TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte said he was not surprised by the disappointment of students, fans and alumni who did not like the idea of changing a home-and-home football series against Ohio State to one game at AT&T Stadium, but that it was in the best interest of TCU.
“I understand their angst,” he said Friday in an interview with the Star-Telegram. “But when we collectively make a decision — me, Coach Patterson, our university leadership — we’re talking about what is best for TCU, our program, moving forward.”
The schools announced Thursday they would play one game on Sept. 15, 2018, at the home of the Dallas Cowboys rather than have Ohio State visit Fort Worth on that date and have TCU go to Columbus in 2019.
Instead, TCU will visit Purdue in 2019, and Ohio State will play Miami (Ohio). Purdue agreed to play in Fort Worth in 2029.
Playing a game like this as a one-off at a neutral site is phenomenal for TCU in terms of national exposure.
TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte
An Ohio State official said the Cowboys approached TCU about moving the game, and that TCU asked Ohio State and Ohio State agreed. Both schools will make $5 million on the game, Ohio State announced.
Fan reaction on Twitter mainly reflected disappointment.
AT&T Stadium has fashioned a reputation for hosting major college football games, and Del Conte said that was a primary motivation for TCU. The Horned Frogs have played three games at AT&T Stadium, most recently against LSU in 2013.
“Playing a game like this as a one-off at a neutral site is phenomenal for TCU in terms of national exposure,” Del Conte said. “TCU is at the point where we’re viewed in the same light as an Alabama, a USC that’s played at AT&T Stadium. These are big-time games.”
Del Conte said he also considered how two games against the powerhouse Buckeyes would affect TCU’s College Football Playoff aspirations. The matchup aids strength of schedule, but a loss by a big margin could be negative.
“Our scheduling philosophy is to put ourselves in the best position possible to win a Big 12 championship and have the best non-conference schedule that gives us an opportunity to be in the CFP,” Del Conte said.
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TCU is 2-1 in games at AT&T Stadium, with victories in 2010 against Oregon State and 2011 against BYU and a loss to LSU in 2013.
Del Conte said he must also consider the financial benefit to TCU from the game at AT&T Stadium and weigh that against growing fan expectations and removing a game from Amon G. Carter Stadium.
He said there are no plans to convert any future home-and-home series to one neutral-site game.
“You’re balancing a schedule that allows you the best opportunity to get to the CFP. You’re balancing your fans wanting to play the very best opponents at Amon Carter Stadium. You want to give your alumni and students the chance to say, ‘Guess who we play today.’ And for our institution, I’ve got to run a financial operation that makes sure we provide all the tools necessary,” Del Conte said.
“Those discussions are had with our coaching staff, the chancellor, our university board of trustees, we take our students into account and what’s best in the quest to win championships. And then we take the wants and wishes of our fans who are supporting this endeavor. And all those voices are heard equally. And then I’ve got to make a decision that’s best for TCU.”
I’m beholden to them, and they deserve to understand my thought process.
TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte, on fans
Del Conte replied to messages from disappointed students and fans on his Twitter account following the announcement Thursday.
“The way I look at it is this — I work for them. They hire me to run their athletic department for them,” Del Conte said. “I’m beholden to them, and they deserve to understand my thought process. I hide nothing. There was a variety of conversations happening with the wants and wishes of everyone involved. At the end, we made the decision. I bear the responsibility of that decision. I can tell you, I understand the disappointment.”