In the immortal words of Ron Burgundy: “Well, that escalated quickly.” Normally, hindsight is 20/20, yet I’m confident few really saw this coming. The season is over, all of them. Football diehards have received the cruelest lesson in the universe: Be careful what you wish for. Football and volleyball are on deck and are the earliest athletic contests we should expect to discuss in real time. Even the auxiliary contest of high school recruiting is paused –– under mandate from –– for one month.
While available, we’ll survey the accomplishment and folly of TCU’s winter and spring sports before they, and consequently every other collegiate and professional athlete, were defeated by the coronavirus. Jamie Dixon’s hoopers are an interesting case as they are likely the only team whose season wasn’t affected by the pandemic now sweeping its way through our country. Dixon’s seventh-seed dribblers traveled to Kansas City to tip off in the opening round of the Big 12 tournament against the dead last Kansas State Wildcats last week. Rumors swelled that the upcoming NCAA tournament would shun crowds and allow only family members and essential staff to attend, which would have been its own experiment in strangeness. The Wildcats, who have fallen to our Frogs twice this season, were more than ready to rectify previous close losses by capitalizing on a paltry 18 first-half Frog points to lead by 10 after halftime. An inspiring late rally from TCU couldn’t overcome early foibles as Dixon and company were eliminated from the conference tournament, which was subsequently cancelled the next day.
Our boys find themselves in rare company as the only other team besides the Cyclones who were both eliminated from a tournament that never concluded. It was likely the end of our boys’ season either way. The NIT field grew crowded with automatic bids, and we would have been one of the last selected but likely not at all. Ideas were floated for an honorary selection Sunday, which never culminated. TCU’s season wasn’t awful, all things considered, but “slightly exceeding expectations” is not a banner-worthy slogan to hang in Schollmaier Arena.
Women’s hoops lived a much more somber tale as coach Raegan Pebley’s players exploded past their basement projection and waited for a quarterfinal opponent in their two-seed for a game that would never occur. It was likely that our gals’ season would have earned them their first tournament berth in 10 years, but we’ll never know. A heartwarming video is spreading across social media documenting our TCU baseball boys awaiting our ladies with flowers in hand to blunt the blow of a season of unfinished business and seniors who’ll lack closure to their playing careers.
In what was perhaps the biggest surprise to me, tennis was cancelled as well. A blanket mandate for the good of the public health makes sense, but collegiate tennis draws what could be considered meager crowds at best and is definitely a hygienic sport. David Roditi’s men, as they have been many times, were ranked in the Top 10 and preparing their way toward conference play and another late appearance in their NCAA tournament. His squad is not overly reliant on their seniors –– who’ll likely have a bonus year of eligibility either way –– and will be back to pick up where they left off next season.
The season for TCU’s boys of summer ended in its infancy with high hopes. Our batting Frogs had been bashing the ball and their opponents at an impressive clip before backsliding a bit before the remainder of the season struck out. The always pesky UTA Mavericks visited last Tuesday and conjured a three-run eighth inning to tie the score at four each and later push the good guys to extra innings. The Mavs added two runs in the 12th, which our Frogs –– who hadn’t scored since the bottom of the second –– couldn’t match and they fell 4-6 in their only loss at Lupton Stadium this season. Later last week, Los Angeles became the city of slim losses as coach Jim Schlossnagle’s sluggers fell to USC and Vanderbilt by a single run but managed to top UCLA by four in between those losses. Baseball is one of several sports in which extra eligibility will almost certainly be granted. Many seniors dot our lineup, and the challenges of retaining them with the allure of Major League contracts will simply multiply with this complex and unprecedented termination of the season.
Despite sports essentially concluding until this summer, Buck U will be here. Follow along –– not in person, of course; stay away from everyone –– for book reviews, interviews, and pandemic power rankings in the coming months. All jokes aside, sports are not an essential part of our survival, but we’ll be starkly reminded what a luxury and joy they truly are during this hiatus. The time has come to fire up ESPN Classic and appreciate the little things that are actually important before hopefully basking in frivolity again as soon as possible.