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The Big 2012-2013: TCU's lost year

With disappointment following disappointment from all of TCU's Big 3 men's sports, is the Big 12 move a failure for the Frogs?

Big conference, Big competition, Big regrets?
Big conference, Big competition, Big regrets?
Brandon Wade

As fans of TCU we've lived a charmed life these past few years. Our football team went from the refuse heap in the WAC to the best of the non-BCS leagues, to the worst of the AQ conferences to the conference of our wildest dreams. Last year our basketball team beat multiple NCAA tournament teams and finished with a winning record for the first time since 2005 and we poached a coach from a power conference- the SEC no less- to fill the void Jim Christian left. And of course, our baseball team won the Mountain West Conference regular season title every year we were in the conference, collected all but two of the tournament titles and became a mainstay in the CWS.

We entered the Big 12 with our heads held high, our ears shut to the detractors who said that our football team would be chewed up by the grind of the Big 12, our basketball team would give a new meaning to futility in the big leagues and our baseball team wouldn't be able to hack it in the backyard of one of college baseball's most storied programs. It was easy to not take them seriously, after all, the criticism was coming from Tech, Baylor and UT fans- fans who only remembered us the way we were in the dark years, fans who wanted us to stay down so that they could be the ones to rise up and win conference titles and go to BCS games.

We told ourselves that they were jealous, that Baylor and Tech would have traded their Alamo Bowl and Cotton Bowl seasons in a heartbeat for a chance to play in Pasadena as we had, that if Baylor could build a basketball powerhouse in Waco just a few years removed from one of the worst scandals in NCAA history that we could build a better one in Fort Worth, and of course the baseball team would be fantastic wherever it went- it's not like we weren't already playing CWS-caliber teams in non-conference anyway. The big dogs of the Big 12 were going to have to make room for the big Frogs.

Of course, it didn't quite work out like that. Our vaunted football team had one arm tied behind its back in the offseason as the defense depth was gutted and joined the other arm behind it soon thereafter when we managed to complete just one Big 12 game with our starting running back and quarterback in their rightful places. As a result of that (and more than a few flubbed punts) the mighty mighty Horned Frogs staggered to their worst football season since 2004. and didn't win a single conference home game. The hopes weren't too high for our basketball team, but when Texas Tech's coach Billy Gillespie was fired for abuse and Texas lost their star point guard (and lost to a D-III team) it seemed that there was a great chance for TCU to climb out of its predicted basement finish in the frogs debut season.

This hope turned out to be unfounded, as Amric Fields was lost for the season before the first week of basketball was done, and though the effort was there, blowouts were on the offer more often than not. Our ears were finally open to the stinging barbs that others were throwing at us, but still we were certain that baseball would prove our worth- even our detractors were picking us in the top 3 of the Big 12. And then... the wins just didn't come. Through today TCU has lost as many games as they did last season up to the Super regional at UCLA- including the Mountain West tournament and the College Station regional. TCU has won only one Big 12 series so far, and has collected losses to such teams as Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Dallas Baptist, and Stephen F. Austin.

Now there are people openly questioning whether TCU made a mistake in moving to the Big 12- and it's a question that is worth asking, if you believe that TCU sacrificed perennial 10+ win seasons, BCS bids, growing the basketball program and a baseball program that would not be toppled in conference play for a mediocrity and a ton of money. Heck, if those are the choices you can mark me down for the first trip back to the Mountain West, who would likely punish our desertion by giving all of our home games to Boise State for our first two seasons back.

Is TCU's Big 12 debut a failure though? It's hard to argue that all of the big 3 disappointed, but calling it failure is a bridge too far. Instead I would call it a season of missed opportunity, as even playing with a short roster TCU was not just competitive, but had an excellent chance to win each and every football game they played and collected a pair of the most satisfying wins in recent memory, grinding Texas into defeat on Thanksgiving day and blowing out Baylor in payback for the heartbreak of 2011.

TCU endured several humiliating defeats in basketball, suffering blowouts at the hands of NIT-bound Baylor and Texas as well as routs on the road at Oklahoma State and Kansas, but they also collected the best win in program history over (then) #5 Kansas and a win over NCAA bound Oklahoma on senior day. Possibly more importantly though, what became a cliche saying for announcers at TCU games, the team put out relentless effort no matter the opponent or the deficit.

Their effort was praised so much because there simply wasn't much else to praise about the team, true enough, but somehow Trent Johnson got his team to play the entirety of every game as though it were 0-0 and even though we ended up last in the Big 12 we never played like we were certain we were going to lose. At some point the cliche is actually admirable, as longtime fans have watched a large number of bad TCU teams getting blown out and sinking to the bottom of the conference without much fuss, while Trent Johnson ensured that his team never went down quietly no matter the opponent.

2012-2013 may not have been the year we wanted or the year we expected, but it was not a failure, and I firmly believe that for the first time in my lifetime TCU has the right man in charge in all three of its major men's sports at the same time, which means that the 2013-14 season had a whole new world of possibilities, and ways to show that we didn't make a mistake in coming to the Big 12. When there are Big 12 championship rings with a bright purple gem on them, that will be all the proof we need- and that proof may be coming sooner than any of us may think.

Still have no idea why we're so bad at baseball this year though.

Go Frogs!