Such is the life of a program in a BCS conference, even if they are not quite there yet.
TCU turned down an opportunity to play at Wisconsin in the 2011 season opener and instead will stick with playing at Baylor on September 3, 2011. TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte confirmed that he had turned down the possibility of traveling to Camp Randall Stadium in Madison on the same date for what would be a high-profile Rose Bowl rematch and cited the top reason as being there would be no guarantee the Badgers would make a return trip to Fort Worth.
“I have no interest in ever playing a one-off game unless there is a return game in Fort Worth,” Del Conte said. “But we are always engaged in opportunities with home and home.”
You cannot blame an athletic director for taking a stand in scheduling like this. Rutgers did it a couple years ago with Notre Dame and the series between Penn State and Pittsburgh has been put on the shelf for a decade for the same debate over home games. TCU has somehting brewing in Fort Worth and Del Conte, who is already losing games against Boise State (at home) and Texas Tech this season has to take a stand, right?
Even if it means giving up a chance to play on ESPN in a nationally televised spotlight game on opening weekend? But hey, they already have Baylor scheduled.
I understand the logic being used by Del Conte and I applaud him for sticking to his guns. The problem is he previously said that TCU would play anybody, anytime, anywhere. It was a comment that was expressed following Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee suggesting that Boise State should not be eligible for the BCS championship because their schedule was made up of the “Little Sisters of the Poor,” and it was a comment that enraged fans in Boise and Fort Worth. Boise State ended up losing before the season ended, taking themselves out of contention, but TCU went 12-0 and earned a trip to the Rose Bowl. Some felt they should be considered for the BCS championship game.
After completing a perfect season and a year before preparing for a move to the Big East, how would TCU benefit from playing a one-game series at Wisconsin? A loss in 2011 would likely take the Horned Frogs out of the national title picture even with Boise State in the Mountain West Conference. If TCU were to lose in Madison a shot at a third straight BCS appearance, and the financial reward that comes with it, would likely be flushed down the drain one game in to the season.
THAT is the reason TCU is avoiding the game, in my personal opinion. I say this as a college football writer and fan who has backed TCU for the past couple of seasons, and there is nothing to be ashamed of TCU fans. This is the nature of playing with the big boys. This is why we do not see too many out-of-conference games between BCS schools unless ESPN cuts a big check to make it happen.
Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema says he was quick to respond affirmatively to the idea of hosting TCU in the season opener. “I was contacted probably a week, maybe a week- and-a-half after the bowl game about the opportunity to play TCU in our opener,” Bielema told the show. “It was something that was going to be broadcast and made a big deal. It took me all of about point-five seconds to say, ‘Yes.'”
Why not? Wisconsin would get a second crack at the team that ended the Badgers’ season with a loss in a game Bielema believes his team did not perform to their best. Getting the same team in Camp Randall Stadium would create a huge buzz for the game and would put Wisconsin football on the big stage instead of being shuffled back in the rest of the mix on opening weekend with a game against UNLV.
Bielema said it was not totally out of the possibility the game could still be arranged, but unless Wisconsin books a return trip to TCU then do not expect anything to happen. The good news is Wisconsin has a reputation of traveling for out of conference games early in the season. As noted in my story on Examiner this morning the Badgers have traveled to North Carolina, UNLV, Fresno State and Bowling Green (played in Cleveland) in recent memory, so a trip to Fort Worth should not be totally out of the question.
Click here to read my story on Examiner.com.