Gil LeBreton

TCU’s new basketball arena lacks only banners, memories

TCU opened the newly renovated Schollmaier Arena on Sunday with an 80-69 victory over Abilene Christian.
TCU opened the newly renovated Schollmaier Arena on Sunday with an 80-69 victory over Abilene Christian. Special to the Star-Telegram

Sitting there Sunday afternoon, watching the Horned Frogs dribble and shoot in their newly renovated home, my mind raced back over 35 years to other memorable TCU basketball afternoons.

It took about five minutes.

I was sitting courtside that afternoon in 1986 when Jamie Dixon launched his stumbling 35-footer at the buzzer to beat Texas. As much as the shot, I remember then-athletic director Frank Windegger, his purple blazer flapping behind him, somehow scaling the press table to join the dog pile at the free-throw line.

There was a night at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum when Billy Tubbs’ 1997-98 team beat Tulsa in overtime in the middle of a 16-game winning streak. I remember that.

One of the Neil Dougherty TCU teams upset 10th-ranked Louisville, circa 2004. And then there was the upset of No. 5 Kansas almost three years ago that 35,000 TCU fans saw in person — or, at least, they say they did.

But beyond that, frankly, with all due respect to the late Milton Daniel and Dutch Meyer, the building’s original namesakes, the old arena wasn’t exactly brimming with memorable moments.

The time, therefore, was more than overdue Sunday to cut the ribbon and turn the page.

As coach Trent Johnson saw the day’s 80-69 victory over Abilene Christian, it was another lesson learned on the way to getting his Frogs prepared for the rigors of a rough and tumble Big 12 schedule.

But the afternoon was a historic one. The handsomely renovated and renamed Ed and Rae Schollmaier Arena is long overdue, as TCU continues to find its place in its new conference.

Where to begin?

Where there once barely was elbow-to-elbow breathing room in the concourses of old Daniel-Meyer, the Schollmaier Arena greets guests with an airy atrium. Off to the left, where visitors won’t want to miss it, is the TCU Hall of Fame.

The Rose Bowl trophy and accompanying rose petals are there under glass. So is the Frogs’ trophy from winning the 1939 Sugar Bowl over Carnegie Tech, the victory that gave TCU the national championship.

The bowl trophies used to be impressively on display in the football offices. But the general public seldom saw them there. Now the Rose Bowl trophy and Jake Arrieta’s Hall of Fame display are available for selfies.

Around the arena, the concourses are now broad and bright. There are concession areas, not simply cubicles, and tables and chairs to actually sit and eat during halftime.

Through the portals the first thing you’ll notice is how bright the place is. Gone are the 50 years of dust bunnies that covered the old rafters.

Even the court floor is bright and new, decorated in a lizard-skin design.

But Johnson already recognizes the problem.

“The place is unbelievable,” he said. “But what I told the kids is that usually when we have facilities like this, it’s done after you’ve won a lot of games in the NCAA Tournament.

“I told them, ‘I want you to think about that. It’s time for us to start paying back some people in terms of playing this game and winning our share of games, because usually this stuff is done after you’ve won.’ 

The coach is right. Impressive as Schollmaier Arena is, it needs banners.

It needs basketball memories.

You’ll love the place. Johnson will try to take care of the rest.

Gil LeBreton: 817-390-7697, glebreton, @gilebreton

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