Ask anybody who has followed the TCU Basketball program and they'll admit that there hasn't been much to celebrate in... well... awhile. Sure, we've had a few moments. The Frogs jumped out to a historic 13-0 start last season, but the achievement felt somewhat hollow because of the level of competition. For most TCU Basketball fans, their "One Shining Moment" is likely the Frogs' 62-55 upset over the 5th-ranked Kansas Jayhawks in the spring of 2013. Even though that remains the largest upset in college basketball history in terms of RPI, the Frogs would go on to win just one of their next 31 conference games.
In fact, this is a program that hasn't accomplished much of anything over the last decade. TCU has put together consecutive winning seasons just once in the 21st Century, with that feat coming as a member of the lowly Conference-USA. The Frogs haven't participated in the NCAA Tournament since 1998, and the program has seen just one NCAA Tournament win since 1968.
TCU's lack of success as a program made Sunday's inaugural game inside the Ed and Rae Schollmaier Arena even sweeter for Horned Frogs fans.
The upgrades to the facility are evident before you even set foot on to the newly-named Daniel-Meyer Athletic Complex. The facade of the $80 million basketball gym, which perfectly matches the iconic brickwork of each building on the TCU campus, extends in both directions from the Sam Baugh Indoor Practice Facility all the way to Amon G. Carter Stadium.
Upon entering the Arena, fans are immediately met with the Jane & John Justin Hall of Fame, a tribute to just about every achievement in TCU Athletics history. From Davey O' Brien's 1938 Heisman Trophy, to TCU Baseball's 2015 College World Series memorabilia, the Hall of Fame has everything covered. Most notably is a rose covered pedestal featuring the Frogs' 2011 Rose Bowl Champions Trophy, which sits just in front of a wall of trophies recognizing individual and team National Championships across a variety of sports at TCU.
Walk further into the Hall of Fame, and fans will find trophies, plaques, and rings that were once buried deep within the bowels of administrative offices, representing 30 football bowl game appearances and 94 conference championships across six different leagues in 15 different varsity sports. Capped off by the TCU Lettermen's Hall of Fame, recognizing the individual contributions of hundreds of former Frogs, the space is an amazing tribute to more than a century of TCU Athletics.
Around the widened concourse features two full-service food courts complete with everything from Buffalo Bros to Railhead to Chick-fil-A (except, of course, on Sundays), larger and more accessible restrooms, views to the postgame interview room, outdoor football practice facility, and Amon G. Carter Stadium, as well as a seemingly infinite number of television screens so that fans can follow the Frogs from anywhere inside the arena.
Once you step into the seating bowl, the view is pretty spectacular. A $1.5 million Panasonic videoboard hangs from the ceiling, adorned with a 360-degree ribbon board and enhanced speakers. Above the entryway to each of the arena's 18 seating sections sits smaller videoboards used to display stats, information, and out of town scores. The floor itself incorporates TCU's new "Frog scale" pattern, complete with a red three-point line, symbolizing a horned frog's ability to shoot blood out of its eyes as a natural defense mechanism. Gone is the rickety courtside seating area, replaced instead with a more permanent-looking section adorned with plush TCU chairs. Fans seated in the courtside area also have access to a club lounge located underneath the stadium.
What fans won't get to see is the upgraded locker rooms, complete with wood-stained lockers, an expansive sports medicine suite, and a movie-theater style film room. Players and recruits will also have access to a state of the art lounge, featuring big screen televisions, gaming systems, and presumably some of those unlimited snacks that the NCAA was so excited about.
Perhaps the most important upgrade to the facility isn't something that fans can physically see or touch. The Ed and Rae Schollmaier Arena symbolizes a commitment to Men's Basketball at TCU the likes of which the University has never experienced. The dedication from the school's donors, Board of Trustees, and Athletic Department to fund, plan, and execute such a large project is a testament to the desire to build a winning basketball program in Fort Worth.
It's rare in college athletics that a program with so little history and so few successes is gifted with a facility of this magnitude. Just look across the TCU campus. The bulk of renovations to Amon G. Carter Stadium came after Gary Patterson led the Frogs to four conference championships, nine bowl games, and two BCS contests. Over at Lupton Stadium, it took 11 trips to the NCAA Tournament and two College World Series appearances for widespread renovations to begin. Based on the work put into Schollmaier Arena, one would presume that TCU Basketball had followed a similar path.
Even though that's not the case, the window is now open for TCU Basketball to emerge as a legitimate threat in the college basketball landscape. While 20-win seasons and postseason appearances are likely still a few years away, there's nothing holding this program back anymore. The Frogs are a member of a big-time conference, with a successful head coach, competing inside one of the best new facilities in the nation.
Sunday's inaugural game inside Schollmaier Arena provided fans with a glimpse of what the future could hold for TCU Basketball. Sitting just behind the Frogs' bench was a who's who of top recruits in the DFW Metroplex and beyond. Most notably was five-star center Marques Bolden, the highest rated player at his position in the nation. The 6'10" junior from DeSoto High School has narrowed his top six schools to Alabama, Baylor, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, and TCU.
"Lift Off" is the slogan being used by the marketing department for the basketball program this season; certainly a fitting moniker for a team that now has a seemingly unlimited ceiling. While the program is still mired in a long-term rebuilding project, there is now light at the end of the tunnel. It remains to be seen just how successful the Frogs will be this season, but the opening of the Ed and Rae Schollmaier Arena was certainly a historic moment for the program, one that can hopefully be looked upon someday as a launching point.
That alone is a cause for celebration among TCU Basketball fans.