Julius Caesar, TCU is not. But many Frog fans find themselves repeating the Roman General’s last words as they watch Chris Del Conte drag the Texas Longhorns to the SEC, regional rivalries and former friends be damned.
Del Conte was hired by the Longhorns — and for a pretty penny — for exactly this reason: to keep the coffers overflowing and give the athletic programs in Austin the best possible chance to succeed at the national level — or at least to be better than A&M’s. Meanwhile, the ambitious Aggies are raking in Blue Chip recruits and swimming in that sweet, sweet Southeastern Conference money while the Horns find themselves at the mercy of the programs in Norman, Fort Worth, and hell — even Lawrence on occasion.
We just can’t have that, now can we.
It wasn’t all that long ago that CDC rode in on his white horse to Fort Worth, aiming to pull the Horned Frogs out of the wilderness and into the main dining room, turning TCU Athletics into a true national brand — and not just in football. He took them first to the Big East, a quick jaunt that was over before it even began, but enough of a banner to peek the Big 12’s interest and turn CDC into a legend on campus. Then, a long meeting in Austin earned the Frogs the golden carrot — an invite to the conference they got left out of a decade and a half prior.
What was once appreciation turned to adoration when Del Conte stood up in front of thousands of TCU fans in the stockyards a year later and said, “We’re excited to be home,” as TCU announced that it was joining the Big 12.
For nine years, Chris Del Conte did right by TCU, keeping Gary Patterson and Jim Schlossnagle at the head of their respective programs, bringing home TCU Basketball legend and brand-name coach Jamie Dixon home, hiring Jill Kramer, Eric Bell, Raegan Pebley, and David Roditi, among others. He raised insane amounts of money for not one, but two major renovations to Amon G. Carter Stadium, built Ed and Rae Schollmaier Arena, and engineered the multiple additions/renovations to Lupton Stadium.
He made TCU a better place and oversaw some of the glory years of Horned Frogs sports.
And then he left.
I was very sad the day CDC sent that tweet, calling it one of the worst days of my sports fandom. I even had a pretty high level person from within TCU DM in response, simply saying “really?”. Because for all CDC was, there was a cost — we danced with the devil, knowing full well we would get burned. But it felt like it was worth it.
Del Conte is exactly who we knew him to be, and is doing exactly what he is being paid to do. But to watch the person that elevated TCU to a national brand do everything in his power to stomp on it hurts. So when you’re a Texas fan coming to this site wondering why we are blaming UT and not OU, it’s because the man we married left for a prettier girl and then came back four years later and burned our house down, just because he could.
I remember the first time I met CDC, at the alumni tailgate ahead of the Rose Bowl. I wasn’t “media” then, just a fan — one that nearly cried while talking to him because I was just so thankful for all that he had done for TCU. I ran into him countless times more — and as I transitioned from the stands to the press box he always made a point to say hello, to offer a handshake, and often a hug as a greeting.
But that’s his thing, right? And he’s really good at it! Del Conte will make you feel like the most important person in the world, but ultimately only has the interests in mind of the people that matter. That’s his job and if it means wrecking someone on his way to the end goal, so be it.
The fact that he wrecked the house he helped build is irrelevant to him, even if it breaks our hearts.
I almost bailed on posting this piece... it felt like another in a long line of just writing through the grief and anger that has been building up for a week. But then that (redacted) Wescott over at BON wrote a piece that I won’t even link to that just served to fire us all up all over again. Just play the villain, Texas, it suits you well and honestly you’re not going to get cast as anything else.
There have been a lot of Longhorns in the comments over the last few days, saying that Texas is going what’s best for it and that anyone in their position would do the same. But that’s the rub, friends — there are only a handful of schools that are in their position. TCU can’t completely dismantle a conference. Neither can Oklahoma State or Texas Tech. Iowa State has had a nice couple of years, but talk to anyone that follows that team and they’ll tell you they know that they sit precariously on a ledge that could as easily lead them back to the dregs as it could to building a true contender. Oklahoma screwed us all, too, but hell — at least they win.
For Texas, one of the biggest brands and wealthiest athletic departments in the country to be a non-factor in the conference they helped create and then be the ones to go behind everyone’s backs and blow it up? Yeah, that sucks.
And CDC was the one behind it.
That reality is really painful for TCU fans to accept.
So, Texas fans that are coming over here because we keep trashing your school for doing this? Here’s another article for you to defend. But you’ll never understand why we feel the way we feel because you will never be in the position we are in. TCU leaving the Mountain West, this is not.
If you can’t see that, I can’t help you.
I’m angry, and I’m angry at Texas. But I still believe we can land on our feet and save all of the things that CDC helped build before he tries to burn them all down.