died. The WAC split. Now, some say a leaner, meaner Division I-A could
form as early as 2000 -- possibly leaving the Purple on the sidelines.
Uh, TCU begs to differ.
David Van Meter
HAS BEEN a summer since that hotel phone light blinked incessantly, the
waiting message for Athletics Director Eric Hyman.
back to TCU. Now.
now, the announcement in late May surprised a lot of people, including
Hyman: Eight WAC schools -- Air Force, Brigham Young, Colorado State,
New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV, Utah and Wyoming -- would be leaving
the 16-school league on July 31, 1999.
State President Al Yates, president of the WAC at the same time he led
the defection of the eight schools, told the San Diego Union-Tribune,
"We've spent most of our time in conversation trying to respond to the
question, 'Is there a way to make this 16-team conference work?' Our conclusion
in all that was there was not." That must have been a quick chat -- and
a closed one at that.
over and done with," said Hyman with a wave of his big hand, a former
North Carolina Tar Heel who still casts a formidable shadow in his Daniel-Meyer
office. "Now we have the remaining WAC members and those I like to call
the Malcontent Eight. They'll go their way, and we'll go our way."
rightly points out, the BYU gang are the odd-men out at the moment. "We
are the WAC," he said. "We still are a viable conference. We still have
basketball shares [in the NCAA Tournament], we still are a member of the
Alliance [the WAC conference champion, if ranked No. 6 nationally or higher,
can receive a first-tier bowl berth], we still have leadership positions
in the NCAA, and we still have a consistent revenue stream. The former
WAC teams have none of that."
for TCU hangs in the air like a 50-yard Hail Mary, like butterflies before
the big game: The contest of TCU's athletic life is now playing at a stadium
near you, and TCU's Xs and Os had better come out of a new playbook.
moving forward, not by the seat of its pants, but with proper strategy,"
Hyman maintained, but even he admits to the feeling that probably has
50,000 Frog fans doing a game-face gut check and coming down with a major
case of NCAA heebie jeebies. Haven't we seen this before?
have. In 1995, the University of Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Baylor
bolted the SWC for the richer valleys of the Big 12. And now, BYU and
Colorado State and other hangers-on will depart the WAC to stake their
own claim in a better conference.
"It is unsettling,"
Hyman conceded, "because it doesn't feel like we're in control of our
many predicting what TCU's next play might be.
like Division I-A or bust, on three.
the only Division I-A university that calls its own plays is Notre Dame;
in college football, its Saturday afternoon television spell is cast across
When the school, in a conference of one, negotiated its own TV contract
with NBC in 1994 and dropped out of the College Football Association (CFA)
-- where members shared football revenues equally -- the Fighting Irish
not only killed the CFA but also forever changed college football.
seats to the real game being played in Division I:
In every sport other than football, teams from subdivisions I-A, I-AA
and I-AAA compete for championships. The revenue from tournaments is shared
throughout Division I. Revenue from the men's NCAA Basketball Tournament,
for instance, is what allows many I-AA and I-AAA institutions to sustain
their athletic departments. Yet, institutions in I-AA and I-AAA do not
share in the revenue generated by I-A football teams. Major college football
generated at least $400 million for the 1995-96 football season, according
to survey of I-A athletic directors, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education.
causes such as student-athlete development and school visibility aside,
whoever tackles the most dollars wins.
at least at the Division I-A level. And for a school like TCU that's been
moving the I-A chains for 101 years, is any other existence acceptable?
a huge issue within I-A and a fight within all of the NCAA," said Dutch
Baughman '88 (RM), formerly athletics director for Oregon State for seven
years and now executive director of the Division I-A Athletic Directors
Association. "If you're at a school with a $40 million athletics budget,
you must generate the revenue necessary to maintain that level of competition;
you want to see the games you play, your recruitment opportunities, your
revenue-generating ability, to be beneficial to your school."
the NCAA governance structure has enabled legislation that accommodates
schools with lesser budgets (Division I-AAA could vote on rules that only
applied to I-A members, for example). In 1998, the NCAA adopted a "federation"
approach, where subdivisions may only vote on issues within their division.
In Division I-A, this method inherently favors the more-numerous state
schools and large private ones, both of which typically have larger athletics
discussed last May troubles many private-school athletics directors. If
adopted, it would reduce football scholarships from 85 to 75, yet spread
those 75 scholarships to as many as 95 players. The idea is designed to
help all institutions meet stringent federal gender equity laws. The problem:
A partial scholarship at the University of Texas is about $2,000. A partial
at TCU? About $9,000. Similar disparities -- and dissention -- are only
growing, said Vanderbilt Athletics Director Todd Turner.
NCAA were to administer new revenue-sharing schemes for television and
bowl monies, or if new scheduling affected I-A schools adversely, you
might very well see a group of I-A schools decide they didn't want to
abide by those rules and form their own coalition of, say, about 70-80
schools," Turner said. "It's not a likelihood, but it's not an impossibility
is more certain; a Division I-A shakedown is at hand.
schools have become totally frustrated, and almost intolerant now, of
the mine fields they must maneuver in order to get the legislation in
place that enables them to raise the money they must generate.
relationships I have with the I-A conferences, I strongly suspect there
are commissioners who are determined to make that happen. If the Big 10
makes another expansion move [they've been talking to Notre Dame among
others], they have to get that member from somewhere, and that's going
to disrupt the business at one or more other conferences. That's when
the dominoes are really going to fall."
TV and bowl
contracts, most up for renegotiation around the year 2000, will push the
next piece over, Baughman said.
few TV contracts have been executed to completion," he said. "This spring
and fall, most conferences will be seriously talking about what they should
do with the remaining time and what they will do beyond that."
six conferences in the country (SEC, Big 10, Pac-10, Big 12, ACC and the
Big East) could easily collapse into five 12-team conferences, Baughman
said. Though the WAC will remain, its membership could change significantly.
(While we're hiking crystal footballs, TCU may not even be in the WAC
in five more years: What if the already unstable Big 12 melted down, sending
most state schools to the Pac-10, Big 10 and SEC? That would leave a conference
that could include TCU, SMU, Rice, Tulsa, Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State,
Oklahoma State, UTEP and Houston.)
aside, Baughman believes the University, especially since the SWC breakup,
is making the moves that will keep it in I-A.
conversations with TCU officials. I know how important it is for them
to have a competitive, respectable athletics program. If they're given
the opportunity to administer the plan they have in place, it will be
a whole different story for TCU."
I-A were to pare itself down, a change in membership criteria likely would
determine which schools make the cut. TCU already fares well in certain
I-A program features that many believe will be necessary for the I-A roster
of tomorrow. Budget. Ohio State's $58 million budget is the nation's highest,
but by no means representative. TCU's overall athletics budget, nearing
$20 million, is much closer to the Division I-A average.
TCU seated an average of 23,544 football fans per home game during TCU's
dismal 1-10 season last year, placing TCU 82nd among I-A schools. Fans
will surely increase this fall, being Franchione's first season. TCU basketball
sat 5,921 fans for a No. 93 ranking, but Daniel-Meyer's 7,166 size limits
the crowds the team can draw; last season's Lee Nailon-led crew led to
at least three official sellouts and an NCAA Tournament appearance.
In overall athletics quality, TCU sponsors 18 teams and for its 1997-98
won-lost records, is ranked No. 54 in the country, according to the 1998
Sear's Cup rankings. A newcomer among qualifiers, this measurement system
has fast become the mark for total I-A program quality. Indeed, TCU's
poor 1997 football showing overshadowed an otherwise-excellent athletics
-- The fastest-ever 4x100 relay foursome in the nation and the No. 3 track
team in the nation.
-- A Top 5 men's golf team. A WAC championship women's golf team, ranked
No. 17 at season's end.
-- A men's tennis team that has been among the Top 20 programs for most
of the last 25 years, and a women's squad that is consistently upper-tier.
-- The baseball squad advanced to the WAC tournament and finished second
in its division.
-- The women's rifle team obtained its second consecutive top 25 ranking.
-- And WAC Coach of the Year honors were achieved by TCU coaches David
Rubinson, Billy Tubbs, Bill Montigel and Angie Ravaioli-Larkin.
quality. Baughman was an athletic director for Oregon State in the Pac-10
when the Big 10 invited Penn State in 1990, which led his conference to
consider additional members. "The first four or five qualities we looked
for in member schools were all academic qualities," he said, "ahead of
what you think a Division I-A school might be valued for in athletics.
. . broad-based appeal, TV market, bowl success. We were primarily concerned
with how a university felt about partial qualifiers, academic admission
requirements for student athletes as well as the entire student body,
its professional involvement in the community, its past history, things
a well-respected academic institution. It's endowment has grown tremendously,
its programs are well-known, it has continually improved its facilities.
Academically, as well as athletically, TCU is an attractive member to
that upper echelon."
TCU is attractive
to guys like Dennis Franchione, too. He, like Eric Hyman, was surprised
at the Malcontent Eight's "covert" move but adds with quiet, firm words,
"I came to TCU because of what it could be, not because it was in the
WAC or not in the WAC."
taskmaster points to Amon Carter Stadium as proof that TCU's future can
be every bit as bright as its past. "It's a very special stadium," he
said. Its grass field is "as good a field as you will play on in the United
States," its weathered walls just feel like a place where football games
like men's Basketball Head Coach Billy Tubbs, has a tendency to do just
200 losses with him to TCU in 1994, but he also came with 439 wins and
a serious attitude; the result was a No. 13 team last season. What he
said when he took the job still holds true today.
going to do things nobody has done before," he said. "Our only limitation
should be our imaginations."
to TCU, Franchione in his last season at the University of New Mexico
led the Lobos to their first Top 25 ranking in 15 years and an Insight.com
bowl appearance. He led Southwest Texas State to two back-to-back winning
seasons in his two years there. And at Pittsburgh State, he led the Gorillas
to a 53-6 record in five years. Among active I-A coaches, he ranks No.
11 with a .675 winning percentage. And Hyman?
two years at the University of Miami at Ohio, he turned around a fumbling
athletics program, producing 10 conference championships, a football attendance
record and a student-athlete graduation rate of 78 percent, the fifth
highest among all NCAA division 1-A schools. And as a former college player
himself, Hyman was all-ACC in football at the University of North Carolina
and played in the Hula, Sun and Gator bowls.
like other coaches already on TCU's roster, have been there and done that.
And now is the time, if you ask them, to buy the TCU T-shirt.
the WAC situation has caused a certain camaraderie -- a certain resolve
-- between the remaining schools, which perhaps wasn't there before,"
and then says what most Frogs are probably thinking.
also some fight that wasn't there before," he said. "If we're successful
against our former conference members, I can't tell you that there won't
be some joy running around here."
Hawaii's athletics director Hugh Yoshida said it best, to the Associated
Press on the Malcontent Eight's defection: "There's no love lost.... Now
we have to try and beat their butts."