College Sports

February 3, 2014

Chris Del Conte: TCU is Oakland Athletics of Big 12

The Frogs are hoping to boost financial resources and athletic revenue to keep up with the conference’s power teams.

Acknowledging that keeping up financially with conference colleagues was a daunting task, TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte vowed on Monday evening to raise the resources necessary to make the Horned Frogs’ athletic department a player in the Big 12.

“We did not join the Big 12 to merely be a participant,” Del Conte told those assembled for a “town hall meeting” at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum. “We earned our way back in because of our success.

“We’re not going to get in a situation where we’re just happy to be here.”

It’s a mentality that led to the school’s exclusion from the original Big 12 20 years ago, he said.

Keeping up with the Joneses on the playing field requires financial resources to adequately fund the entire athletic department, including its Title IX obligations and opportunities.

That was not a surprise, the athletic director said while recognizing the contributions of philanthropic support to make up for any shortfall.

Ultimately, improving revenue will mean making the most out of the school’s chief revenue sports, basketball and football, including raising ticket prices at the renovated Amon G. Carter Stadium and the soon-to-be rebuilt Daniel-Meyer Coliseum.

Doing both is simply good business, said Del Conte, who gave an unvarnished account of what the school’s financial challenges are as the smallest school in the Big 12.

TCU continues to play catch-up financially, he said, noting that the school’s best year in terms of merchandising sales was $10 million during the Rose Bowl season of 2010.

Texas, meanwhile, did $100 million the same season in which the Longhorns won five games.

Financially, Del Conte said, TCU was the “New York Yankees of the Mountain West,” but the “Oakland Athletics” of the Big 12. TCU won’t become a full member of the conference until 2015. With that comes a full share in every revenue opportunity, including television money.

Money through beer sales — a trend in college athletics that has picked up momentum in recent years — is not an option at this point, but there is much hope in what a $45 million reconstruction job of outdated Daniel-Meyer Coliseum will mean to a basketball program that has lagged behind for years.

Construction will begin in earnest after this season.

The $45 million raised for the project is among the hundreds of millions raised privately over the past several years.

“Daniel-Meyer has to get done because all of a sudden we’ve eliminated an excuse,” Del Conte said, alluding to the accepted assumption that good facilities are required to recruit the best student-athletes.

Not having a home arena for a year will take a toll on recruiting.

Where the Frogs’ men’s and women’s basketball teams play remains up in the air, though Del Conte said the school was leaning toward playing the 2014-15 season at the Fort Worth school district’s Wilkerson-Greines.

Talks with the city about playing at the Fort Worth Convention Center are ongoing, but there appear to be too many scheduling conflicts for that to be a viable option, he said.

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