TCU, A&M are Having to Learn Some Hard Lessons

We still have a month to go before the meaningful college basketball games get started, so I guess if I’m going to talk about college sports, I gotta talk about football.

Not that there’s much to talk about that’s very good all of a sudden. Three years ago, absolutely. But now, one of the “little programs that could” suddenly isn’t now that it’s with the big boys.

Geographically speaking, TCU belongs in the Big 12, and it was a move they should have been able to make long ago. But fitting in regionally is still one thing; whether or not they can compete regularly sadly still remains to be seen.

After six 10+ win seasons in the previous seven years, the Frogs’ inaugural Big 12 season saw them finish 7-6 and not win a conference game at home. The next year did not get better, finishing 4-8.

Injuries and inexperience may have played a big part, especially given that more than half their conference losses were by a field goal’s margin. But the one that really stung had to be that Saturday night on Oct. 26. With the mighty but supposedly fallen Texas Longhorns coming to Amon Carter for the first time since 1994, Frog fans were prepared to kick the Horns while they were down. Instead, they got a three-hour storm delay and a 30-7 whooping after that.

The last game couldn’t have been much better, losing at home – to Baylor. The school that for years had supposedly been proving the conference made the wrong decision in picking them, now standing tall as being one of the best in the country. The first two years had so far proven that little private schools like the one in Fort Worth perhaps couldn’t compete with the big boys after all – except that the little private school in Waco was now doing so.

Still, I’m sure TCU believes joining the Big 12 was the right decision, and I do respect their reasons. While other schools keep bolting conferences to whichever one can get them more TV money, with TCU, I’ve always had the feeling the desire to be in the Big 12 lied in getting back to more regional matchups and renewing rivalries with old Southwest Conference foes. (And I’m sure that desire also remains with SMU and other former SWC schools that have not been as lucky).

That can’t be said for the school down in College Station. And while Texas A&M may not have had as bad a season as TCU, the disappointment there has to be greater – and is more deserved for its arrogance.

Following their fast-track entry into the Southeastern Conference that saw them beat Alabama and ESPN loverboy Johnny Manziel, the Aggies were beyond certain that this year would prove they made the right decision in telling every other school in Texas to eff off and their fans to get excited for playing the likes of Auburn and Ole Miss. They were going to prove that moving to the SEC was no big deal after having to settle for being UT’s lapdog so many years in the Big 12, and now they were among the best.

That came crashing down quickly with a 3-3 second half that included losing their last two games. Instead of playing the Longhorns on Thanksgiving like they’re supposed to do, two days after Turkey Day the Aggies got beat by fellow Big 12 mutineer Missouri to finish the regular season a pedestrian 8-4 and a .500 record in the SEC.

Chew on this, Aggies. You finished with the same record as North Texas. Rice is going to play for a conference championship, and you’re not.

The wake-up call was loud and clear. By being the new guys, Texas A&M has a target on its back by the conference who’s consecutive national titles I’ve lost count of. And they’re probably going to have to do a lot more if they’re going to move up the SEC rankings (including a few things I can’t mention without libel accusations).

Don’t expect either of these schools or their supporters to be backpedaling, though.

Gary Patterson insists he knew preparing for the increased competition in the Big 12 would take time. His program is hoping the likes of DeSoto’s Desmon White or All Saints’ Foster Sawyer will solve their quarterback issues.

Texas A&M, meanwhile, appears to still have confidence in where they’re going, giving Kevin Sumlin a six-year contract extension. No one’s expecting Johnny Wonderboy, or whatever his name of the week currently is, to be wearing maroon next year, so now it’s really put-up-or-shut-up to see if the Aggies can bring in recruiting classes they’ll need in the SEC.

It remains to be seen if the local guys in Fort Worth will bounce back quicker than the ones in College Station. But so far, this hasn’t been what either school has hoped for with their new digs.

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