For Frogs and Fort Worth, more than a trophy at stake in national title game

TCU Coach Sonny Dykes after the Fiesta Bowl (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

The TCU Horned Frogs headed for the West Coast Friday to play the football program’s most important game since legendary coach Dutch Meyer walked the sideline. A victory over Georgia at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California, on Monday night would make this the first TCU squad to bring home a national championship since Meyer’s teams did it in 1935 and 1938 with quarterbacks Sammy Baugh and Davey O’Brien.

Other than that comparison, however, things have changed a lot since Dutch Meyer wore a suit and hat on the sidelines compared to the less formal attire current TCU coach Sonny Dykes and others wear today.

For example, winning a national championship brings with it bonanza of bonuses, not only for  the team but the entire athletic program and the school itself. Even the city of Fort Worth benefits from the exposure the Horned Frogs are receiving.

Mayor Mattie Parker is a University of Texas alum but these days her blood seems to be running purple, along with the overwhelming majority of the city she leads.

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“As the proud home of TCU, Fort Worth certainly benefits from the spotlight that the College Football Playoff National Championship brings,” Parker said. “For 150 years, TCU has helped to usher in the bright minds that become the future of our city, and this will certainly boost that interest from potential students across the country.”

“The success of Fort Worth educational institutions is success for the whole city, and people from around the country are learning about Fort Worth from watching TCU shine. Plus, we’re seeing this team inspire a generation of Fort Worth kiddos with their hard work and sportsmanship.”

Whether TCU (13-1) wins or loses against defending national champion Georgia (14-0) on Monday – kickoff is at 6:30 p.m. on ESPN – it has already been a magical season for the Horned Frogs. In one season, Sonny Dykes and his team surpassed the level ex-coach Gary Patterson and his teams fought so hard to reach during Patterson’s more than two decades at the helm.

Not surprisingly, Patterson was among those singing the praises of his former team, voicing his support with a New Year’s Eve message on Twitter: So proud of the Frogs! Congrats! Now go win it!

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Patterson, like many others, is anxiously waiting to see if the Frogs can put the final exclamation point on a spectacular campaign that even their most ardent supporters would have thought impossible after a dismal 5-win, 7-loss effort in 2021.

Let the possibility soak in. How fantastic would it be if Fort Worth’s very own Horned Frogs were to win a national football championship, something most Frog fans have only dreamed about?

Along with the championship bid comes a spotlight TCU has never experienced before, and it’s a bright one. Even the 2010 team that finished 13-0 and No. 2 in the nation didn’t garner this level of attention. And, of course, with no social media and no games broadcast on TV, Meyer and his teams could never have imagined a college football world like the one that exists today.

Every sports program at TCU would benefit from a national football championship. Just contending for a title brings visibility and momentum to a university and its athletic programs. We saw that even before the Horned Frogs were in this position as TCU’s baseball team became a regular at the College World Series and the basketball team rose to new heights under alum Jamie Dixon.

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It goes without saying that such success will lead to better recruiting for the football program. The greatest high school and junior college players want to play where they have a chance to win the ultimate trophy. Just ask folks at Alabama.

And in this new age of transfer portals and NIL (name/image/likeness) deals, well, who doesn’t want to capitalize on being associated with the best of the best? Even Alabama has had several players transfer to TCU. When you’re taking players away from arguably the greatest dynasty in the history of college football, you have reached the pinnacle of respect.

Jason Sands, executive director of the Fort Worth Sports Commission, said having the hometown team front and center on one of the biggest sports stages in this country is a coattail he and others from Fort Worth are proud to ride.

“The exposure that stage brings to the city of Fort Worth and the world-class institution that is TCU is immeasurable,” Sands said. “City pride is at an all-time high as we rally around our Horned Frogs as they battle for a national championship.

“Regardless of the outcome, I think everyone can see that the future is bright for the TCU football program and that means good things for Fort Worth as well.”