For TCU men's basketball, Big 12 a building project

TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte had two obvious tasks when he first stepped on campus in October 2009. First, he was to help lead the fundraising for the Amon G. Carter Stadium renovations.

The $164 million renovations are scheduled for completion this summer, giving Horned Frogs football the newest, sharpest home in the Big 12.

Del Conte's second task was to figure out what to do with Daniel-Meyer Coliseum, TCU's 51-year-old basketball arena.

"It's Daniel-Meyer's turn," Del Conte said last week. "Every time TCU puts its mind to something, the faithful come through."

Architects are working on concepts to renovate the arena, including new locker rooms and a players' lounge. Meanwhile, football's expanded locker rooms, updated equipment and training rooms should be ready for the team's first season in the Big 12.

But basketball, specifically the men's program, will have to wait a little longer, Del Conte said. The Frogs had their first winning season since 2005 and coach Jim Christian will be entering his fifth year when the team begins Big 12 play in November.

Are the Frogs ready for the move to a league that sent two teams to the Elite Eight and has the best NCAA Tournament winning percentage the past 10 years?

Christian, who has four years remaining on his contract, will be the lowest-paid coach in the Big 12. Spending on the program is also likely to be the lowest in the conference, if 2010 numbers from the U.S. Education Department are any indication.

"There's not one person in our administration that feels we are ready from a facilities or resources standpoint," Christian said. "There's not one person who doesn't understand how imperative it is that those things be upgraded for us to compete."

The other nine Big 12 men's basketball programs have dedicated resources, including hefty salaries for assistant coaches and support staff that shows a desire to compete for a national championship, Christian said. "Those type of things show everybody the university's commitment to having a first-class basketball program. You're playing in a league now where every institution is well and above committed to trying to win a national championship."

The delay in renovations isn't helping the basketball program. Christian could use glossy prints of the planned renovations for recruiting, much like football coaches did during the stadium renovations.

"We can't talk about what's not there," Christian said, alluding to recruits. "We have an easy blueprint with the other sports. It has to be shown to everybody who comes in contact with this program that the same commitment is there for our basketball program."

Del Conte is aware of the shortcomings of the basketball facilities, including DMC being the smallest venue in the Big 12. He says he's waiting for design concepts from HKS, the same firm that designed the Amon G. Carter renovations. After TCU's board of trustees agrees on the best course, Del Conte said, a fundraising effort will begin.

"That's my job," Del Conte said. "In my opinion, the athletic director's sole job is to serve the coaches in their endeavors to win championships. That's from facilities or whatever they need to compete at the highest level and that's what we're trying to do."

One of Del Conte's first projects as the AD at Rice was to help raise nearly $30 million to renovate the Owls' basketball arena. Del Conte said all options are open, including a renovation similar to one at Wichita State. In 2003, a $25 million project turned the 1955 Levitt Arena, built by the same company that built DMC and looked strikingly familiar, into the modern-looking Charles Koch Arena.

"We're looking at everything," Del Conte said. "The entire footprint of Daniel-Meyer. We know it's antiquated. Once we complete the study we're going to hit the streets in earnest. My goal is to have it sooner rather than later."

Meanwhile, Christian must recruit against Big 12 programs with some of the best facilities in the country. Although TCU built new locker rooms in 2002, and the Ed and Rae Schollmaier Basketball Complex, with practice courts and offices in 2004, the arena has become outdated.

Del Conte acknowledged that Christian is at a recruiting disadvantage, but pointed out that 10 years of football success helped build momentum to renovate 80-year-old Amon G. Carter Stadium.

"I'm very supportive of Jim," he said. "In this day and age we want instantaneous success. That's just human nature. I want overnight success just as bad as the next person. But it's a process. The steps Jim has taken over the last couple years you can see we're in the process of building a program. This past year was evidence of that. He did a great job. We knew it was going to take some time to build a program. There's going to be dips and valleys as you build a program and this year is an indication that we started to turn the corner."

Del Conte compared the need for first-class facilities to a chemistry professor TCU hired away from Texas A&M.

"He's doing a wonderful job transforming our science department," Del Conte said. "But for him to come here we had to build facilities to attract the finest scientist. You can't build a great chemistry lab using 1950 Bunsen burners."

Christian has been thinking the same thing.

"We can't keep doing business the way we've done business and expect to compete in the Big 12, because that's not the way they do business," Christian said. "You have to be on a level playing field in order to compete in major college athletics. Administrations win championships. They have to want it. You look at every top program in the country and none of them are under resourced, or under budgeted. There's a comprehensive plan for what they need to do to compete at the highest level. And I think TCU is doing that. I think 3-5 years from now it's going to be a totally different place."

Big 12 hoops equals big money

How TCU men's basketball finances compare to the other nine schools that will make up the Big 12 Conference next season:


Coach's salary

2010 revenue

2010 expenses


Scott Drew, $1.7 million

$5.9 million

$5.9 million

Iowa State

Fred Hoiberg, $800,000

$6.6 million

$4.6 million


Bill Self, $3.6 million

$11.5 million

$9.5 million

Kansas State

Frank Martin*, $1.5 million

$7.6 million

$5.0 million


Lon Kruger, $2.1 million

$8.4 million

$8.4 million

Oklahoma State

Travis Ford, $1.875 million

$12.3 million

$5.7 million


Jim Christian, $590,000

$4.3 million

$4.3 million


Rick Barnes, $2.2 million

$16.4 million

$8.2 million

Texas Tech

Billy Gillispie, $800,000

$5.4 million

$4.5 million

West Virginia

Bob Huggins, $1.8 million

$8.0 million

$5.3 million

*reportedly leaving to take South Carolina job

Sources: Salaries based on published reports. Revenue and expenses provided by U.S. Department of Education.

Stefan Stevenson


Twitter: @FollowtheFrogs

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