DALLAS — After years of slumming it in college football’s middle class, the TCU Horned Frogs have finally taken their seat at the grown-ups table. No more midseason conference matchups at UNLV. No more campaigning to be included in the BCS. No more “We’re the little guy” mentality when taking on any team from a bigger conference.
So, yes, this is a new life for TCU football. But if you listen to coach Gary Patterson, who made his first appearance at Big 12 media day on Monday morning, it shouldn’t be all that different.
For one, Patterson, a native of tiny Rozel, Kan., is a man with Big Eight roots, a K-State grad who once coached for a season at Pittsburg State. So he knows all about the culture and tradition.
In addition, Patterson says, the Horned Frogs have been battling Big 12 schools for recruits for the last seven or eight years. They didn’t always win those battles, of course. But they won enough.
“We know a lot about the players,” Patterson says.
Then there’s the on-field adjustment. Going 12-0 in the Mountain West in impressive. But the Big 12 schedule is a whole different beast. And while Patterson has heard the questions — "Good luck going undefeated in this conference, coach" — he also can recite a long list of accomplishments that suggest maybe success is possible right away.
In 2009, TCU finished the regular season 12-0 before falling to Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl. A year later, the Horned Frogs again finished undefeated and beat Big Ten co-champion Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. And last season, in what many considered a rebuilding year, TCU went 11-2 and won the Poinsettia Bowl.
“This senior class is 36-3,” Patterson says.
This was part of Patterson’s theme on Monday morning. A measure of pride in what his program has accomplished to get to this point. A measure of respect to the challenge that awaits.
TCU has finally earned its spot at the grown-ups table. But will they be able to enjoy the prime rib?
“When you’re sitting on the side of the mountain, you don’t rest,” Patterson says. “Everything we’ve done to this point is great. But now the real work starts. Now we’re climbing. It’s another challenge. It’s another way we’ve got to keep climbing the mountain.”