If there’s a big game at Schollmaier Arena, there’s a good chance the banana hammocks are coming out.
When TCU faced-off against No. 6 West Virginia, it marked the first time the TCU basketball program had ever hosted ESPN’s Big Monday.
And because Jamie Dixon’s team desperately needed a win to revitalize its NCAA tournament chances, TCU’s marketing department knew that it needed to pull out all the stops to give the home team a visceral advantage.
In this case, though, more actually meant less, as in less clothing. Almost no clothing, really.
Over the course of the next three hours, fans would see an emotional game filled with huge scoring swings, uneven officiating and, ultimately, an impressive 82-73 TCU victory.
But for the players, coaches and college basketball fans everywhere, the night’s most unforgettable image may have been the members of TCU men’s swim and dive team, clad in only their practice speedos and sneakers, each with a letter of “GO FROGS!” painted or drawn on their chests.
“Everyone we see has a laugh, but we’re all comfortable supporting the team, just the same way they come out to our meets and support us,” freshman diver Derek Bowers said.
This wasn’t the first time college basketball fans clad only in swimwear have tried to distract opposing players. It wasn’t even the first time at TCU.
Apparently, back in the mid-’90s, swimmers and divers would show up to women’s volleyball matches in their practice gear. It wasn’t until more than a decade later that the maneuver found its way into basketball games.
Don’t worry, the speedos are battle-tested. Bowers wore his in a meet just last week.
Every year the marketing department picks one game for the swimmers to attend in swimwear, and with the arrival of Big Monday against a top 10 team, Julie Austin, a TCU assistant athletic director in the marketing department, said they wanted to really “blow it out.”
Here’s a Facebook video of the group in action from ESPN’s Holly Rowe:
The selection process is simple. When the basketball team has a big game and there’s no swim practice or meet, the marketing department calls up Sam Busch, the head coach of the TCU swim and dive team, and asks him which members of his team want to strip down and stand ahead of the front row right next to the corner of the court.
Those who don’t have prior engagements are eligible, but if all 25 or so members of men’s roster were free on the night of the designated home game, their coach would probably need to create some type of lottery system or waiting list.
“Our coach is all for it,” junior fly and freestyle swimmer Dayne Odendaal said. “He actually tweeted a picture of us from across the way, and some of us have morning practice tomorrow, but he said ‘Frogs, we’ve got your back. Go support the basketball team.’ ”
Odendaal is a native of South Africa and a transfer student-athlete. This is his first season competing in the pool and this is his second TCU basketball experience in a Speedo.
The junior admitted that he was a little surprised he got the opportunity to take part in the somewhat bizarre ritual, but it didn’t totally shock him after watching Olympian Michael Phelps do pretty much the exact same thing behind Arizona State’s infamous Curtain of Distraction.
After all, if a guy who has won 23 gold medals is willing to put on a show for the sake of college basketball, everybody else can too.
For Austin, the exposure prompted a few concerned text messages from friends.
“I’ve seen them do it so much over the years, to me, it becomes normal,” she said. “From the text messages I got from my friends watching the game who were disturbed by it, I guess it is a little abnormal. But, they’re college kids and they’re having fun.”
Of course, for the swimmers, there is one person whose feedback is just a little bit more important.
“I got a message from my mom that had a video of us on TV in our speedos screaming ‘Go Frogs’ down the line,” Bowers said.
So, was she mad that her college-age son was jumping up-and-down in essentially just his underwear on national television?
“No, she was happy, and glad to see us coming out to show our support.”