Dick Harmon: How long will BYU keep playing TCU?

Published: Saturday, Feb. 19 2011 11:00 p.m. MST

FORT WORTH, Texas — Will BYU ever play TCU in football again?

That was the question I posed to athletic director Chris Del Conte during halftime of the men's basketball game at a sold-out Daniel-Mayer Coliseum on Saturday.

After all, BYU and ESPN kind of came to TCU's rescue this month when Texas Tech dropped the Frogs from their football schedule. BYU and TCU will meet on Oct. 28, 2011 at the Dallas Cowboy Stadium in nearby Arlington.

For that matter, will the Frogs play BYU in basketball again? Certainly selling out an arena is a big deal for Conte and TCU since the last time this happened in basketball was six years ago with a Texas Tech game on campus.

Conte didn't give a clear answer tied to a date and time, but he said all the right things, politically setting the stage for a continued athletic relationship between the two schools.

"Oh, we'd always like to continue that," Del Conte said. "I think that is a great rivalry between these two schools. Like I've said, I've known Bronco and your athletic director for years, and it's been competitive and a great rivalry and any time we can continue that rivalry, I'm all for it in my book."

Thus, a rematch in October. Maybe beyond, as BYU will need friendships with former foes to fill out its independent slate in football.

What will make it tough is the Frogs will spend one more season in the MWC before joining the Big East, where they'll have the likes of Syracuse, Notre Dame, UConn and Georgetown in this basketball arena. Football also has to be included in the Big East plans.

Just fiddling with that challenge will take all TCU's focus in the near future. But if there is a calendar fallout like the one TCU had in recent weeks, Del Conte will keep BYU on speed dial.

Del Conte says BYU-TCU in Dallas Stadium is a winner.

"It's big. Tom Holmoe is a great friend of mine. Bronco Mendenhall I've known since we were in college together at Oregon State. So, it's a great thing. We have a good rivalry going on between both schools, and it's nice that we can get a game between these two schools in Dallas Stadium and then today, (here) we have a great crowd and it's been fun."

ESPN played a big part in putting the Oct. 28 game together.

"It's fabulous," said Del Conte of the media giant. "It's a great partnership. Anytime you can play on ESPN and get two programs with a great tradition, it's fantastic."

The TCU athletic director wouldn't talk money, he may not know. But when BYU played Oklahoma in Jerry's House, the Cougars made around a million dollars.

"No, that's (money) all to be worked out. We just have to make sure we have a game," he said.

Since coming to TCU from Rice University in Houston, Del Conte is enjoying a remarkable run in Fort Worth. He came from an 0-9 Rice football team when TCU was 9-0. While Midas already touched the Frogs, Del Conte's now gathering in the gold.

TCU is a hot commodity. I asked Del Conte if he still had some Rose Bowl dust sprinkled on his clothes.

He laughed. Proud, Texas proud.

You see, things in Austin haven't been so pretty lately with the Longhorns failing to make a bowl game. The football story in college football in this big football crazy state has been all TCU, not Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M or Baylor.

That means something.

In the past 15 months, TCU finished No. 2 in football, made it to the College World Series in baseball and is currently No. 1 in the nation in baseball with a left-hander, Matt Perke, possibly the No. 1 pick in the Major League draft.

Plus, TCU is switching to a BCS conference.

A $100 million renovation is underway on their football stadium and a new weight room that will double its current size. Then there's a new locker and equipment room on board.

The Frogs are big-time. Even if, like on Saturday, it took BYU to fill their aging basketball arena.

Rose Bowl victors?

"It was great, fantastic. It was big for TCU, it was huge for Fort Worth," said Del Conte.

What does a Rose Bowl win do?

"I think just the validation for all the hard work the football coaches have put in the last decade," said Del Conte.

"Not only does it validate athletics but academics. We have a chancellor who dares to be great academically, not just athletically. That is his mantra. He's engaged that we can compete on the highest level and if we can compete in academics, we're going to do it at the highest level there and in athletics. We've built 12 to 15 dorms and athletic buildings on campus in the last three to five years and athletics is just following suit in that endeavor."

TCU, a private school, received 20,000 applicants for 1,600 admission spots last year. "The effect of TCU globally," said Del Conte. "Everyone is talking about the Frogs."

For now, TCU is in control of college football in Texas.

"That's the way it should be," said the AD. "Things go in cycles and right now it's our time in baseball and in football; it's a great time in the sun and we're going to continue that momentum."

e-mail: dharmon@desnews.com

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