The mid-major football program that I root for to break into the next level is TCU. Gary Patterson is this sane, rational man who recognizes that the best way for a program like his to make it big is to push as hard on the field as possible with the idea that with time the payoff will come. Along those lines, he’s also smart enough to recognize that the current BCS format is better for schools like his who can’t match the resources and depth of schools that come from the top of the Big Ten or SEC and wouldn’t likely survive the grind of a multi-round playoff format.
But that’s only half of the picture. Breaking the college football glass ceiling also involves the financial side, as Orrin Hatch is so fond of reminding us. About that, it turns out that TCU’s athletic director is as grounded as his football coach is.
“There are teams in the Big 12 that are nowhere near where we are athletically,” Del Conte said, just getting started. “We could have been Baylor.”
That TCU isn’t, is why they matter going into the 2010 season. There is no whining anymore. The school didn’t deserve to be in the Big 12. Back in the mid-1990s it relied on the likes of Texas or Texas A&M fans coming to town to sell out home games. Now when critics point out they can’t even sell out their own 44,000-seat stadium, Frogs everywhere point out it used to be a lot worse.
Do you want 17,000 folks watching a horrible team or 38,000 watching a conference champion?
“Missing out on the Big 12 gave us an opportunity,” Del Conte said. “That’s the best thing that happened to us. Now we can regroup. Back then if our program was where it is today, we would have been in [the Big 12].”
There’s something ironic on the horizon if TCU manages to pull off the big one this season and make it to the BCS title game. On the one hand, it probably seals the deal for the Mountain West to be recognized and accepted as an AQ BCS conference. On the other hand, it makes TCU an attractive target for a bigger conference.
It’s all about getting in again: Getting into the BCS. If the Mountain West keeps performing at current levels, its champion will be guaranteed a BCS bowl in 2012 and 2013. At least.
It’s also about getting into a new conference, if it comes to that. As conference realignment looms, TCU has positioned itself nicely. It has been mentioned prominently as a candidate to join the league that once spurned it, the Big 12. If the Big 12 lost Missouri and/or Colorado, TCU would have to be at the top of the list. There aren’t many other viable candidates.
“Everyone is vulnerable because of the landscape,” Del Conte said. “There are tectonic plates around the world. You don’t know when an earthquake is going to happen. That’s what happened with college football. You’re always going to have shift.”