Like a plant-based burger or ERCOT’s latest failure to manage our power grid, the truth can be hard to swallow. I’m generally a lie-to-me-if-you-love-me sort of guy, but this week’s Twitter war between TCU football brass and Texas Tech fans was a sobering reminder that both of these beloved Texas squads are nationally irrelevant. Until more evidence is gathered, this might be the most fun either fan base has this season.
It began with the Frog athletic department rolling out their “Keep It Purple” ticket plan, a mini-season-ticket option at a promotional price. These packages are nothing exceptional and standard practice. However, it singled out the Lubbock dwellers as the only home game this season for which fans are excluded from buying a single-game ticket. So, if you want to witness TCU try and four-peat against the Red Raiders, you have to commit to two other home games to be able to attend. It’s worth noting that Tech is the only in-state squad — save for the Tarleton game — who’ll visit The Carter this season. Athletic director Jeremiah Donati defended the practice as trying to give his boys their best chance to have the home field advantage they should. Also, TCU needs to rake in ticket money.
There’s some truth in Donati’s candor. The Frogs are 6-2 against Tech over the past eight seasons. Both losses came in Fort Worth. Premium games are always going to be sold as such, and without Texas and Baylor making their way to the Fort this season, Tech becomes the de facto rivalry game on campus.
Conceal your hubris, Raiders. TCU is allowing single-game tickets against OU only because the Frogs are going to charge a lot more and be confident they’ll get it, not because Tech is the best team on the home docket.
While I was tempted to engage in the endless comment chiding between the two fan bases trying to convince the other of the superiority of their degree or international business connections, or whatever, sadness brewed in my amygdala with the realization that both these teams could very well suck.
Maybe this is 2020-Buck talking. When everything was a disaster. But both squads are going to be breaking in new head coaches. Joey McGuire is debuting his first season ever as a head college coach, and Sonny Dykes is taking the reins (no pun intended, but he just defected from the Mustangs, so we’ll go with it) at TCU. Both head men are leading programs with pedigrees in opposition to their specialties. McGuire, known for his defensive acumen, is leading the land where quarterbacks seem to grow in the sand. Dykes is likely bringing an air-raid offense to a school known for its tremendous defensive secondary for the last 20 years. Add to that, neither team has named their starting quarterback, a situation that should keep any first-year coach up at night.
Things really reached fever Tweet when TCU recruiting coordinator Bryan Carrington scoffed at Tech’s $25K for every football player’s NIL deal, asserting that no one would be able to build their personal brand out in the desert. The Red Raiders’ proposed NIL deal — which is being funded by a group of graduates called The Matador Club — says they’re going to sign all 85 scholarship players and 15 walk-ons to one-year contracts for requisite charity work in Lubbock and surrounding areas. The proposal, if it holds, would be one of the largest team-wide deals in the country. The Texas Longhorns were offering $50K for offensive lineman recruits but nothing like the roster-wide scenario proposed in Lubbock. It would be perfectly natural for a recruiting coordinator to be threatened by such sweeping support and money thrown around while TCU hasn’t reported anything similar. Carrington’s comments drew plenty of reprisal from West Texas alums, including “flower deliveries” in the form of cacti to Frog coaching offices. Apparently, living in the Permian Basin develops a sense of humor.
As much as it might seem pertinent to look in the mirror and assess the shortcomings of our hometown institution, don’t. These events smack of two undeniable facts regarding Texas Tech football: Their fans are a treasure, and TCU is their most relevant football rival. Two rivalry trophies exist for Tech, one with TCU — the “West Texas Championship” Saddle — and the Chancellor’s Spurs, which go between Lubbock and Austin. But let’s be honest. Lubbock just sort of borrows them from time to time. The Red Raiders have played Baylor more times than any other school and are only trailing by one game in the all-time standings against the Bears, but there’s no traveling trophy and most Wac(k)os would probably list Texas and TCU as superior rivals controlling for hatred and prestige.
Despite being middle-tier rivals with each other, TCU and Tech are in ostensibly similar situations, and the chippy banter is welcome ahead of a season where the conversation is probably going to center on lame-duck Big 12 members Texas and Oklahoma, along with Baylor, who is an early favorite to win the conference. This is a friendly reminder to embrace the friendly hatred of a fan base that we’re likely to be intertwined with come what may with conference realignment.
The coaching staffers themselves are also incestually joined between the universities. McGuire began his coaching career in high school on Fort Worth’s southern border at Crowley. Dykes is Tech royalty — though he probably won’t be treated that way this season — growing up the son of former Raider head coach Spike Dykes and earning varsity baseball letters on the Red Raider diamonds. Anecdotal evidence — which is scientifically never wrong — has taught me that Tech alums are just a fun group to feud with. I can’t say the same about another TCU rival with whom they used to share a municipal border. Our conference future is completely unknown, but Texas Tech getting better at football than they’ve been in the last decade — possibly supplanting former rivals bound for other conferences — would be good for everyone.