As we mentioned in our TCU Spring Primer yesterday , the impending divorce between the Horned Frogs and the Mountain West isn't going to be the amicable type. The conference has responded to TCU's defection to the Big East by inflicting various 2011 schedule-related indignities on the Frogs, including switching their home date against Boise State to a road trip and ignoring TCU's request for a Sept. 10 bye week in favor of a trip to Air Force.
Though Gary Patterson hasn't ever been the sort of coach to rant and rave about forces outside of his control -- see his subdued reaction to the BCS championship conversation excluding his undefeated Frogs each of the past two seasons -- his recent comments have made it clear that he is not pleased with the way his team has been treated:
The schedule stinks.
But nobody at TCU seems all that surprised.
Humored, maybe, as football coach Gary Patterson described himself. Or peeved, as some inside the athletic offices put it ...
"I realize a lot of this is dictated by TV," Patterson said, as spring drills prepared to begin last week. "But if the league said we could have one scheduling request, why didn’t we get it? I’m wondering who else had their requests ignored."
Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Gil LeBreton called the scheduling decisions "bush league" this week, writing that "I thought the league was classier than that."
Certainly, the conference's treatment of TCU isn't entirely "sporting" or "gentlemanly." But there's not much sporting or gentlemanly about the entire BCS system, one that virtually guarantees that a team like the Frogs will abandon the MWC for the greener pastures of an automatic BCS bid at the very first opportunity.
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For the MWC to be able to fend off any future suitors for their new flagship program at Boise -- particularly in light of the fellow defections from Utah and BYU -- they'll almost certainly have to be awarded that bid as soon as possible, and if they can snag a more lucrative television contract along the way, so much the better. Playing nice with TCU does nothing to help the MWC accomplish either of those goals; a Boise win over the Frogs, for instance, counts torwards the numbers in the league's bid application and damages the standing of the conference most likely to have its bid stripped.
Even from a simple perception standpoint, it's worth it to the MWC to saddle TCU with as many obstacles as possible. If the Frogs wipe the floor with the league on their way out, there won't be any hiding from the fact that the conference may have been irreperably damaged goods. If they lose two or three conference games and watch Boise or even San Diego State ascend to the league's top ladder ... well, which one of these scenarios do you think represents the stronger position for the MWC when it comes time to negotiate that next TV contract?
It would be great if everyone in the conference expansion wars played nice and got along and sat down for tea. But the real-world demands of the BCS and its millions means that's a chump's game. You can't blame TCU for feeling aggrieved, but you also can't blame the MWC for refusing to play it.