For those of you who woke up with a hangover this morning, I have ZERO sympathy for you. In fact, I mock your stupidity. You got what you deserved for partying all because a calendar changed. Congratulations. Remember how you felt this morning when you make the decision whether or not to repeat this 364 days from now. (HINT: if you do, you are far dumber than I thought).
In case you haven’t heard, Georgia and TEXAS CHRISTIAN UNIVERISTY (TCU) will play for the 2022 college football national championship a week from Monday at Inglewood, California. That’s right, the TCU Horned Frogs, a team which was relegated to 16 years in college football’s wilderness thanks to powerful Texas politicians, is one win away from its first national championship since 1938.
A remarkable story considering the wilderness the Horned Frogs were forced to wander through before making it back to the big stage.
By the end of 1993, it was apparent the Southwest Conference was on life support.
Arkansas, a powerhouse in football, men’s basketball, baseball and track and field, departed for the Southeastern Conference in the fall of 1991 for all sports except football; the Razorbacks played a last lame-duck year in the SWC before moving over in 1992.
The Razorbacks’ departure was mostly for financial reasons, but Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles, who coached the football team to unprecedented success from 1958-76, was tired of fellow members being slapped with severe sanctions by the NCAA, which in turn tarnished the reputation of the entire SWC.
The worst of the worst was at Southern Methodist, where the Mustangs had a large slush fund football and men’s basketball athletes. Mustangs All-America running back Eric Dickerson, who would go on to a Hall of Fame career in the NFL with the Rams and Colts, joked he had to take a pay cut when he left SMU and reported to Anaheim, where Rams owner Georgia Frontiere was known as one of the tightest owners in the league. Craig James, who helped the Patriots reach Super Bowl XX in 1985, was part of the “Pony Express” backfield with Dickerson when the Mustangs went 11-0-1 in 1982 and finished second behind Penn State in the final rankings, also was paid, but not as much as Dickerson and others.
SMU was placed on probation under coach Ron Meyer for the 1981 season. The Mustangs went 10-1 and won the SWC championship, but could not play in the Cotton Bowl, which happens to be less than 12 kilometers (7 miles) from SMU’s campus. Meyer left to coach the Patriots following the 1981 season, but his successor, Bobby Collins, found more trouble with the boosters, and SMU was placed on probation for 1985 and 1986–no TV, no bowl games.
That wasn’t enough to deter the Mustang bigwigs, led by former–and future–governor Bill Clements. Therefore, the NCAA was forced to take the most drastic step.
On 25 February 1987, SMU’s football program was handed the “death penalty”. There would be no games in 1987, and if the Mustangs chose to play in 1988, it could only play its eight conference games, all on the road. SMU could sign NO new players in February 1988, and would be penalized 55 scholarships in all through February 1990. Also, the Mustangs would be banned from live TV and bowl games for 1988 and 1989. SMU saw the writing on the wall and cancelled its 1988 season as well.
While SMU’s egregious violations were well-known from Seattle to Miami, from San Diego to Boston, there was chicanery also occurring on the opposite side of the Metroplex.
TCU went 8-4 in 1984, its first winning season since 1971. Not bad for a program which went 23-104-5 from 1972 through 1983.
However, two games into the 1985 season, it was revealed numerous Horned Frogs, including star running back Kenneth Davis, had been accepting payments from boosters, the same as their rivals to the east on Interstate 30.
Instead of waiting for the hammer to drop from NCAA headquarters in Kansas City, TCU coach Jim Wacker reported the violations himself.
Angered by the problems at SMU, Houston and other SWC schools, the NCAA hammered the Horned Frogs, placing them on three years’ probation and taking away 45 scholarships between 1986 and ’88.
TCU sank back to the depths it experienced previously. It never truly recovered until the late 1990s, when Dennis Franchione took over the coaching reigns and brought in a once-in-a-lifetime running back named LaDanian Tomlinson.
In early 1994, the eight remaining SWC schools went hat-in-hand to the Big Eight Conference and proposed a merger to form the first 16-team superconference.
The Big Eight was receptive…but only to adding Texas and Texas A&M. The other six (Baylor, Houston, Rice, SMU, TCU, Texas Tech) were told they would have to fend for themselves.
Not so fast, said then-Texas Governor Ann Richards and Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock.
Richards and Bullock, whose position also made him president of the Texas Senate, told the Big Eight that if did not include Texas Tech and Baylor in the merger, then the Longhorns and Aggies would not be allowed to join.
If the Big Eight was going to take two other schools besides the behemoths in Austin and College Station, wouldn’t it want one in each of the major metropolitan areas? What sense would it make to take the schools in Lubbock and Waco instead of one in Houston and one in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex?
That would have made sense, but Richards and Bullock both had degrees from…BAYLOR.
With an election looming, one where Richards would have to face George W. Bush, the son of the former president and then-owner of the Texas Rangers, the incumbent governor figured she could get votes from traditionally-Republican northwest Texas by adding in Texas Tech to the merger.
On 25 February 1994, the Big 12 was unveiled, with the Big Eight (Colorado, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State) being joined by Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Baylor. It would start play in the fall of 1996.
Not surprisingly, the reaction from Houston, Rice, SMU and TCU was swift and blistering.
Houston was angry it was the lone public school from the SWC being left out. Rice, SMU and TCU were angry that Baylor got the lone invitation among the private schools.
If I had been in charge, I would have taken TCU and Rice. That would have given the Big 12 the metro areas while also adding academic prestige. Houston had way too many run-ins with the NCAA under Bill Yeoman in the 1970s and 1980s, and it continued into Jack Pardee’s tenure. SMU had too much baggage for the obvious reasons. Baylor also had run-ins with the NCAA, and the religious fanaticism on that campus is not attractive.
Houston, Rice, SMU and TCU were marooned on island with no life raft in sight.
The Owls, Mustangs and Horned Frogs latched on an expanded Western Athletic Conference. Beginning in 1996, the conference had 16 teams, with four quadrants of four locked into two divisions. The unwieldy conference stretched from Hawaii to Houston, with teams in three of the four major American time zones.
The travel proved to be a breaking point for many of the old-line WAC members, most notably its two most prominent football powers, BYU and Utah.
The Cougars and Utes convinced Air Force, Colorado State, Wyoming and San Diego State, the other consistent football winners, to form a new conference, with basketball powers New Mexico and UNLV also invited. The Mountain West Conference was born in 1999.
Houston, which refused the WAC’s overtures, joined the new Conference USA, where it joined schools without football (Charlotte, DePaul, Marquette, Saint Louis), basketball powers with middling football programs (Cincinnati, Louisville, Memphis), former southern independents (Southern Miss, Tulane), and two schools (UAB, South Florida) with nascent football programs.
Two years after the WAC old-timers left, TCU also departed the WAC, joining its former SWC rival in C-USA.
The Horned Frogs’ stay in C-USA would be short. In 2005, TCU reunited with BYU, Utah and all the rest in the Mountain West.
Utah and TCU dominated the MWC in football in the late 2000s. The Utes went undefeated and bested Alabama in the Sugar Bowl after the 2008 season, while the Horned Frogs put together back-to-back undefeated regular seasons in 2009 and ’10.
TCU lost the Fiesta Bowl after the 2009 season to Boise State, but one year later, the Horned Frogs, led by Andy Dalton, stunned Wisconsin and J.J. Watt in the Rose Bowl. TCU finished the 2010 season ranked #2 behind Auburn.
As the Horned Frogs made their run to Pasadena, they were invited to join the Big East in 2012. The Big East had an automatic berth to the Bowl Championship Series, something the MWC did not, and the conference figured to be ripe for the Horned Frogs to dominate on the gridiron.
By October 2011, the Big 12 was on the verge of a sudden collapse.
On 1 July 2011, two Big Eight expatriates, Colorado and Nebraska, were out of the Big 12, with the Buffaloes joining the Pac-10 (renamed the Pac-12 with the simultaneous addition of Utah) and the Cornhuskers becoming the 12th school of the Big Ten.
Two months later, Texas A&M announced it would be heading to the SEC the next year. Rumors were swirling Missouri would join Aggies as the SEC’s 14th member.
To fill A&M’s vacancy, TCU received the invitation it had been waiting on for almost 18 years. Bye bye Big East! Nice not knowing ye.
The Horned Frogs were back among college athletics’ elite. West Virginia took Missouri’s spot.
Next year, TCU will be reunited with three former conference rivals when BYU, Houston and Cincinnati join the Big 12, along with Central Florida.
TCU becoming the first Big 12 team to play in the CFP championship game came from absolutely nowhere.
In the midst of a terrible 2021 season, the Horned Frogs did the unthinkable by firing longtime coach Gary Patterson, whose bronze likeness greets visitors to Amon G. Carter Stadium. Patterson coached the Horned Frogs to their greatest success since Abe Martin in the late 1950s, going 181-79 over 21 seasons, including the unprecedented dominance of 2009 and ’10.
To replace Patterson, TCU raided its old archrival to the east, hiring SMU coach Sonny Dykes.
Dykes is a scion of Texas football royalty as the son of the late Spike Dykes, a three-time SWC Coach of the Year at Texas Tech and still revered in Lubbock as much as the late Mike Leach, who sadly passed away three weeks ago.
Many outside of the Metroplex worried Dykes would be overwhelmed by the challenges of the Big 12. The media picked TCU to finish seventh in the 2022 Big 12 standings.
The Horned Frogs started with wins over Colorado, Tarleton State (??) and SMU, but a 55-24 rout of Oklahoma in Fort Worth made the experts take notice.
TCU went to Lawrence the next week and handed Kansas its first loss after five consecutive wins. A thrilling 43-40 win in two overtimes vs. Oklahoma State and a comeback from an 18-point deficit vs. Kansas State catapulted the Frogs into national championship conversation.
West Virginia, Texas Tech and Texas all went down, but those title hopes appeared to be dead in Waco.
TCU was out of timeouts and trailing 28-26 in the final minute. The Horned Frogs had to rush their field goal team onto the field in order to get an attempt off before time expired. The snap came with maybe six-tenths of a second remaining. The kick was good. TCU 29, Baylor 28.
The Frogs routed Iowa State to conclude the regular season undefeated, but in the Big 12 title game vs. Kansas State, they were stuffed on fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line. The Wildcats kicked a field goal to win the game 31-28 and their third Big 12 championship.
TCU’s playoff hopes were tenuous. Ohio State claimed it was worthy of a spot despite being crushed at home by Michigan in its regular season finale. Alabama said it should be the first two-loss team in the playoff, with the losses coming to Tennessee on a field goal at the gun and to LSU when the Bayou Bengals were successful on a 2-point conversion in overtime. Nick Saban went on TV at halftime of the Big Ten title game to plead his case.
The next morning, the Frogs were not penalized for the loss to the Wildcats. TCU was in at No. 3, where it was expected to be if it won vs. K-State.
TCU was not expected to have a chance against mighty Michigan, the program which has won more games than any in NCAA history. The Wolverines had learned from their rout at the hands of Georgia the previous year. Jim Harbaugh and his team were united and focused upon winning the Maize and Blue’s first title in 25 years.
That’s why they play the games.
TCU defeated Michigan 51-45 in the Fiesta Bowl. Now it’s time to take on the Bulldogs, who will be aiming for back-to-back titles, which hasn’t been done since the playoff started in 2014.
Earlier in this rambling post, I mentioned TCU went 23-104-5 from 1972 through 1983.
In 1971, TCU hired Jim Pittman, who led Tulane to an 8-4 record and a Liberty Bowl victory vs. Colorado in 1970. Pittman had the Frogs at 5-3 heading into their 30 October game in Waco.
Late in the first quarter, Pittman collapsed on the visitors’ sideline at Baylor (later Floyd Casey) Stadium with a massive heart attack. He was rushed to Providence Hospital, but at 2003 (8:03 p.m.), he was pronounced dead. The 55-year old Pittman was a Marine Corps veteran who served during World War II, seeing action at Iwo Jima, as well as a husband and father of two sons.
Somehow, the Frogs soldiered on that evening, winning 34-27. One of TCU’s starting defensive backs was Dave McGinnis, the future coach of the Arizona Cardinals.
TCU finished 6-5 in 1971. I can’t help but think Pittman would have kept TCU on the upswing had he lived, the same as he did at Tulane.
In the next 12 seasons, the Frogs had four one-win seasons and an 0-11 campaign in 1976. There was also the tragic paralysis of running back Kent Waldrep during a 1974 game vs. Alabama in Birmingham.
I hope the same thing doesn’t happen to Mississippi State in the wake of Mike Leach’s tragic death. The Bulldogs already had an uphill battle in the SEC due to its remote location and relative lack of success compared to Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Auburn, Ole Miss, Florida and Tennessee, but without one of the greatest offensive minds college football has known and a man with a personality larger than the Magnolia State, it will be that much more difficult.
With TCU headed to the national championship game and Tulane playing in the Cotton Bowl tomorrow, I can’t help but think Jim Pittman has a broad grin on his face as he watches from his cloud in heaven.
Fourteen and out
Going to bed at a decent hour has led me to wake up at a not so decent hour.
It’s 0330, and I’ve been up for more than an hour. The one good thing it did was allow me to take my contact lenses out and get some drops in my irritated right eye. I fell asleep in my lenses, and now I wish I hadn’t.
When I went to bed last evening, I saw Kansas was losing to Oklahoma in men’s basketball. The first thing I did was check the score when I woke up.
Oklahoma 81, Kansas 68.
The streak is over.
For the first time since 2003-04, Bill Self’s first season in Lawrence, the Jayhawks will not win at least a share of the Big 12 Conference’s men’s basketball championship. Kansas is 11-6 in conference games, meaning it cannot catch either Kansas State nor Texas Tech, both of which are 13-4.
The regular season ends Saturday. The Wildcats host Oklahoma, and the Red Raiders face Iowa State in Ames. If both win or both lose, they tie for the championship. Of course, if one wins and the other loses, the winner is outright champion.
Kansas holds the national Division I record for most consecutive conference championships. The old record of 13 was set by UCLA from 1967-79 in what is now the Pacific-12. When the Bruins began the streak, it was known was the Athletic Association of Western Universities (AAWU), a loose confederation of former members of the Pacific Coast Conference, which had been forced to disband after hundreds of NCAA rules violations by its members. The league officially became the Pac-8 in 1968, then the Pac-10 in the fall of 1978 when Arizona and Arizona State joined from the WAC.
I’m not a Jayhawk fan. Far from it. But finishing first or tied for first in a major conference, one often rated as the best in the country, is quite remarkable, especially when taking a look at another college basketball blue blood.
Kentucky has been a superpower since the game began. Yet the Wildcats have never won 14 consecutive SEC championships, even though there were many years during Adolph Rupp’s reign in Lexington (1931-72) no other team in the SEC could compete on a national level. For many years, many SEC schools did not have a full-time basketball coach; either that person coached another sport, or he had to teach classes in addition to coaching. It wasn’t until after Kentucky lost in the 1966 NCAA championship game to Texas Western (now Texas-El Paso) in the famous game where Rupp’s all-white squad lost to a Miner team which started five black players that the rest of the SEC truly got serious about basketball. Sure, Tennessee and Vanderbilt had a good team every now and then, and Mississippi State will be forever remembered for defying the state’s governor to play a desegregated Loyola team in 1963, but basketball in the SEC for too long was the Wildcats and nobody else.
That hasn’t been the case with Kansas in the Big 12. Oklahoma State, where Self played from 1981-85, regained its position as an elite program under Eddie Sutton, even though it has now fallen on hard times. Oklahoma has had great players and great teams, even if few noticed due to the Sooners’ football dominance. Texas has been a consistent big winner. So has Iowa State. Kansas State isn’t where it was under Jack Hartman in the 1970s, but it’s come back a long way from the abyss which was Jim Woolridge’s coaching tenure. West Viriginia’s program has fallen this year, but Bob Huggins has brought the Mountaineers their second golden age, the first being Jerry West’s days in Morgantown.
Kansas will go to the NCAA tournament. That’s all that matters. It won’t add #15 to the billboards across the state proclaiming its conference championship streak, but does it matter that much? Nah.
Screwed in Stillwater
If you haven’t seen the ending of yesterday’s Central Michigan-Oklahoma State game in Stillwater, you need to seriously watch it.
To recap: on what looked to be the final play of the game, Cowboy quarterback Mason Rudolph took a snap from under center, retreated a couple of steps, and threw the ball towards Oklahoma State’s sideline. The clock ran out while the ball was in the air, with the Cowboys leading 27-24. Game over, right?
The eight officials from the Mid-America Conference, of which Central Michigan is a member, huddled after the throw. When the huddle broke, referee Tim O’Dey threw a flag. He called Rudolph for intentional grounding, which is penalized at the spot of the foul with a loss of down.
Under most circumstances, if a penalty is accepted after time runs out in a period, an “untimed down” is played. There was a 1986 game between Ohio State and Alabama where Crimson Tide linebacker Derrick Thomas–yes, THAT Derrick Thomas–committed pass interference on consecutive Hail Mary passes by Buckeye quarterback Jim Karsatos. Alabama survived a third Hail Mary attempt and won 16-10, but I’m sure then-Tide coach Ray Perkins had a bad case of heartburn.
However, in yesterday’s game in Stillwater, the game should have ended despite Rudolph being flagged for grounding.
In the NCAA rule book, there is an exception to the untimed down rule. Here it is:
A penalty is accepted for a live-ball foul(s) (Exception: Rule
10-2-5-a). The period is not extended if the foul is by the team in
possession and the statement of the penalty includes loss of down
There you have it. Oklahoma State should have left Boone-Pickens Stadium 2-0.
However, O’Dey and the other seven officials did not know this rule, and gave Central Michigan an untimed down.
Chippewa QB Carson Rush threw the ball as far as he could, but it only reached the 12-yard line. Jesse Kroll made a leaping catch in front of three Cowboy defenders. Kroll alertly pitched the ball back to Corey Willis before he was down. Willis took the ball on the run and cut from the right side all the way across the field, and stuck the ball over the goal line as he was being tackled. The play was reviewed, and it was ruled Willis did break the plane before his knee was down–I might have ruled differently if I were in the replay booth–and Central Michigan was a 30-27 winner.
While the play was being reviewed, Fox Sports football rules analyst Mike Pereia, a former college and NFL official and former NFL Vice President of Officiating, told announcers Justin Kutcher and Petros Papadakis the play should not have been run. He read the rule on air and stressed the Chippewas had won on an ill-begotten play.
Sadly, there is nothing Oklahoma State can do. The NCAA rules clearly state once the game is over, it is truly over and the score is final. This is not Major League Baseball (or college baseball), where a team can protest over a misapplied rule, and the game would revert to the point where the rule was misapplied. The NBA has the same mechanism in its rules.
The only avenue would be for Oklahoma State to ask Central Michigan to forfeit the game. No way that happens. No way the Chippewas are giving back their biggest win in 25 years, and one of the biggest since joining Division I in 1975.
It is utterly incomprehensible none of the eight officials knew the rule. No matter what level of football one officiates–Pop Warner, junior high, high school, college, professional–it is your JOB to know the rule book. How could eight men who are officiating at the highest level of college football not know that rule?
It’s my hope those eight men never see a college football field again. If the MAC does not fire this incompetent octet, then shame on them.
I understand most college football officials have Monday-Friday jobs, families and concerns above a Saturday game involving 18-22 year olds. Then again, if you earn the privilege of officiating at the highest level of the sport in college, and the second highest level of the sport in the world after the NFL, you have to know the rules. Period. No excuse.
The replay officials, who were from the Big 12, also deserve some blame. They had the ability to stop the game and alert the on-field officials to the rule. At the very least, they should have held up the game after Rudolph’s final pass and explained to O’Dey and his crew the game should have been over at that point.
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy took the blame for calling the play which resulted in the grounding penalty. All Rudolph had to do was get outside the tackle box and throw it. Or he could have run backwards until the clock ran out. Or Gundy could have lined up the punt team and had the punter take the snap and run out of the end zone. So what if it negatively impacts your final rushing total?
Yes, it was not the best call by Gundy. However, these officials screwed up royally. There is no plausible explanation for that.
Tulane and Missouri know how bad it feels for officials to screw up.
In games played 18 years apart, the Green Wave and Tigers fell victim to an opponent being awarded a fifth down.
Tulane lost 24-21 to Miami in the Orange Bowl on October 14, 1972 when the Hurricanes used a fifth down to keep a drive alive. Miami eventually scored the winning touchdown in the final minute. The loss probably cost Bennie Ellender’s Green Wave a bowl bid. Tulane would have been 7-4 if it had won, and would have been attractive to the Liberty Bowl, which took a 5-5-1 Iowa State squad to play Georgia Tech.
On October 6, 1990, Colorado received a fifth down, which it used to score the winning touchdown to pull out a 33-31 victory over Missouri in Columbia. It seemed like numerous people inside Faurot Field, including a few Colorado players, knew the Buffaloes received an extra down, but coach Bill McCartney wasn’t buying it, and of course gleefully accepted the win.
After the game, McCartney put his foot in his mouth by blasting Missouri–his alma mater–for installing Omniturf in the stadium in 1985. Omniturf was a sand-based artificial turf which needed to be watered down for better traction. It worked fine for Oregon and Washington State, which are in the rainy Pacific Northwest, but it was not a good fit for Missouri.
Colorado went on to win a share of the 1990 national championship thanks to the fifth down.
September 10, 2016 will join October 14, 1972 and October 6, 1990 as black eyes for college football officiating. And that’s bad for football, period.