FORT WORTH, Texas — Conference realignment has caused much finger-pointing over the years. Some of it with the digit not used for pointing.
And when Texas Christian University's athletic world collapsed 17 years ago, the Horned Frogs indeed played the blame game.
TCU blamed itself.
When the formation of the Big 12 left the Frogs to scrap for themselves, TCU didn't ask why of the Longhorns and Aggies and Red Raiders and Bears. The Frogs asked themselves.
And did something about it. Which explains all the hammering and all the cranes and now all the excitement. Two weeks ago, TCU officially became a Big 12 member, and on Sept. 8, the Frogs host Grambling State in the grand opening of the renovated Amon G. Carter Stadium, a jewel of a football stadium that, like its kindred spirit in Stillwater, is nothing like the relic that once inhabited the same ground.
“Old Texas work ethic,” said TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte. “We worked our tails off to get back to this point, a university that dares to be great athletically and academically.”
Tremendous pride permeates the TCU campus and seemingly the entire city of Fort Worth. You can see it in the all-purple shirts all over the place and in the wide smiles at the Extreme Home Makeover: Campus Edition. Texas Christian? Texas Construction University is more like it.
“It's hard to smell the roses when you're trying to scale the mountain,” football coach Gary Patterson said of the TCU renaissance. But “someday I'll look back, know that was pretty special.”
TCU's pride comes from more than just its new football prowess (one of only four schools to finish ranked in the top 15 the last four years) and its new stadium and its new conference.
The Frogs are as proud of how they reached the Big 12 as they are that they reached the Big 12.
TCU Magazine recently displayed a “Welcome to the Big 12” spread. It opened with this:
“Not by backroom politics. Not by threat of litigation. Not even by woe-is-me bellyaching.
“Nope, all it took was good old-fashioned planning, fundraising, building and a whole lot of winning to get TCU from Southwest Conference castoff, through five leagues in 17 years, to BCS credibility, and finally, into the Big 12.”
That's not hyperbole. The Frogs built and won their way back to college football's big-time. They journeyed from the remains of the SWC to the Western Athletic Conference to Conference USA to the Mountain West and were headed to the Big East when the Big 12 called.
Along the way, they beat Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Oregon State, Texas Tech (held a Mike Leach team to three points), Stanford, Clemson and Northwestern. They kept investing in brick and mortar, and they retained their gold-strike of a coach.
And now this is TCU. New athletic facilities all over, with only basketball's Daniel-Meyer Coliseum not up to elite standards. Superb football, capped by a Rose Bowl victory 18 months ago.