Ohio State presents a long-awaited opportunity for TCU to grab the brass ring on a national stage

Ohio State presents a long-awaited opportunity for TCU to grab the brass ring on a national stage

FORT WORTH, Texas – The TCU can thank a cheery, citable (or "attention-seeking") college president for the moment.

No matter. E. Gordon Gee has had at least as many jabs as Jobs over the years. In Fort Worth, they still have not forgotten a special comment by the then President of Ohio in November 2010.

Gee, a thoughtful academic he is, felt the need to burden the state of the Bowl Championship Series. He said TCU and Boise State did not deserve to play for a national championship because they do not play anyone.

"We are not playing the little sisters of the poor," said Gee, an experienced Big Ten and SEC CEO.

Less than two months later, TCU beat Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.

"We've always done things that people say we can not do," said coach Gary Patterson this week.

You need to understand how negatively the dis was received in Fort Worth. This Rose Bowl win was the modern highlight for TCU football. There are memories of it at the John Justin Athletic Center.

This pride extends to the Bellmont Hall office of Chris Del Conte at the University of Texas.

On Saturday, No. 15 TCU No. 4 Ohio State will play in the biggest nonconference game of the former since that day in Pasadena, California. Del Conte, the former TCU sports director, now playing the same role in Texas, has made it possible.

"Worlds collide, that's how it all happened," he said proudly.

In essence, this Rose Bowl win showed that TCU could aim higher. When the Horned Frogs and Horse Chestnuts meet at the AT & T Stadium, the country will see two of only five programs that have finished in the top 10 for at least three out of the last four years.

The others: Clemson, Alabama and Oklahoma.

To be mentioned in this group, the TCU spent hundreds of millions on Amon G. Carter stadiums and facilities. Above all, it kept its coach, one of the best in the country.

How is that for longevity? Patterson is a coach at the TCU for more than a year (18) as the other 11 FBS programs in Texas.

How is that for the power? Patterson strategically changed the original home with the Horse Chestnuts into a neutral-site conflict.

"I'm trying to win a national championship, and how do we look like Alabama is playing in a one-time game?" Patterson said.

Gee's comments and the Rose Bowl prize led a group of TCU boosters to buy billboards that made fun of the Little Sisters commentary. Del Conte had an idea.

The next time he met with AD Gene Smith in Ohio, Del Conte suggested playing the schools. Good, said Smith. In the years 2018 and 2019, a home was created.

"That was before [College Football P]Dismissal, "said Del Conte.

That was before the TCU was even in the Big 12, transitioning from Mountain West to the Big East at the height of the Frenzy conference reorientation.

It was also before Patterson had the idea to aim higher. These games are now worth more than gold for those with playoff aspirations.

Former CFP selection committee member Barry Alvarez, the current AD in Wisconsin, emphasized how important games such as these can be for big programs.

"I'll tell you one of the most important things [to the committee] is the strength of the schedule, "he said.

Two years ago, Patterson turned to Del Conte to make this home a unique neutral site game. If not, Patterson suggested to his AD: "… you do not want me to win a national championship, is that it?"

There are the frogs nowadays. Patterson would rather take a big shot at the Buckeyes in the home of the Cowboys – 30 km away at the AT & T Stadium – than risk two seasons, one of which would involve a return leg to Ohio Stadium.

There is no masking that Patterson would like to take a similar route to the playoff as Alabama. Nick Saban started playing neutral nonconference games in 2007 when he arrived in Alabama. Since 2008 he has won every one of them.

Not that Alabama needs that kind of nonconference juice, but maybe TCU. The frogs were excluded from the first CFP, mainly because they were the frogs. Small tradition, little brand awareness.

They dropped from # 3 to # 6 in the Final CFP Rankings after winning their last game this year with 52 points. And they got through in this first playoff – guess who? Ohio State.

A winding road leads the TCU back to Jerry World. Ohio State won that first CFP, and even without Urban Meyer on Saturday, it remains a powerhouse. In the meantime, Patterson has powered the TCU over five conferences to reach the Big 12 in 2012. His teams have prepared for three BCS / New Year's Six Bowls and this one exciting year in 2014 shared the Big 12 title with Baylor.

Maybe the only other sport in which the teams meet … rifle. The Horned Frogs and Horse Chestnuts are both members of the Patriot Rifle Conference. Rifle is a co-ed sport. TCU has won two national championships with a purely female team.

If these teams sit in the shotgun, that means more.

As Alvarez has already mentioned and in case you need to be reminded of it, the playoff era is about schedule strength. The TCU was in the top 14 timeline each year, but one per TeamRankings.com.

"That's why you're playing one of those games," Patterson said. "[In the nonconference] You should play one you should win, a 50-50 and then one that is a stretch game. Obviously, Ohio State is something special. "

Meanwhile, TCU is big time. You probably do not know. The best FBS program in Texas – sorry Texas and Texas A & M – has the most victories in the state since 2001, Patterson's first year. Patterson has been around for so long that he's the only active head coach at his current school to coach a Pro Football Hall of Fame (LaDainian Tomlinson).

The coach's redesigned office contains trophies, a shower and a photo gallery that would impress any perspective. There are G.P. in a picture with Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden. There are G.P. become both Bush presidents. There are G.P. tell a guest to sit in one of the plush chairs.

"We decided to do this for recruitment," Patterson said. "I designed these chairs so that a 6 foot 8, 350 pound guy would feel small inside them, so a normal person would think that this is a love seat."

The facilities could even be better than those in Texas, which is why Del Conte is no longer here. He has achieved everything he could with TCU. Texas has its problems.

At the age of 58, Patterson already has a statue.

"I'd rather not have one," he said.

gary patterson statue.jpg

Dennis Dodd / CBS Sports

It goes beyond the disturbing trend of building statues that still have to live. Patterson is so revered that his memorial has become the central meeting place on campus. When it rains, fans hang an umbrella over their heads to keep Iron Gary dry.

It also leaves room for his demise. A blackboard near the statue, which records his birth year, is waiting for an end date: "(1960-)."

This leads to a certain introspection.

"You always wanted to coach against Coach [Joe] Paterno, "Patterson said." They always want to be opposite [the greats], "

Another chance will be missed on Saturday as Meyer, Ohio State Coach since 2012, is still suspended.

"I will not be surprised if we are not a 20-point dog," said Patterson, rejecting this development.

No, the line is only 13½, and checked last, Gee – now in West Virginia – has never apologized to the TCU. Finally, he gave the true religious sisters of the Little Sisters of the poor a contrition.

Patterson will not make a big deal this week – or himself. Only 19 miles separate TCU football from its next step: aim higher.

"We all want to play these ball games," he said. "The biggest thing is to come to the conference championship game and get to the playoffs."

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