TCU was hanging on to a seven-point lead late in the third quarter Saturday. The Horned Frogs were desperately trying to hold off Kansas to claim their first-ever win at home in the Big 12.
The Frogs tried for much of the second half to put the game away but struggled as the third quarter turned into the fourth quarter.
The battle on the field, with both teams fighting to stay out of the conference cellar, was intense.
The Amon G. Carter Stadium stands, however, were almost empty for the entire fourth quarter. Many of the announced 41,894 in attendance never showed, left early or were seeking shelter from a hot day, viewing the Frogs’ historic win from the concourse.
Pictures from the empty stadium were picked up by national media and fan sites from other Big 12 teams, most ridiculing the scene.
TCU coach Gary Patterson, moments after the win, declined to comment on the fans. But Wednesday he tried to send a message to the Frogs fans, many of whom are dismayed at the team’s struggles so far in 2013.
“They need to understand everybody reads,” he said. “If we don’t want to be in the stands and recruits show up, [if] you want to say we’re not any good, just understand, at some point in time, to build a championship, everybody goes through down times. It ain’t hurting me. If we want to move forward as a university, as a football program … we all have to be on the same page, and we all have to do our part.”
It’s the most pointed Patterson has been on the topic, one he usually tries to avoid.
TCU fans discussing the issue on social media and message boards seem to be in three camps. The two loudest viewpoints are that the lack of fans was embarrassing and not fair to the team or that it was too hot and people needed a break from the sun. The temperature reached a record 91 degrees with average humidity around 83 percent.
A third line of thinking from fans is that it’s their prerogative if they don’t use their tickets or if they want to leave their seats.
Longtime fan Sarah Crouch said in an email that the heat is the only reason she left her seat. Crouch said that three days after the Frogs’ Sept. 7 game she had to go to the emergency room for heatstroke.
“One thing I hope Coach Patterson, the team and students know is that our leaving early, or those that may not come at all to the games, has only to do with the HEAT! As long as we have these 11 a.m. games in September and October, I’m afraid it will be this way,” she wrote.
TCU’s penchant for getting stuck with 11 a.m. starts (all three home games so far in 2013) has been a growing complaint from fans. The early starts have also made tailgating a less attractive event.
Game times are set by television networks, which are looking for matchups that will produce the best ratings. The better games, from a TV ratings perspective, generally get the afternoon or prime-time starts.
“It’s everybody’s responsibility to get where we need to get to, or what we’ll do is we’ll become like TCU was for 30 or 40 years,” Patterson said.
Many fans, including Ed Slavin, don’t buy the weather excuse.
“Never understood the heat deal,” he wrote on Twitter. “If Frogs can play ball in pads and handle it, why can’t REAL fans? I am referring to the many thousands that never came in or left at halftime and never returned.”
Texas’ visit on Oct. 26, its first trip to Fort Worth since 1994, is likely to set an attendance record at the renovated stadium.
The Longhorns undoubtedly will use all of their 4,000 allotted seats, but some TCU fans fear that many of the seats held by 32,000 season-ticket holders will be filled with orange-clad imposters. Tickets on stubhub.com range from $73 to $2,000.
Patterson seemed to be cognizant of this when he mentioned his alma mater Kansas State and how coach Bill Snyder tried to keep the stands from filling up with red anytime Oklahoma or Nebraska came to town back when they were all in the Big Eight.
But that’s a different problem. Amon G. Carter Stadium will be packed and loud Oct. 26 for all the same reasons — cooler weather, a later start and the Longhorns’ visit.
But how will it look in a close game in the third quarter against West Virginia on Nov. 2? Or will it be too cold then?