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Look At Our Shiny New Toys, Please

The video board and the stadium expansion have drawn their fair share of headlines this summer.

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.

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.

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.”

And I did.

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.)