No college football program can compete without above-average facilities.
Programs are in a constant arms race to build the best stadiums, the best locker rooms, the best training facilities, the best bathrooms on the second deck in Section 202. Have enough Texas A&M friends and you’ll inevitably hear them talk about how much the construction on Kyle Field, known colloquially as the “Hate Barn” but in reality a massive, glimmering palace, has helped the program. At this point, I’m fairly convinced the reason Idaho dropped down to FCS wasn’t due to lack of money or success but because the Kibbie Dome, despite being a favorite of hipsters everywhere, was a giant garbage balloon in the middle of nowhere.
Which brings us to TCU. Stadium renovation is underway, with a new deck that should be done by mid-October and a brand new scoreboard that’s oh-so-barely bigger than the one down in Waco. There’s even new grass this year, which, if you didn’t know that, you must not be following Gary Patterson on Twitter.
This man loves him some grass fields, and some construction pics.
First phase is complete, field looks awesome! pic.twitter.com/DTv49Zrywf— Gary Patterson (@TCUCoachP) May 22, 2019
That’s what Gary did this offseason, in between whittling down a quarterback race and telling fresh Rose Bowl stories.
Oh, and the scoreboard? Buddy, you better believe it’s ready to go.
Look at the size of infrastructure of video board! Whether it’s touchdowns or kiss cam, we will have a better view! pic.twitter.com/Ia1D2mYMUs— Gary Patterson (@TCUCoachP) July 3, 2019
Saw a tweet today that stated we are silly to keep upgrading to give you a better fan experience and to help us to recruit! Remember that greatness happens somewhere in a period of time where hard work and dreams meet! We must keep doing both! #Eyesupkeepclimbing pic.twitter.com/QJqbaSNzF0— Gary Patterson (@TCUCoachP) July 14, 2019
They are almost finished on this amazing Sunday morning! You will when it is done when the top says TCU! pic.twitter.com/7xS9njoRiI— Gary Patterson (@TCUCoachP) August 11, 2019
Doesn’t get better than Downtown Fort Worth, Jumbo and the new Eastside! pic.twitter.com/3ShYTGtbPD— Gary Patterson (@TCUCoachP) August 19, 2019
Patterson hasn’t been this excited since the guy that runs the EarthPics Twitter account tweeted out a really cool waterfall.
I give Patterson some light-hearted teasing about this, but I understand why he has to constantly keep people updated — if you’re not moving forward, you’re falling behind. He, and the TCU athletic department as a whole, are charged with proving that the Horned Frogs are setting standards, are up-to-date on the latest technology and can provide a first-class experience for anyone in the stands (or on a recruiting visit).
And that’s what it comes down to, is recruiting. All of this stuff, the new alcoholic beverage sales at the stadium, the video board, the added deck, it all creates a better fan atmosphere. But the only reason that atmosphere matters is because recruits want to play in front of 50,000+ screaming idiots, and not a half-filled bowl that’s quieter than a library past closing hours.
If that sounds cynical, it isn’t, it’s just true. College football would be tremendously easier without fans — no pressure, no stadium concerns, no unnecessary events coaches and players have to show up at — but the fans pay the bills, and the fans make recruits happy (unless the fan is tweeting at said recruit). We are a tertiary concern. The primary and secondary concerns are to take care of your players and win games, and I dearly wish that was always the order, but some programs have made it clear that’s not so.
Keep in mind: I’m totally fine with this strange arrangement we’ve found ourselves in. Pump money into the stadium, sell me beer, build a deck that’ll give the students some much needed shade. It’s all gravy to me, as long as the program keeps winning.
I do find it funny that so much digital ink has been spilled, on Twitter and by reputable news outlets (and also this page that you’re reading right now) about the facility upgrades. Architecture is the best thing to write about when no other thing is happening. Once as a college student, I was loitering around the TCU360 office trying desperately not to do any work when a journalism professor sent me to do a story on the new parking garage.
“What’s happening with the garage?” I asked. “It’s not even finished yet.”
“Exactly,” he said. “It’s not finished yet. School’s about to start. Go write about it.”
So when you read these stories and see these Twitter updates about the stadium construction and the video board, know that you’re only seeing them because no actual football is on. When kickoff comes on Sept. 1, it doesn’t matter who has the bigger video board.
(But we do, for the record.)