Mac Engel

TCU playing Notre Dame would be a Frogs coup

Notre Dame has approached TCU about playing a football game, though a possible matchup is years away.
Notre Dame has approached TCU about playing a football game, though a possible matchup is years away. AP

Notre Dame will never regain the national identity it once enjoyed but the Irish remain the Dallas Cowboys and New York Yankees of college football.

The Irish have not won a national title since 1988, but it is still a big deal to be Notre Dame and it’s still a big deal to play Notre Dame. And it will always be a big deal to play at Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., in front of Touchdown Jesus and thousands of rabid Catholics on a fall Saturday.

It would be better if you could miss South Bend (trust me, I grew up in Indiana), but Notre Dame Stadium remains worthy of a road trip and should be on a fan’s bucket list.

For TCU, there is a distinct possibility for such a road trip.

According to sources at both schools, the Irish have politely reached out to TCU about being their guest in South Bend. But TCU could not accept that first invitation because the desired date conflicted with TCU’s Big 12 schedule.

In a testament to the evolution of TCU’s brand, there is still a chance the Horned Frogs could land a date, or dates, with the Irish.

That would be a major coup for TCU, which in recent years has upgraded its non-conference schedule for the sake of its fans, its brand and the potential to aid its ratings in the polls.

TCU already has games secured with Arkansas, Ohio State, Colorado, Cal and Stanford. Adding Notre Dame would be consistent with this pattern.

Part of the deal when you play Notre Dame — anywhere — is that you have to work around its schedule. The gold on those pretty helmets no longer shines the way it did during the days of Rockne, Montana and Parseghian, but the Irish still don’t play Tennessee Tech.

Now the way college football teams schedule it’s like a little girl planning her wedding when she’s in the fifth grade; TCU has a home-and-home locked up with Colorado for 2022-23.

Another potential scenario for this meeting would be TCU playing Notre Dame in the Shamrock Series. This is a regular-season game for both teams that functions partially like a bowl, and serves as a major recruiting/marketing tool for Notre Dame.

Notre Dame is the only school in America that can pull off this home-away-from-home series.

The series began in 2009 and puts Notre Dame as the home team all over the map, from Fenway Park in Boston to Yankee Stadium in New York, to Soldier Field in Chicago, etc. Who knows? Maybe TCU could play Notre Dame in the new Ray Davis Stadium after it replaces that outdated dump that is The Ballpark in Arlington.

The Shamrock Series has twice been to Texas — once in San Antonio in ’09 and at Jerry World in ’13. It is coming back San Antonio this season with Army as the opponent.

The only way TCU’s participation in Shamrock Series would work — which according to a source would be no earlier than 2025 — is for the Frogs to return to AT&T Stadium for the third time. Houston and San Antonio need not apply for this one.

TCU has played at Jerry World twice, both in Cowboys Classic (now called the Advocare Classic): the first in 2010, when it defeated Oregon State before an announced crowd of 46,138. That is by far the smallest crowd in the seven-year history of this event, which unofficially starts the college football season.

Gary Patterson’s crew appeared in Jerry’s game room to start the 2013 season against LSU. The date was a “split the difference” agreement between the two schools (i.e. head coaches). TCU had originally scheduled LSU as a home-and-home, but when TCU was invited into the Big 12 it agreed to play LSU at a neutral site field and to cut the series in half.

LSU won the game, but it drew 80,230.

The Shamrock Series, the Advocare Classic or the other increasing number of neutral site regular season games popping up all over the fall schedules are tricky for teams; they can generate big dollars from the TV rights-holder but alienate fan bases that are normally forced to pay for an additional game on top of season ticket packages.

You may not like these glorified “bowl games,” but they are a part of the college football landscape for the foreseeable future.

TCU playing Notre Dame in anything is not imminent, but it is being discussed and it would be a coup for the Horned Frogs if they could do a home-and-home with the Cowboys of college football.

Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.

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