Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Arrieta gets the call

After Scott Atchison began the year with the Red Sox and Andrew Cashner's recent call-up to the Cubs, Jake Arrieta is set to become the third Horned Frog to play in the bigs this year when he makes his Major League debut for the Orioles against the Yankees tomorrow.

Arrieta, who was Mountain West Pitcher of the Year and 2nd-Team All-America at TCU in 2006, had an ERA of just 1.85 in his short (12 games) stay at Triple-A.

I'm not saying you're scared, but...

It's fairly ironic that the NCAA has forced Texas to play TCU in such an important baseball series this weekend, what with the UT administration hard at work continuing the behind-the-scenes wheeling & dealing they've been at since the early '90s to distance themselves from their smaller, more purple neighbors 180 miles to the north.

Rumors are flying around left and right about who might be leaving this conference to join that conference, but it's looking more and more like Nebraska and Missouri hold the keys to everything. If they bolt to the Big Ten, the remaining ten schools of the Big 12 will have a choice: add two new members and remain a conference, or disband. Ultimately, the choice rests on Texas, unquestionably the alpha university in the conference thanks to their enormous alumni base and even larger legion of T-shirt fans. All of those eyeballs = power.

And so what interest does UT have in adding TCU, a solid athletic department (and burgeoning football and baseball power) in the largest media market within the conference's geographic footprint? None, apparently, as they either want to enter into an unprecedentedly widespread conference (the "Pac 16"), or to add BYU and Air Force to the Big 12.

But maybe the Longhorns just want to make sure they've always got TCU as an option for non-conference scheduling? Looking back over the years, that doesn't seem to be the case, though. They turned down a proposed home & home football series, preferring instead to only play the Frogs in Austin. This during a stretch in which they've played at UTEP, Central Florida and Wyoming. Hmmmm. But, given the difficulty of non-conference football scheduling (only 4 games a year) and the fact that they consider the DFW market to be "covered" by their annual game in Dallas against OU (even though the idea that an extra game in the Metroplex would be a bad thing is ridiculous), I'll give them a pass on football.

But what about the other sports, in which schools can schedule a plethora of non-conference opponents? Surely there is some interest on Texas' part in regularly competing with a former conference foe located within a 2.5 hour drive of Austin (and in the middle of prime recruiting territory for every sport), right? Even then, TCU shows up on the Longhorns' regular-season schedules with such irregularity that it makes you wonder.

Going back to 2000, the two men's basketball teams have played just once, in Austin of course. The Lady Longhorn and Lady Frog basketball teams, both perennial NCAA Tournament qualifiers, have not played at all in that time. They did agree to a home & home baseball series for the 2009 season, but backed out of the game in Fort Worth just before the season started, telling Coach Schlossnagle he still had the option of bringing his team to Austin, which he accepted only because he knew there was a chance they'd end up playing at Disch-Falk in the postseason, which turned out to be wise. The men's tennis teams from both schools haven't played in a regularly-scheduled match since 2000, and the women's teams have played just once in the regular season...iiiin Austin...oooof course. In fact, in the past ten years, the University of Texas has sent an athletic team to Fort Worth to play TCU just once- a women's soccer match in 2008.

So again, I'm not saying Texas is scared of TCU. But it does seem odd the lengths to which they've been willing to go in order to avoid them. Given the relative size of the universities and the athletic prowess of the larger of the two, though, I would say it's based much more on arrogance. Texas thinks they are "above" playing TCU, which is just another reason why this weekend's series is so important.

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