Rah, Rah, TCU!

Probably most Longhorns between the ages of 30 and 65 have a hard time not thinking of TCU as a doormat. That’s due to the UT record vs. the Frogs of 27 – 1 from 1968 to 1995. That notion is misleading. TCU has a great tradition in football, and has had long periods of bedeviling Texas. This post is meant to re-introduce you to TCU, its history, and why I’m looking forward to their Big 12 entry.

Here’s an interesting fact- since Texas Memorial Stadium opened in the 1920’s, which opponent do you think has won the most games there? It’s not who you think. TCU has won more games in DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium than any of UT’s rivals, followed by Arkansas and SMU. Judging where TCU’s program is now, they are poised to pad that lead.

Opponent Record in DKR-TMS

TCU 11 – 24 - 1

Arkansas 11 – 21

SMU 10 – 21 – 2

TAMU 10 – 33 – 1

Baylor 8 – 35 – 2

Rice 7 – 36

TT 5 – 29

One of those TCU wins was the famous "cockroach" game in 1961 where the Frogs parlayed one long passing strike into a huge upset of the team Royal considered his most dominant.

The Frogs also have a (long) history with Baylor, dating back to when the TCU campus was in Waco. They have given the Sooners a few memorable bouts, and the Red Raider/Frog rivalry over football and where, in fact, the west does begin has always been a natural.

TCU claims two MNCs. The first came in 1935. They share the claim for that title with SMU. Those two undefeated teams played a showdown game in Fort Worth to finish the season. This was the era when southwest teams first made a splash on the national stage, with their razzle-dazzle spread single wing offenses blowing the games open. SMU won the 1935 game on a last minute Hail Mary, and went on to lose in the Rose Bowl. Meanwhile, TCU won the Sugar Bowl. Both teams finished with one loss and were awarded the MNC by different authorities. (Note- in my opinion, both SMU’s and TCU’s 1935 MNC claims are legitimate. The definition of a MNC has always been based primarily on some independent group’s awarding of the title.). The 1935 TCU team was led by QB (and Safety) "Slinging Sammy" Baugh. Baugh would go on to have one of the early NFL’s great careers, and retired with every NFL passing record of substance.

The second TCU MNC came in 1938. The Frogs were undefeated that year, and QB Davey O’Brien was so dominant that he received the Heisman Award (an award that previously focused on players in the Northeast US, where the game and media were more established). How great was O’Brien in 1938? Here is his stat line-

167 Attempts, 93 Completions, 1457 Yards, 19 TDs and 4 Interceptions for a Passer Rating of 161.7.

Compare that to Sam Baugh’s 1935 line:

210 Attempts, 97 Completions, 1240 Yards, 18 TDs and 17 Interceptions for a Passer Rating of 107.9.

Note that Baugh’s 1935 season was considered a terrific year in that era of college football where interceptions were much more common. The point is that O’Brien had the greatest year throwing the ball that anybody had ever seen to that point in time, or would ever see until perhaps the 1980’s. O’Brien was a little guy, so his NFL prospects were too poor to entice him from Fort Worth after he graduated, but nothing can detract from his greatness as a college football player, especially in 1935.

TCU used to have a reputation as the Southwest’s "Cradle of Coaches". TCU players that went on to become notable coaches include Texas’ Blair Cherry (winner of the 1948 Sugar Bowl and 1949 Orange Bowl), Ol’ Miss’ Johnny Vaught (SEC champs in ’52, ’54, ’57, ’59, ’60, ’62, ’67, and ’69, winning the Sugar Bowl in the ’57, ’59, ’60, ’62, and ’69 seasons), and TCU’s own Abe Martin (SWC champs in ’55, ’56, and ’58).

I think if I had to rank TCU’s greatest head coaches, I would put Dutch Meyer first, followed closely by Gary Patterson, and then Abe Martin. Other notable Frog coaches were Jim Wacker, Dennis Franchione, and (ex UT Assistant) Jim Pittman, who seemed on track to building a program until he died of a heart attack during a game.

TCU’s football history has three great periods. The first was the 1930’s, noted above, when Dutch Meyer ran one of the most creative offenses in college football. The second period was in the 1950’s, when TCU vied with Bear Bryant’s Aggies for SWC bragging rights (their 1956 game in College Station was one of the SWC’s greatest classic games. It was played, basically, in a hurricane and would not have been played at all if they had anything like modern weather forecasting). The third period, of course, is right now.

If you follow college football over a number of years, you realize that there are star players, and there are transcendent talents with size, speed and physical ability that makes them a star among stars. TCU has had three such players. They are:

1. Sammy Baugh. His size (6’2" and 182 pounds) seems unexceptional today, but in the era he played, without weight training, he was a big man. He was a star QB, Safety, and punter. Baugh is in the college and NFL Halls of Fame.

2. Bob Lilly. He played Tackle both ways in college, which makes the size he carried on his 6’5" frame (260 pounds in college, 275# in the NFL) even more remarkable. He was pretty much the strongest man on any field he stepped on in college or the NFL, and among the fastest of the linemen. The typical college lineman he played against would be 6’3" and 220 pounds, and the typical NFL guard would go about 260#. Lilly was a monster, and is in the college and NFL Halls of Fame.

3. LaDainian Tomlinson. I assume everybody is familiar with this one. Tomlinson was an elite college player and an elite pro.

No disrespect to other greats like O’Brien, Berry, Swink, Bulaich, etc., but with this list I was trying to compile the Frog greats that could have excelled in any era. I feel the three noted match up with the pantheon from almost all other schools.

The last several years have been good for the Frogs. Despite lacking a solid conference and natural rivals, they built one of the nation’s most respected programs. They are not a Johnny-come-lately, nor a has-been. Here is how they compare to other Southwest programs-

Record MNC AP Top 5 AP Top 10 Major Bowls
Texas 858 - 333 - 34 4 20 26 16 - 11 - 1
OU 819 - 310 - 53 7 29 37 18 - 10
TAMU 682 - 450 - 48 1 2 11 5 - 7
Arkansas 679 - 456 - 40 0 4 14 2 - 11 - 1
TCU 591 - 516 - 57 2 2 7 5 - 5 - 1
SMU 462 - 494 - 55 1 3 5 2 - 2 - 1
UH 383 - 334 - 15 0 2 5 2 - 2
TT 524 - 405 - 32 0 0 0 0 - 2
BU 542 - 541 - 43 0 0 1 1 - 3

(Quick asides- Texas has significantly fewer ties for some reason, Arkansas is bad in major bowls, I only counted AP and Coaches’ Poll #1’s as MNCs with the exception of the pre-AP 1935 titles, and TT has never been ranked in the AP Top 10)

TCU is solidly in the 2nd tier of this roster, and adding more high rankings and major bowls than the other non-Texas/OU programs.

There is another reason besides football competitiveness to be excited about TCU joining. Their campus is a great place to visit for an away game. Most of the Big 12 schools have a lot of alumni in the DFW area, and a major airport is available for those not from here. Hotels are plentiful, downtown Fort Worth is terrific, and the on-campus tailgating around "Frog Alley" is fun (the local neighborhood is very nice, and the residents don’t have a stick up their rear about you parking and walking down their streets). I expect places like Sundance Square, The Railhead BBQ, Joe T. Garcia’s (remember to take cash or checks; they don’t take credit cards there), and other Fort Worth joints will become favorites for a lot of visiting fans. Wins may be hard to come by on road trips to Fort Worth, but good meals won’t be.

The only downside is that Amon Carter Stadium isn’t large enough to seat all the Texas fans that will want to attend (a recent change, and due to TCU’s success). TCU’s addition will also make Big 12 basketball, Baseball, and Volleyball more accessible for a lot of fans. It was a lot of fun visiting with the Frogs before the 2007 game in Austin, and I’m looking forward to similar experiences in the future. Every fanbase has a unique culture, and the TCU fans mesh well with ours. They’re like Tech fans with nicer houses, less spitting and swearing (the women, that is), and less likely to mix their whisky(ey) with soda pop.

Have you noticed that the Big 12 is turning into a neat tailgating league? UT, TCU, and OU are all next to major airports and freeways. Baylor isn’t but it is close to TCU and UT, and the biggest collection of Sooner alums in DFW. Texas Tech has regular routes on Southwest Airlines, and OSU is just a reasonable rental car drive from Oklahoma City. Kind of a neat thing building here. Anybody else looking forward to their joining (or dreading)?

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