining four SWC schools — Baylor and TCU among them — were competing for that last seat at the table. Baylor eventually won out, and many in Fort Worth were convinced Baylor alumna, and then Texas Governor, Ann Richards flexed her muscles to get her alma mater into the Big 12 at TCU’s expense.
I have no idea if that’s true and plenty of Baylor people will offer support to the contrary, but the facts aren’t important. A perceived slight is still a slight, and the perception of many at TCU is Baylor took their spot in the Big 12. Why the back story? It explains why Baylor is going to be TCU's biggest rival. Of course that rivalry is in the stands among the fans, because the oldest players on the field were second graders the last time these two teams were conference opponents. But keep your head on swivel, Baylor, because the Frogs are back.
TCU bounced from league to league after the Big 12 was formed, going from the WAC to Conference USA to the Mountain West Conference and they never really seemed to find a good fit. But on the way, they won three straight Mountain West Conference Championships and went to two BCS games, winning the 2011 Rose Bowl. They come to the Big 12 hitting on all cylinders, and here's why.
They return four starters on offense including quarterback Casey Paschall, who is as proficient and capable as any returning starter in the Big 12 not named “Geno.” He can sling it (2,921 yards, 25 touchdowns), run it better than you think a 6-foot-5, 226-pounder can, and maybe most importantly, he has big-time tattoos: the kind star athletes have.
The running game is excellent by committee, rushing for 1,577 yards and 18 touchdowns last season; however, the O-line lost three starters. Defensively they will run the 4-2-5 scheme, which can be very difficult for offenses to deal with (unless the team running that 4-2-5 was Texas Tech last year... yikes) and they have stud defensive end in Stansly Mopanga and a solid secondary.
Head Coach Gary Patterson isn't going win Most Kissable or Funniest Senior, but he's a damn good coach and his teams execute and are never overwhelmed by the moment or the opponent. There is one thing, however. The drug raid.
You remember the drug raid, right? It was a shocking scandal at TCU, where drug-related crimes are nearly non-existent and where the football program has been squeaky clean since the end the SWC. In February of 2012, 17 TCU students were picked up for trying to recreate New Jack City in Fort Worth, selling all of the drugs available to everyone in sight, including undercover cops.
Pinched in the sweep were Tanner Brock, the team’s leading tackler from 2010 and set to be the defensive superstar after returning from injury; defensive tackle DJ Yendrey and cornerback Devin Johnson, who were both expected to start in the two-deep. Asked about a drug test administered by the team before the raid, Brock reportedly told the undercover police that only about 20 people would be playing if that failed drug test meant suspension.
If that weren't enough, on August 4 it was revealed that one player that failed that drug test was Casey Paschall. He reportedly told police he liked to spark and failed the test, given about two weeks before his teammates were picked up in the drug raid. This came to light last weekend and when the Fort Worth Star-Telegram asked coach Gary Patterson about it, he acknowledged he knew about the failed test in February but had no comment on whether or not a punishment/suspension would be forthcoming.
We will see if this going public will alter Patterson's approach with Paschall. The defense, though they lose the Cash Money Brothers, should keep them in games against the high-powered offenses in the league, assuming they can score enough. Bottom line is if Casey Paschall is on the field, TCU is a Big 12 title contender. If he's gone or suspended, they are probably not.
As for the school, it’s small and one of only two private schools in the league (best buddy Baylor being the other) and Amon Carter stadium has the steepest steps I've ever seen — like Mayan ruins steep. It isn't big, but it can get loud. The girls dress (and look) like Longhorn girls at games, meaning they wear small/minimal clothing and boots.
They immediately become a better conference member than the two departed by that alone. Also, everyone is from Tyler that goes there. I have TCU family from Tyler and know three other people that are from Tyler that are TCU grads. Some might tell you they are from Fort Worth or Dallas or something, but they are liars. They are from Tyler. All of them. FACT.
I welcome TCU, as do we all, with open arms. They bring excellent football and baseball programs to the league with the only athletic liability being the basketball program, but we all need a guaranteed road win, right? The Frogs are familiar foes for all of us, playing the Big 12 South regularly in non-conference the last few years, but it is more than that.
They are one of us. They have been with us before and they are from here — Tyler — and we all are related to/friends with/know someone who is a graduate, student or fan. I'm glad you're back, guys. Welcome home.
A few TCU notes:
More fodder for the TCU/Baylor rivalry: The record between the two is 50-50-7 and it started in 1899, when TCU (called AddRan at the time) was actually located in Waco. They shared the town for 15 years before TCU moved back to Fort Worth. TCU coach Jim Pittman suffered a heart attack and died on the sidelines of the TCU/Baylor game in 1971, becoming the only coach in collegiate football history to pass away while a game was in progress.
They also play SMU for the Iron Skillet every year, which will surely continue.
They had Max Knake at quarterback. He wore an SMU hat around campus and I would see him at SMU hangouts in Dallas from time to time during school breaks.. He was a nice guy and quite the enigma at TCU, at least to the those I know.
Their colors are cool and those Louis-Gossett-Jr-in-Enemy-Mine-looking helmets were awesome.
Rod Roddy, the former host of The Price is Right, is the most famous TCU graduate in the realm of entertainment. Also a grad, "Face the Nation" host Bob Schieffer. Guess who else went to TCU? Chris Klein. Yep, Oz is a former Frog.
The Frogs get Oklahoma at Hell's Half Acre (the best nickname for a stadium ever) on Dec. 1. Make us proud.