Gary Patterson and the TCU Horned Frogs

No, don’t worry, I’m not going to actually go ahead and list 5 million reasons for why TCU should have rescheduled it’s home-and-home with Ohio State into one game at AT&T Stadium in 2018. But one of the realities of today’s college football landscape is as follows: big money will continue to steer the ship.

According to how the entire schedule change went down, Ohio State said the Cowboys approached TCU about moving the game, and that TCU asked Ohio State and Ohio State agreed. The kicker was the money involved, as both schools will earn $5 million for the game.

But fans were ticked off on social media.

But let’s think about how all this works: Jerry Jones is not just the Cowboys owner, but a business man who wants as many big events as he can get at AT&T Stadium. He realizes the potential of a national powerhouse led by Urban Meyer coming to town against a local, Power 5 opponent, and sees the opportunity to make money. They pay each University $5 million, but will hope and plan to make much more in tickets, parking, concessions, along with whatever other value Jones and AT&T Stadium bosses puts on having a major college football game being played inside their venue.

I totally understand why fans hate it. Season ticket holders want to see the biggest and best games played on their home turf. Also, local businesses around college football stadiums rely heavily on the 5 or 6 weekends per year that produce a bulk of their revenues. As for those of us purists, college football will always have the “tradition” element that the NFL just can’t touch, and by moving games that would be on campus to more sterile, made-for-TV environments, that element of “tradition” continues to slowly go out the window.

But as college football becomes more of a business, and less of a regionally-centric, niche sport centered around the Southeast, Midwest, and Southwest, this is part of the trade off. Plus, even Power 5 programs that are raking in millions in television revenues are always looking for where the next million is coming from. It’s a never-ending chase to improve facilities, increase coaches salaries, and fund the non-revenue sports like soccer, track and field, swimming and several others.

TCU Athletic Director Chris Del Conte admitted as much to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, saying,“But when we collectively make a decision — me, Coach Patterson, our university leadership — we’re talking about what is best for TCU, our program, moving forward. 

It’s not just about football. It never is. Football is the “straw that stirs the drink”, as Reggie Jackson once famously said. Football money has to fund almost everything else that happens in an athletic department. And TCU is not Oklahoma or Texas. Yes, they’re well off, but $5 million can make a world of difference for the Horned Frogs.

While I agree with Conte on that front, I will disagree with him when he said, “Our scheduling philosophy is to put ourselves in the best position possible to win a Big 12 championship and have the best non-conference schedule that gives us an opportunity to be in the CFP.” 

I read that as admitting, “while we want to play good non-conference games, Ohio State might be a little too much.” That’s a weak excuse. Alabama is playing Florida State to open the season. Oklahoma is playing Ohio State for two straight seasons. If TCU plays Ohio State, you can still lose the game and make a College Football Playoff, assuming Ohio State is still one of the top teams in the country and the game isn’t a blowout, but at least somewhat competitive.

Del Conte should’ve kept his reasoning for scheduling the game at AT&T Stadium to the simple fiscal factors involved in the decision that help the TCU football program and entire athletic department. By dipping his toes into the “we don’t want to hurt our CFB Playoff chances” is lame, especially when the team is coming off a 6-7 season.

But TCU has done a good job giving its fan base at least one solid non-conference game (Arkansas last season and this season), and for that Del Conte, Patterson and company should be given credit.

Ultimately, I understand fans’ frustrations with the scheduling change, but to use the second famous phrase of this column, “money talks”. And in intercollegiate sports, it will for the foreseeable future.

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