First year in Big 12 nearly in the books; how did TCU fare?

Posted Wednesday, May. 29, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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TCU’s first season in the Big 12 Conference is winding down.

And the athletic department’s first Big 12 report card is a mixed bag.

The men’s golf team and track and field squad are still trying to cap their seasons with NCAA championship glory, but the rest of the teams’ first Big 12 records are in the books.

The jump from the Mountain West to the Big 12 was going to be a step up in competition across the board, and 2012-13 was proof of that.

While the game-to-game grind against Big 12 competition proved to be fierce and formidable, it was often TCU’s own problems that gave the Horned Frogs the most fits.

Exhibit A would be the football team, which not only dismissed three starters in the spring, but then lost its starting quarterback and leading rusher a month into the season. The baseball team’s offensive frustrations started long before Big 12 play.

“I knew the transition from the Mountain West to the Big 12 was going to be a big transition for us,” TCU athletics director Chris Del Conte said. “I’m very pleased to be back in the Big 12, but do we have work to do? Absolutely. It’s a huge league we jumped into. It’s the perennial league in our region. The teams we’re competing against have been in the Big 12 for 18 years.”

TCU, left out of the Big 12 formation when the Southwest Conference broke up, was a big dog in the MWC with an athletic budget at the top of the league of around $42 million. In the Big 12, where teams average around $75 million, TCU trails drastically.

“I’m pleased with how we competed, but we have a long ways to go for us to win championships in every one of our sports,” Del Conte said. “I believe, like our coaches, that we should compete for Big 12 championships in every sport we participate in.”

TCU won no team championships in its first year in the league, after winning a lot of games in previous leagues, including a dominating run in football and baseball in the Mountain West since 2005.

There’s no debating the financial success the move to the Big 12 has given TCU. The school earned less than $2 million yearly from the MWC. By 2016, when the school is a full partner, TCU is set to earn roughly $30 million annually from the Big 12. TCU and West Virginia earn 50 percent shares this year, 75 percent next year and 95 percent in 2015.

“The biggest difference is the depth of the league,” Del Conte said. “Every game is going to be a grind. The level of play is just completely different. It’s called competition. We have to adjust our level to the daily grind of the Big 12. I am pleased with how we competed.

“Is anyone pleased with some of the outcomes in some of our sports? No. But I’ll say this: Our expectations across the board are to deliver championships. That’s our goal.”

Mixed marks

A report card on each TCU sports team during the school’s first year in the Big 12 Conference:

VOLLEYBALL

Finish: 15-14, 4-12 (7th)

Bottom line: Swept nine times in league play as the size and power of top teams proved too much to handle.

Crystal ball: There’s excellent high school volleyball in the area, and if the Frogs can tap into local recruits there’s no reason why coach Prentice Lewis can’t build a winner.

WOMEN'S SOCCER

Finish: 7-10-4, 1-5-2 (8th)

Bottom line: First-year coach Eric Bell guided the team to the Big 12 tournament championship game but lost 4-1 to Baylor.

Crystal ball: An experienced group of sophomores return, and buoyed by their tournament success, big improvements are expected.

CROSS COUNTRY

Finish: Men (9th); women (5th)

Bottom line: Agnes Kemboi finished 12th at the women’s league meet and 83rd at the NCAA championships. The men’s top runner finished 64th at the league meet.

Crystal ball: The men return all but one senior, so that could bode well. The women lose their top two finishers in Kemboi and Tricia Terry.

FOOTBALL

Finish: 7-6, 4-5 (4th)

Bottom line: Off-the-field issues and injuries had more to do with the team’s struggles than the Big 12. Missing key players probably cost the team at least two league wins.

Crystal ball: Team should contend for the league title with quarterback Casey Pachall and running back Waymon James back on the field.

EQUESTRIAN

Finish: 8-5, 3-3 (1st-t)

Bottom line: Competed at the national championships but lost in both the Hunt Seat and Western competitions.

Crystal ball: The perennially high-ranked squad should continue to compete for league and national titles.

MEN'S BASKETBALL

Finish: 11-21, 2-16 (10th)

Bottom line: No one expected the team to compete well in its first Big 12 season, but the Frogs’ Feb. 6 upset of Kansas will always be remembered.

Crystal ball: Coach Trent Johnson has, on paper, the Frogs’ best recruiting class ever coming in for his second season, giving hope for a turnaround.

WOMEN'S BASKETBALL

Finish: 9-21, 2-16 (10th)

Bottom line: Although they were blown out too many times, coach Jeff Mittie’s Frogs stayed in most league games. They lost eight times by 10 points or fewer, including a three-point loss and two one-point losses.

Crystal ball: As with the other teams, plenty of homegrown talent resides in the DFW area. With the allure of the Big 12 and a renovated arena, Mittie should be able to attract top talent.

SWIMMING AND DIVING

Finish: Men (2nd); women (3rd)

Bottom line: Cooper Robinson won the 200 backstroke and multiple swimmers medaled and set personal best times at the Big 12 meet.

Crystal ball: With national power Texas in the Big 12, the Frogs have a Goliath to their David.

RIFLE

Finish: National champs (smallbore); 3rd (overall)

Bottom line: The Frogs won two national titles in the last four years and don’t compete in a conference, although Big 12 member West Virginia won the 2013 national title.

Crystal ball: More titles are likely to be in their sights.

MEN'S GOLF

Finish: 4th (tournament)

Bottom line: Bill Montigel’s Frogs have put together one of their best seasons in his 26 years. They’re playing in the NCAA championships.

Crystal ball: Although they lose three talented seniors, sophomore Julien Brun returns to add to his program-best six individual titles.

WOMEN'S GOLF

Finish: 6th (tournament)

Bottom line: The Frogs competed in their 18th consecutive postseason, finishing 15th in the NCAA Central Regional.

Crystal ball: With only one senior, they should be able to improve next season and give top teams Oklahoma State, Texas and Oklahoma a challenge.

MEN'S TENNIS

Finish: 18-10, 2-3 (4th)

Bottom line: Earned its first NCAA tournament berth since 2010 but lost to Drake in the first round. Coach David Roditi’s tireless campaign to raise the program’s profile paid off with a nation-best attendance average of 581 per home match.

Crystal ball: With All-Big 12 selections returning in sophomores Nick Chappell and Will Stein, along with five other underclassmen, Roditi’s team seems set.

WOMEN'S TENNIS

Finish: 18-7, 6-3 (4th)

Bottom line: Lost in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 championships, but earned its 15th berth in the NCAA tournament and reached the second round. Singles player Stefanie Tan earned All-America honors after reaching the Sweet 16 of the NCAA championships.

Crystal ball: Although four seniors depart, eight underclassmen return, including Tan, a sophomore.

BASEBALL

Finish: 29-28, 12-12 (7th)

Bottom line: Just as with football, the team’s struggles had more to do with its own issues than the move to the Big 12. True, slumps were harder to snap out of against Big 12 pitchers, but TCU hit slumps out of conference as well.

Crystal ball: If Kevin Cron, Jerrick Suiter and Derek Odell produce runs, the pitching staff is good enough to challenge for the title.

TRACK AND FIELD

Finish: Men (9th indoor, 6th outdoor); women (9th indoor, 9th outdoor)

Bottom line: Individually, TCU could stand up to the best the Big 12 had to offer, including Charles Silmon and Chaniqua Corinealdi, who won 60-meter golds in February. Silmon topped that this month with three Big 12 outdoor titles. Silmon leads a TCU contingent at the NCAA outdoor championships next week.

Crystal ball: Coach Darryl Anderson has his hands full competing against large and well-funded programs such as Texas, but can still produce world-class individuals such as Silmon.

Comparing TCU from MWC to Big 12

How TCU teams fared in the first year in the Big 12 compared with the last season in the Mountain West Conference:

Sport2012-13 (Big 12)2011-12 (MWC)
Football4-5 (4th)7-0 (1st)
Volleyball4-12 (7th)9-5 (3rd)
Women’s soccer1-5-2 (8th)1-5-0 (6th)
Men’s cross country(9th)(6th)
Women’s cross country(5th)(6th)
Equestrian3-3 (T-1st)NA
Men’s basketball2-16 (10th)7-7 (5th)
Women’s basketball2-16 (10th)9-5 (3rd)
Men’s swimming and diving(2nd)NA
Women’s swimming and diving(3rd)(5th)
Men’s golf(4th)(2nd)
Women’s golf(T-6th)(1st)
Men’s tennis2-3 (4th)(4th)
Women’s tennis6-3 (4th)(1st)
Baseball12-12 (7th)20-3 (1st)
Men’s indoor track and field(9th)(4th)
Men’s outdoor track and field(6th)(4th)
Women’s indoor track and field(9th)(1st)
Women’s outdoor track and field(9th)(1st)

Stefan Stevenson, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @FollowtheFrogs

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