FORT WORTH, Texas — The following is a public service message to every TCU fan and administrator: Football coach Gary Patterson has not approved this message.
Remember how you feel about the man right now. Remember how smart he is.
Never forget what he has meant to your alma mater or your hometown team. Never forget how nationally obscure this place was before 2000.
Do not ever forget the flirtation with the BCS, the Fiesta Bowl invitation or the Rose Bowl win.
Remind yourself how hard this was and that nothing in the coming years diminishes the achievement of earning an invite to not just a BCS conference, but to The Big 12.
This is a reminder because Gary Patterson, as they say in the great state a' Texas, is fixin' to start losin' some ball games. Not because he suddenly is drinking from a vat of Stupid or because his team stinks. Good teams and good coaches lose in the Big 12.
The days of Gary and TCU dominating a conference the way his teams have for years are done, and I suspect he knows it.
This morning GP and his crew will play Kansas in the first Big 12 game for the Horned Frogs. Defeating Kansas still counts in the Big 12 standings, asterisk free.
Previously, TCU would have celebrated such victories as “Wins against BCS conference teams.” That tired line is done. One of the first rules of the Big 12 is there is no celebrating after beating Kansas.
This is a landmark day in the school's history and should be celebrated as such, along with the reminder that there is no shame in losing a few games in this league.
Since 2005, GP and TCU have lost 13 times playing in a non-BCS league.
In that time, Okie State coach Mike Gundy has lost 31 times, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops has lost 22 games and Mack Brown has lost 20.
Those are the “power teams” of the Big 12.
Good coaches lose games in BCS leagues, so if GP and his team do not run through this season with one or two losses, it is no green light to send a Frankenstein-type mob toward his new house.
When I asked Gary if he had any idea how this first season was going to play out, he said, “No,” with a laugh. “The thing you can't answer is how this group handles the grind. You lose 35 guys over the last year for whatever reason. Eighty-five percent of your team is freshmen, redshirt freshmen or sophomores.”
Even had TCU remained in the Mountain West Conference, a roster with that many young players is going to lose somewhere in a calendar filled with New Mexico, Air Force, UNLV and the rest of that weaker schedule.
Now you put a team that young against Oklahoma, Okie State, Texas, Kansas State or West Virginia, and there is going to be some bad mixed in.
Had TCU entered the Big East, as it existed when it agreed to join that now crumbling league, the faithful assumed the Froggies would walk into that league and be crowned league champion and earn a BCS invite by the end of September.
But GP realized what so many of the TCU faithful refused to accept, losing to the likes of South Florida, West Virginia or UConn was very much a possibility — only there would be no acceptance of such defeats.
In the Big 12, GP has breathing room not to be perfect. Or not just yet.
“I keep telling people this is a marathon,” he said.
Gary has said it takes about two seasons to know what you are dealing with in a new conference. That includes one full recruiting season and a home-and-home against conference opponents.
This is not a rhetorical trick to minimize expectations and buy him some time. It is just real.
There are a great many people who love and follow this team that fear that TCU's arrival in the Big 12 is a ticket to return to their irrelevant days in the Southwest Conference. To the days when the “reported” attendance at Amon G. Carter Stadium was 20,000 and that figure was gross exaggeration.
Then there are those who have not been around as long who believe 10 wins this season and every other year is realistic.
TCU has too many positive things in place to prevent a return to the sad and embarrassing days of the ‘70s, so much of the ‘80s and the ‘90s.
The head coach is driven too much by a fear of failure to preside over many 3-8 seasons.
The days of TCU having every toy and every advantage in its respective league are over.
Everything TCU has, so too does Texas, Oklahoma, Baylor, et al.
The transition begins at 11 a.m. in Lawrence, and while this game may be easy, this process will not.
It was T.S. Eliot who wrote, “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”
When the bumps, breaks and maybe even a blowout occur, remind yourself how you feel this day.
Distributed by MCT Information Services