The Texas Christian Horned Frogs aren’t concerned with the dreaded lions or the overrated princes these days. Life is big in Fort Worth—from big wins in big bowls to the biggest prize, the Big 12.
“It’s exciting,” beamed TCU athletic director, Chris Del Conte. “You want to play the very best, and we want to be with our brethren from the old Southwest Conference.” Del Conte spoke to Horseshoe Bay Sports Club members, June 18.
It has been a rough road for the Horned Frogs, but now you can call it gravel-to-gold since the SWC’s demise in 1995. “We’ve been in two WAC conferences, Conference USA, Mountain West, and almost the Big East,” declared Del Conte. And then came the stunning news in 2011 that Texas A&M was SEC bound and later Missouri, too. Texas Christian raised its hand.
And it had plenty of money—as in a showcase of wins—to throw into the pot. Head football coach Dennis Franchione was 25-10 there, 1998-2000, and Gary Patterson has made a name for himself to chase such legends as Sammy Baugh, Davey O’Brien, Jim Swink, Abe Martin, and LaDainian Tomlinson.
“He’s the most intense fellow I’ve ever worked with,” observed Del Conte, who’s been in Fort Worth since 2009. “He cares about people, and the players respect him.”
People who appreciate winning football should respect him, too. The school, shunned by the Big 12 in 1996 while a quartet of SWC Texans were invited to come in from the cold, has gone to a bowl game in 10 of Patterson’s 11 years as coach. The ‘Frogs won the Rose Bowl to cap a 13-0 season in 2010 and went 11-2 in 2011. They will bring an eight-game winning streak into a meeting with Grambling State, September 8.
Oh, can Del Conte talk about that contest. “We have no bonded debt from the stadium,” he explains. What he’s saying is the refurbished Amon Carter Stadium will be ready with bills paid for the Tigers’ visit. The athletic director doesn’t like to call it “refurbished.” “It’s new except for 10 rows,” he insists in a most acceptable excited voice. Amon Carter was a $165 million project. It will seat 45,000. Virginia, Texas Tech, Kansas State, and, ah, yes, Oklahoma will be guests this season.
Del Conte loves the number 32,000—season tickets sold for the first Big 12 campaign.
The TCU basketball men and women had winning records in 2011-12, and the volleyball squad was an impressive 25-7. The baseball nine wound up 40-22, won the regional tournament at Texas A&M before losing in the Super Regionals to UCLA.
Back to the gridiron, one more bonus development: Gary Patterson is on the cover of Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine.
Del Conte loves the academic situation, too. “We used to have 4,000 applicants for 1,600 spots; now, it’s 20,000 for the 1600. This is a phenomenal institution.”