FORT WORTH, Texas -- TCU has been an official member of the Big 12 less than a year, but TCU coach Gary Patterson has already seen things he'd never seen before in Fort Worth.
Some might take offense, but Patterson says it's a good sign for the Frogs' Big 12 impact.
"The thing I enjoy more than anything is the rivalries off the field and the fans and people who never flew their Oklahoma or Oklahoma State flag because they didn’t think it mattered in Fort Worth," Patterson said. "Now, you see all the flags all over the place."
Every team in the Big 12 has a sizeable contingent of alumni in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, but they all have to make a drive or get on a plane to see their favorite team play on a regular basis. It's unrealistic to expect those folks to become Frogs fans, but there's a big pool of others who could embrace purple very soon. Scoff if you want, but bandwagon fans are good for business.
"We’re the only team in the Big 12 who can say, if we win a national title, we’re coming back to the metroplex. So, for me, it’s about understanding that everybody will win in Dallas-Fort Worth if we can pull that off someday," Patterson said. "I feel like I’m part of it, feels like when the Rangers had success, when the Mavericks won the championship and the Cowboys back in the day, I think everybody feels like they’re a part of that, and so for me, it’s one of the goals. We’ve reached out to Fort Worth and become one, so now how do we reach out and make sure everybody feels that way?"
The biggest asset, Patterson says, is an atmosphere that Big 12 administrators, coaches and other people across the league lauded after their visits during the Frogs' inaugural lap around their new league. A new batch of Big 12 teams will head to Fort Worth in 2013 during the opposite cycle of the Frogs' Big 12 schedule (except Oklahoma State, thanks to a scheduling quirk), but he's hoping word got out of what game day is like at Amon G. Carter Stadium these days.
"What most people talk out here fan-wise is just how much they liked the stadium, and if you talk to most people in the Big 12, I don’t think they knew the atmosphere was going to be like it was at TCU, because maybe they’d been here 10-15 years ago when we’d been in the old Southwest Conference," Patterson said.
Every once in awhile, when BYU or Utah might make a trip to Fort Worth, that atmosphere might get ramped up. That was every week in 2012," Patterson said.
"I still remember the year we beat Utah here back in 2009 and there were about four kids who changed their mind that weekend who were committed to somebody else," Patterson said. "I think now a kid comes here and he sees that, he feels that energy. What we have to do is a couple of those ballgames (that we lost). You’ve got to win those games."
Wins could beget a big wave of exposure for TCU in a market full of football fans. Though growing TCU's program to the level Patterson wants is certainly ambitious, one other thing is also certain: The fan base and exposure has already grown in the past year, and will continue to do so. How much more growth will happen is heavily reliant upon what happens on the field in the near future.
The fan base might also grow thanks to more and more top-tier players in the metroplex signing on with the Frogs.
"I try to think about not just what’s good for TCU in general, but what’s good for Fort Worth in general," Patterson said. "I think when you do that, people keep supporting and appreciating, and it’s not just about wins and losses."