Mac Engel

Baseball and basketball aside, TCU’s brand needs to be football

The tote board reads an NIT title for the men’s basketball team, yet another trip to the College World Series for the baseball team, and a 6-7 season with a Liberty Bowl runners-up ribbon for the football team.

TCU football, it’s your turn.

The main (i.e. only) reason TCU was invited into the Big 12 was because of Gary Patterson and the football team. Where TCU is invited the next time college athletics (i.e., football) consolidates, it will again be entirely because of the football team.

When TCU joined the Big 12 in 2012 a cyclical dip in the win-loss column was unavoidable and expected. For the school’s sake, it can’t go much longer.

It’s on Gary Patterson and his football team to catch up to the expectations they created to keep TCU as a football-first brand.

There is no such thing as a basketball school in Texas. If you fancy your alma mater as a baseball school, that means you aren’t good in basketball. These sophisticated rankings are based on revenue sports, and baseball isn’t one of them (and won’t be until TV starts paying).

The TCU baseball team can go to every College World Series and the basketball team can reach every NCAA Tournament and it will not match the effect the football team has on the athletic department’s morale.

This does not minimize, diminish or demean the success of the basketball program under Jamie Dixon or the baseball team under Jim Schlossnagle. No team affects fundraising and applications more than a football team.

Then there is the matter of pride. This is a football state. Or we were until we let Kansas State run the table on us last year.

Since TCU joined the Big 12 in 2012, the football team is a respectable 40-24 with a league title and wins in the Peach and Alamo Bowls.

As a result, a dog can conclude the move from the Mountain West to the Big 12 has been an unmitigated success. TCU has more than demonstrated it can play as a Power 5 school.

Now let’s take quarterback Trevone Boykin’s best two seasons away from the football team and see what happens.

Take out Boykin’s junior and senior years — when he and receiver Josh Doctson were as good as any QB/WR combination in the nation — and the Horned Frogs are 17-21 with one winning record in three years.

It’s not that much different than the Texas A&M Aggies without Johnny Manziel and Mike Evans. The Aggies are 44-21 since joining the SEC, with the highlight being a blowout win over Oklahoma in the 2013 Cotton Bowl and Johnny’s Heisman Trophy.

Since Johnny left after the 2013 season, the Aggies have collapsed to three consecutive 8-5 finishes. But the baseball team has reached the College World Series and the men’s basketball team has advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

So it’s not as if the Aggies’ athletic department has been a trash heap of losses, depression and sadness.

All teams go through cycles, and this sort of development for TCU was inevitable. TCU’s transfer quarterback from Texas A&M (because it’s the Aggies, we need to be specific about transfer QBs; this one is Kenny Hill) has been a miss. The defense was hardly average, and the offensive line remains a major problem.

Now Patterson faces a 2017 schedule with road games that include Arkansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Texas Tech.

BTW: TCU AD Chris Del Conte and GP need to tag-team the Big 12 office and break up Oklahoma and Oklahoma State as road games every other year; those opponents need to be split. This schedule quirk was a part of the reality of TCU inheriting Texas A&M’s schedule in the Big 12. Enough time has passed that this should be fixed.

Under GP, TCU has never finished with losing records in consecutive seasons. After going 5-6 in 2004, the team ripped off the most successful run in the modern era of the university, averaging 11 wins over the next seven seasons, winning the Rose Bowl and earning an invitation to the Big 12.

The Frogs have won three straight against Texas, and I will forever contend that the 2015 season with its load of close games is the most exciting in the history of the program.

That was two years ago. Since today’s college football goes in dog years, that means roughly 14 years have passed. It’s hard to bet against GP, but zero about this 2017 schedule suggests “Turnaround Year,” and if the Tech game is at night, forget it.

Meanwhile, the TCU baseball team has morphed into a national power and, what was thought to be impossible, the basketball team has become legit under Dixon.

The football team needs to top them on the tote board to keep the Horned Frog brand as a football school.

Mac Engel: @macengelprof

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