FORT WORTH, Texas - Gary Patterson does not agree, but the two previous times his teams' chances of playing in a bowl game were better than what he is dealing with today.
What he and his team were facing in 2001 and 2004 were much "easier" than the set of circumstances he has in front of him. Again, he does not agree.
As it stands today, TCU will miss a bowl for only the second time since he took over as head coach in 2001, and third time since 1997. The Horned Frogs (4-6, 2-5 Big 12) must win their final two games to keep their postseason streak alive.
The odds ain't great.
TCU plays at Kansas State (5-4, 3-3) on Saturday in Manhattan; the Frogs are a 10.5-point underdogs. It finishes the season against Baylor; chances are decent the Frogs will be an underdog in that game, too. Probably. Maybe. Perhaps.
Here is a look at the two other times in the Patterson era when TCU's status of bowl eligibility was in doubt, and how it went:
2001 In Gary Patterson’s first season as head coach, TCU was 4-5 after a 38-17 loss against Alabama-Birmingham on Nov. 10. In the Frogs' next game, they upset No. 17 Louisville, 37-22, to even its record at 5-5. TCU had to upset Southern Miss to secure a bowl bid, which it did with a 14-12 win. The Frogs finished the season 6-6 after losing to Texas A&M in the Gallery Furniture Bowl.
2004 TCU dropped to 4-5 after losing 55-28 at No. 12 Louisville on Nov. 10. The next game, the Frogs defeated Southern Miss to even their record to 5-5 and needed one win for a bowl. In the regular-season finale against Tulane, the Frogs lost 35-31 to finish 5-6. It is the only time in Patterson’s tenure the team missed a bowl game.
I asked GP if there are any comparisons between these teams, and his answer was injuries. TCU's offensive line has been depleted by injury, a quitter, and guys who aren't good enough.
Other than the bowl appearance bonus in their contract, what no college coach wants to miss out on a bowl are the extra practices for the underclassmen. I asked Gary if that was a concern, which he said it is not.
"One of our best recruiting years we weren’t working on bowl practices. We had one of our best recruiting classes," GP said. "There are plusses and minuses to all of it. Right now I don’t see two ways that would make me happy."
In response to potential litigation in what will be a large class action lawsuit against the charitable organization known as the NCAA, it is no longer in the merchandise business. At least not directly.
No NCAA Shop any more. Jay Bilas, well done. In case you didn't know, it was the NCAA-hating and ESPN analyst Bilas who took the NCAA to task for selling Johnny Manziel jerseys with none of the proceeds going to the actual athlete-student.
Just because the NCAA is no longer selling merchandise on its own website means these jerseys are gone. And just because the NCAA is trying like hell to distance itself from what will likely be a future multi-million dollar back payment on likeness infringement means you can't find the jerseys of the most visible college players right now.
The NCAA's members are free to sell jerseys as they see fit. And they are.
No. 1 - Mike Davis, who is a senior WR. Only $60. No. 14 - David Ash, a junior QB. It's $89.95. Would really help if he has a good season so they don't have to discount this. No. 32 - Former Aledo RB Johnathan Gray. The good news? He's only a sophomore so these things can be on the racks for a while. Just don't get hurt. Would hate it if these things had to be marked down. It's an $89.95 deal right now.
No. 10 - Blake Bell. Only $89.95. Probably just a coincidence he's a big name and could be the starting QB.
There are many more. And they are everywhere at every major school.
The garment has value because it's the "home" team. Once you put a number - even without the name - it increases the value no different than a No. 18 on a Denver Broncos jersey. This is where the kid gets screwed. This is a weak loophole that both the NCAA, its schools and the manufacturers have robbed the athlete-student out of for more than a decade because they could.
At the very least a percentage of whatever money is generated by a No. 25 Baylor jersey that sold while Seastrunk played should go to the athlete-student when his college career ends.
Seastrunk, Manziel, Pachall et all helped make their respective jersey more valuable to sell, and at some point they deserves a cut.
FORT WORTH, Texas - Lost in all of this "Casey Back" love for the return of TCU quarterback Casey Pachall is the understudy who deserves a merit badge for the work he did last season.
What Trevone Boykin did as a redshirt freshman to replace Pachall on zero notice was one of the most under appreciated feats of the 2012 college football season. There is no 7-6 record and a handful of memorable Big 12 road wins with a guy who had never played Division I college football. He never looked scared.
"It was crazy. I just had to step into a role I'm familiar with and play my part," Boykin told me recently. "That first game (against Iowa State) was so fast."
If Boykin never does another thing for the TCU football program he should always be fondly remembered for last year.
No, he's not dead. He has three years left, and if all goes according to his plan he figures to do more than just be the guy who led the team in its first year in the Big 12.
Coach Gary Patterson has said the job is open between Pachall and Boykin, and that the latter improved dramatically in the spring. Enough to the point where both QBs will be used during the season. Pachall is going to be the starter, but Boykin envisions starting in 2014 and 2015.
"That's what it comes down to - that's exactly what I was thinking," Boykin said.
This plan is not a sure thing given the quarterback recruits the team has coming, but considering the progress Boykin made it would be foolish to rule this scenario out. His teammates responded to him, and he never once played afraid.
The two areas where Boykin had to improve is the ability to throw the ball effectively over the middle, and his release point.
GP often told his QB last season, if "you're going to throw over the middle, be sure." Pachall has the green light for those throws whereas Boykin had to earn it.
"Any quarterback can throw outside. It's a hard throw, but on this level any quarterback can make that throw," Boykin said. "Down the middle is where you make your money."
(Love that line)
"When you throw a ball to the teeth of the defense, it's the attention to detail," he said. "I've never second-guessed it. If I'm going to throw it, I'm going to throw it. It's about being more conscious about what is going on in the middle of the field."
Listed generously as 6-foot-2, it would help if Boykin's release point was a bit higher and more upright. Last season, he threw the ball more at three-quarters than closer to 90 degrees.
"Even my high school coach sends me text messages about it. It wasn't like it in high school," he said. "Me taking a year off as a redshirt I got lazy with it and it became a habit. You want your elbow at 90 degrees. It became more like I was slinging the ball."
This season is going to be about Casey Pachall, but it would be foolish to forget, or even rule out, Trevone Boykin.
- An even bigger dividing line in college athletics is coming, and regardless of what the commissioner of the American Athletic Conference says both he and his membership schools can only pray they aren't on the wrong side of this line when it is drawn.
TCU was this close to being on the wrong side that now looks like it will include cross-town rival SMU, which has doggedly tried to avoid this from happening.
Aresco better have a few senators, and a giant pile of cash, to ensure his membership schools - Cincinnati, UConn, Houston, Louisville, Memphis, Rutgers, South Florida, SMU, Temple and Central Florida - are invited.
The AAC has already been picked clean - Louisville and Rutgers are leaving; Cincy and UConn are leaders of a conference neither wants to be in. Perhaps UConn can raise the late Texas governor Ann Richards' spirit to Baylor its way on the right side of the line.
The power conference commissioners at their respective football media days all individually referenced the need for a major NCAA shakeup; that's not a coincidence. It is mostly anchored around the TV contracts the Pac 12, SEC, Big 12, ACC and Big 10 currently enjoy. There are roughly 120 Division I football programs, but only 63 command big money (this figure includes Notre Dame).
As desperate as all of these new 24-hour sports channels - FoxSports 1, NBC Sports Channel, CBS Sports Network - are none needs to pay massive figures for the likes of the Mountain West, or AAC. The lower conferences need the exposure, so they take what they can get and play whenever is asked for TV.
When TCU director of athletics Chris Del Conte and I talked about a conceptual new class of Division I athletics, we both shook our heads at how many variables had to break right for TCU to be in this secure spot. As much of an inconceivable dream as it was for TCU to play, let alone win,
the actual Rose Bowl was when the Southwest Conference collapsed, the far greater challenge was not to be left
behind when the "big split" happened.
TCU people had been fearing this sort of split since 1996.
Yet they are secure for a variety reasons, mostly their own determination and success, but had Texas A&M not jumped for the SEC there is an excellent chance TCU would be in the American Athletic Conference (the old Big East) today with SMU as a conference rival.
When Del Conte was hired he was asked two questions: Can he raise
money for a "new" football stadum, and can he get TCU into a BCS
securing a spot in the Big East, he was there. And then the Big East began to
fall apart not long thereafter and he was in a professional state of
"OMG! OMG! OMG! :-( :-( :-("
Texas A&M went to the SEC and a spot opened," Del Conte said. "Had that not happened, and Texas not decided to stay in the Big 12 I'm not sure where we'd be."
Go with screwed. That
spot in the Big 12 was big when TCU accepted it, and it will only grow when this new class of Division I is formed.
other universities have spent similar millions and millions to improve athletic
departments in an effort to make the school more attractive for donors and student applications, TCU may be the nation's greatest example that the plan works.
To follow the paradigm is wise, to expect similar results is dicey. TCU did everything right, and it needed a help from an Aggie to complete this amazing narrative.
Former Dallas Stars head coach Dave Tippett explained to me once that "You are always defending your team". It makes sense - you don't want to trash your guys unless it's on your terms. A coach is not going to allow a fan, and certainly not a member of liberal elite hippie media, to bag on his team before he does.
Nonetheless, it surprised me greatly when roughly 30 minutes after a nice phone conversation with TCU head coach Gary Patterson the man called me unprompted because he wanted to explain something.
"You got me thinking about the Michigan State game, so I went back and watched it," he said of the Frogs' bowl game loss against the Spartans in 2012. "You said our offensive line was bad. If you look at it, we weren't that bad."
In our conversation I expressed concern over the quality of his offensive line as a major issue for this team in 2013. (BTW - He's more concerned with the linebackers).
In my memory, his offensive line was exposed in games against Oklahoma and Michigan State. My lasting memories of TCU's season was that of quarterback Trevone Boykin, and his running backs, being eaten alive by Michigan State.
Specifically, tackles Tayo Fabuluje and Aviante Collins looked completely overmatched.
TCU averaged 2.9 yards per rush in the game, the same for Michigan State.
"Offensively, we were tired in the fourth quarter and they knew we had to throw the ball," he said. "I really don't think this was a case of our offensive line not being good enough. The strength of that Michigan State team was their defensive line."
He added, "If I'm being honest with you, nobody ran the ball great in our (the Big 12)."
Let's see ... the Big 12's rushing averages last season & their national rank:
1. Baylor - 5.0 yards per carry, 231.7 yards per game; 14th nationally 2. Oklahoma State - 5.4 yards per carry, 215.3 yards per game; 21st nationally 3. Kansas - 4.6 yards per carry, 221.7 yards per game; 22nd nationally 4. Kansas State - 4.8 yards per carry, 194.0 yards per game; 32nd nationally 5. West Virginia - 4.8 yards per carry, 171.8 yards per game; 52nd nationally 6. Texas - 4.5 yards per carry, 171.5 yards per game; 53rd nationally 7. Oklahoma - 4.8 yards per carry, 161.4 yards per game; 60th nationally 8. TCU - 3.9 yards per carry, 152.1 yards per game; 65th nationally 9. Iowa State - 4.2 yards per carry, 150.1 yards per game; 73rd nationally 10. Texas Tech - 4.6 yards per carry, 139.9 yards per game; 86th nationally
As you can see, some teams did run the ball pretty well in the Big 12 last season.
Gary was defending his team, and specifically his line.
I told him, "My thought was this is a case of at least a lack of experience and strength." He said, "That's a fair assessment."
Then he added, "We've got to be better running the ball."
It's not quite the end of May, which is the perfect time to release all of the 2013 college football preseason publications. That's right - time to guess who is going to get fired, and who will get their butts kicked by Alabama's semi-pro team in the fake national title game.
Of the many fine preseason publications to consume, a personal favorite remains The Sporting News. This is usually about as good as it gets.
The Sporting News is high on Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Baylor but not so much the TCU Horned Frogs football team. These are the "locals" in TSN's Top 25:
No. 6 Okie State. .... This should make Oklahoma State University team owner T. Boone quite happy. No. 7 Texas A&M. .... Will not sit well with a fan base that has the Aggies undefeated even after it loses to Alabama. No. 14 Texas. .... Because no Top 15 is complete without UT. No. 17 Baylor. .... Wow. They love QB Bryce Petty. No. 19. Oklahoma. .... This changes if Blake Bell can throw a football.
Where is Fort Worth's favorite purple-clad football team? Not in the Top 25, and sixth in the Big 12.
1. OSU 2. Texas 3. Oklahoma 4. Baylor 5. Kansas State 6. TCU 7. Texas Tech 8. Iowa State 9. West Virginia 10. Kansas (they're still in the league?)
This publication was put together well before TCU suspended Big 12 defensive player of the year Devonte Fields for two games after he violated university/team policy.
It's worth nothing the magazine says of the Big 12: "The next big thing: In TCU's recent history of elite defensive ends, none has the potential and physical ability of Devonte Fields, one of the Big 12's best pass rushers as a freshman last year."
Take some of these publications with a chunk of salt, up to and including the preseason Top 25.
After all, this magazine says that TCU's Trevone Boykin is the best running quarterback in the Big 12. Not bad for a guy who averaged 3.3 yards per carry.
Wiggins is listed as a 6-foot-7 small forward; he has been called one of the top recruits in the past decade.
HOORAY FOR KANSAS, and specifically the institution of higher learning and edumicashion.
This has to be KU's biggest name recruit since Larry Brown hired assistant coach Ed Manning so his son, Danny, would play basketball in Lawrence. Ed apparently was a dynamite coach.
Wiggins is the best prep player in the country, and he was attracting interest from every blue blood program in the nation. He picked KU over Kentucky, North Carolina and Florida State to play college basketball.
He may even attend class, although I don't why.
(* It should be noted that I am a KU undergrad alum, class of ... just very recently.)
This guy is so gone to the NBA this time a year from now the only classes he should be taking are How to Change My Cell Phone Number Every 15 Minutes, The History of Groupies and Entourage Studies.
KU could potentially have the No. 1 pick in the 2013 NBA draft - Ben McLemore - and '14 draft, Wiggins.
Both Baylor and Oklahoma State should have an edge in terms of preseason conference ranking because of the number of quality returning players, but the addition of a talent like Wiggins to Kansas changes everything.
Kansas State head football coach Bill Snyder will forever retire the Boring Interview award, but perhaps in his advancing age he is less afraid to state his own opinion. Bravo.
In an interview with 610 Sports Radio KCSP, Snyder went off on the state of college football that it has become a giant money grab that has altered the priorities of what a university should stand for.
Snyder said: "I can only speak personally. I'm grossly overpaid for what I do. That's part of what creates the issue."
No one is disagreeing with Snyder, but who is going to stop this giant gravy train of cash? The coaches? No. The agents? Hell no.
Snyder is 73, and recently signed a five-year deal worth $14.75 million. I wonder if he said, "Heeeeeey, no thanks."
Snyder continued: "I think it's in a bad place right now. It's in a bad place for a variety of reasons. We've allowed it to become money driven. We've allowed it to become TV driven. We've allowed athletic programs or football programs to mean more to a university than what the university is really supposed to be all about.
“The last I heard, we were educational institutions. Certainly there is an education that takes place in football, and I understand all the parameters. But it's not driven by values; it's driven by dollars and cents."
All of the above is accurate.
When schools realized a visible football and men's basketball team could be major revenue producers and beacons for donations is when the model dramatically changed. It has since become a race between coaches inside their own programs for "we need this and we need that" and the spending is non stop. These things need money. This means school officials have to beg donors, or agree to whatever TV wants to cover costs, which also include coaches' salaries.