All of those things listed above were going BONKERS when I queried GP in front of the crowd.
As GP wound down his annual speech at the Coaches' Event last night, based on past experience I knew he was going to open up the floor to questions. Also based on past experience, I knew few were going to ask any questions of true substance and most were just using the opportunity to hear themselves shower the man himself with praise and affection. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but considering that this is the only time each year for 75% of the folks in attendance to get a semi-intimate audience with the greatest coach in America, you'd think you might dig a little deeper than, "Coach, Congratulations!"
So this year I was ready. This year, as I was sitting there letting my sixth Miller Lite course through my system, I knew exactly what I was going to ask and viewed it as the most important question that could possibly be tossed out at that particular moment. This year, GP was going to remember who I was, possibly invite me over to sit at the head table with him, and definitely get my phone number to call and give me important tactical updates during the season. So after being overlooked a few times, he recognized my arm hanging feebly in the air and I stood up, armed with what I saw as being one of the most important questions of the off season. It was a kind of moment that played out in slow motion as I tried to pick just the right words to strike a particular rapport.
And it was one of the most absolutely terrifying moments in my recent memory.
But more on that later. CLIFFHANGER!!!
Yesterday in my reminder about the event I mentioned that it had yet to sell out, which I attributed to the change of venue. Well, that turned out to be absolutely correct, as the Frontiers of Flight museum was not only a much more unique location, but it was also much larger and, ya know, actually IN Dallas. 450 may not sound like a TON of folks attending an event with all of the TCU honchos that matter, but when you consider that was three times as many people than have attended in past years, that's a pretty significant upgrade. The Frog Club really hit a home run with this one and I would expect the venue to remain the same for the foreseeable future.
But enough about the logistics - all you care about is what Coach P had to say, and since I'm feeling so generous this morning, I'll lead with that so that you don't have to wade through all of the baseball and basketball muckity muck.
Just kidding - totes making you wade through it. For the sake of chronology, of course.
After consuming our promised convenience store BBQ and domestic libations, Athletic Director Chris Del Conte was first up on the podium to give his state of the department... or, more to the point, the state of the football stadium. I'll be honest, due to said libations I missed part of his speech due to the evacuation process, so I cannot be sure of ALL that he said. And to add insult to injury, WWHD and I were aggressively bidding the Lunch with CDC silent auction item and were taken down at the 11th hour, so it looks like we'll never be able to clarify all of the specifics. But, here is what I can recall, in bullet form:
- First of all, I think the thing everyone noticed was CDC's remarkably even tan, which suggests that the new spray tan craze may be suitable for Y Chromosome types these days. CDC is such a likable guy, so if he's on board, I'm on board.
- The biggest thing he mentioned was how close we are to raising all of the money for the east side of the stadium renovation, sitting right at $142 extra, extra large. The way he was working the room before and after the speeches, I'd hazard a guess that we're a few steps closer to our overall goal of $160 (?) mill. this morning.
- He also mentioned that we have already sold a record 20K season tickets this year, which, as lyle has always reminded you, significantly decreases the number of tickets that will be available for walk up purchase this year at Amon G in its current domestically abused state. 20K may not sound like a whole lot of guaranteed tickets, but when CDC mentioned that in 1998 sales were a paltry 8K it makes the number sound a lot more prominent.
- Speaking of the banged up state of Amon G, he again brought up the fact that some seats will be moved. My seats in Section V in the ticketing system show to be the same as last year, but until they are actually in my sweaty hand, I'm not holding my breath. He also said we get to experience the joy of portapottys inside the stadium as well as out while the renovations continue, so we've got that going for us.
CDC ended his speech with raised Frogs and a cheer of "ROSE BOWL!" which would prove to be a trend as the evening progressed. Next up was the only switcheroo on the evening as Women's BBall Coach Jeff Mittie appeared to speak instead of Jim Christian. Normally I'd say this was a bad thing because we'd all much rather hear about Mens Basketball than Women's, but at least we got to hear from the Coach of a team who understands Conference Championships and post season success. Here's what he had to say:
- Alright, so I kinda phased him out. Sue me. Nice guy, though. And apparently we play the defending national champs aggy at home this year so he really wanted everyone to come out for that as to avoid a hostile takeover situation like what happened when Jimmer came to town. Sorry Coach, but as aggy will support literally any athletic success they might experience to block out the fact that their football team hasn't been relevant in a decade and a half, you're probably losing that battle.
After Mittie, too, ended his speech with raised Frogs and, "ROSE BOWL!" it was Coach Schloss' time to shine, or "Captain Kirk" as Brian Estridge referred to him for some Trekkie related reason that I cannot recall. After brusquely suggesting Brian find a new nickname for him, here's what Coach had to say:
- First off, it's pretty nuts that he's been here for 9 years. That made me feel old. He also made mention of the fact that his and GP's houses directly back up to one another, which is pretty funny and actually exactly how I think we'd all want it to be. He also had a quick anecdote that suggested his family potentially has voyeuristic, Home Improvement inspired tendencies when it comes to their across-the-fence neighbor, but can you really blame them?
- As far as baseball talk, you could tell that the result of this year's season still REALLY eats away at him to the point that he said something like, "I wished we could've played Cal-Berkeley because I'd have liked to see how they handled coming in to Lupton with 6000 fans rooting against them. I really think we would've been back in the CWS." A little more sour grapes that you want to hear, yes, but pretty heartbreaking because you could just tell he knew this was arguably the best team he has ever fielded in his coaching career. He followed that up with the age old, "no excuses" adage, but as this was almost immediately after he mentioned the injuries to the pitching staff the Frogs cruelly suffered throughout the season, the words rang a little hollow. Still, as long as he sticks around in Fort Worth, there are going to be other, possibly greater opportunities coming his way.
- As for the future though, things may be looking a little brighter than they once did. Of our 8 draftees this year, 3 still remain unsigned, and those 3 could go pretty far in making or breaking our season next year should they choose to return. He was unclear on the statuses of Jason Coats and Matt Purke, but every day that goes by without them putting ink to paper is a positive one in my mind. As for Kaleb Merck, Schloss feels pretty confident that he will be back in Fort Worth next season and will hopefully provide us the closing threat we so sorely lacked this season.
- As for our incoming class, you'll recall that 7 potential Frogs were selected last month. Of those 7, only Sherman Pitcher Kyle Crick has signed an MLB contract. Schloss didn't offer up any news on Kevin Cron and the rest of the gang, but he seemed confident that we would be able to hold onto four or five of those guys and that this should be enough to continue TCU's decade of diamond dominance. Like that? I just made it up.
After Schloss also ended his speech with raised Frogs and, "ROSE BOWL!" it was time for the main event, one which GP was clearly ready to get on with as he was already on the podium even before he was announced and had stated, "We're 0-0" before a standing ovation could even ensue. Which, of course, it did.
So I realize you aren't supposed to lead off your story with the juicy stuff, but there were clearly two things that stood out to me and everyone else in the room that need to go up top. First, after making some aside about, "running down the street naked with a bottle of wine," in reference to a future celebration of his coaching success, GP deadpanned something like, "Well, I probably shouldn't say that with some of the pictures that have surfaced this week," which resulted in uncomfortable groans and a few crickets. But for those of you who had 2 minutes in your "How long will it take GP to address the Pachall situation in his speech?" pool, congratulations, you're all winners! His public stance on the topic? That Casey was with his family at a non-alcoholic State Park for a softball tournament. I'm not going to call either guy a liar, and I really hope that is the case, but if you choose to be skeptical on the topic, I'm not going to sit here and say I blame you. But if it is true, then Casey seems like a much sillier guy than I would've thought. However, as the speech went on, GP made it pretty clear that Pachall is going to be the QB this year, so the situation is seemingly handled and all of you bridge jumpers can back off the ledge a little bit. The pragmatic fans among us always felt like this was a pretty overblown situation to begin with, and it would appear that they were correct.
So now, the big, huge, anticlimactic moment - how did Spitblood's first public interaction with the man himself go?? Well, it went something like this:
"Coach, it's clear that we're pretty loaded in the backfield, so what do you see for guys like Aundre Dean and Dwight Smith as far as getting in the rotation?"
I thought I handled it pretty well, and I expected to hear a positive response. Instead, I got this:
"Well, Aundre Dean isn't on the team anymore."
MAS CRICKETS!! How did this happen? How did we miss #30 getting booted from the team? Was his posting of that practice video where he made Pachall get died REALLY that big of a deal? I turned to the guys at my table, who were still kind of stunned that I dared to even address a man of GP's magnitude directly AND look him in the eye, and got a lot of confused head shaking.
Well, as it turns out, GP misspoke, but the thing he misspoke is probably even more gut punching than his original statement. What he MEANT to say was that Dwight Smith will, for the forseeable future, remain the man, the myth, the legend as he has always been. Now, at the time I took this as HUGE, SPITBLOOD BREAKING NEWS!!! and started getting the word out that the player we've had the highest hopes for for two years, the player who could allegedly start for any NFL team, would never see the field as a Horned Frog. But still, the way he said was very confusing, so I couldn't be for sure exactly what he meant. So I did the unthinkable, the one thing even his own players might not ask him to do.
I asked him to clarify.
"So Coach, did you mean Dwight Smith is no longer on the team?"
Oh well damn it all to HELL, what does THAT mean? Does it mean he's no longer on the team? Does it mean, "No, that is not what I meant?" WHAT IS THIS CROSS THAT I HAVE TO BEAR?!?!
After the speech was completely over, beings with the means to have far greater access to GPs words of wisdom that I everwill finally got it locked down: No, Dwight Smith is not on the team, at least not CURRENTLY. Right now he is going the JUCO route to get his grades up and will hopefully, one day, emerge from the mist like a Sasquatch and become TCU's all time leading rusher, be immediately inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame on the day that he is drafted, and then save the President from an alien invasion like Will Smith and retire to his private island which he will have repopulated with dinosaurs genetically reconstructed from fossilized mosquito blood. Anything less will pretty much mean he's a failure at this point. Since I did not hear this directly, I cannot say with 100% certainty this is the case, but I have no reason to believe it is not. Take that for what you will, but it sounds like the chances of Dwight Smith ever taking the field as a Horned Frog are slimmer than the lovely Miss Texas, who was also in attendance at the event.
So now that we've gotten past that, what else did GP have to say? On to the bullets:
- Between all of the synapses that were going off in my brain in response to the Dwight Smith bomb, GP actually did offer up a pretty thorough answer to my question. Ed Wesley is going to be our RB, but is still not entirely healthy. He sat out parts of spring drills and still has a moderate road ahead of him to be 100%. However, GP did mention that Matthew Tucker, especially, had a fantastic spring, as did Waymon James and we should expect to see them as much as we did last season, if not more. Aundre Dean is currently our 4th string running back, but it sounds like he has pretty big expectations for the former 5 Star athlete out of Katy. I've heard a bold prediction that #30 will be our leading rusher next year, and while GP didn't say anything to that regard, after listening to his speech it sounds like we should by no means rule it out. Regardless, my assertion of our "loaded" backfield seemed to be generally accepted as truth by GP.
- Patterson didn't really talk TOO much about the Rose Bowl, which was entirely fine by me because what more can really be said about that moment, but he did address it. In very typical GP fashion, he almost made it sound like, beyond being on the podium, he didn't allow himself to enjoy it too much because he was already thinking several steps ahead about how he was responsible for getting a bunch of teenagers and twenty-somethings home safely from Southern California. He didn't mention it, but I think it goes without saying that he was already, somewhere deep in his mind, weighing how the win could adversely affect this year's team from a psychological standpoint. He made mention of how the toughest obstacle he's facing going into two-a-days - which start in 2.5 weeks! - is getting the team to put a chip firmly back on their shoulders after all of the recent success. I think he's up to the task, but we are definitely going to get a healthy dose of just exactly what the new era of the TCU athlete will look like this year.
- Addressing the "MWC hates TCU" situation, Gary offered up as kind of words as possible for the Conference itself, especially Craig Thompson, and said we should really blame the President's and Athletic Director's of the other schools because they are ultimately the ones who screwed us. So channel your hate accordingly. Along those lines, he also brought it to attention that Boise has an off week before they play UNLV, the team they play the week before we come to town. So, presuming that Chris Petersen and his staff prioritize correctly, they won't be giving UNLV two weeks worth of attention, so they essentially have two weeks to prepare for us. Seriously, Craig, you're not off my shit list quite yet.
- For those who were not aware, the motto for this year's team is "DO IT NOW," which seems appropriate under the circumstances. I think a lot of us have tempered our expectations about the team due to the losses, but Patterson hasn't. It's going to be a tough row to hoe earning a third consecutive undefeated regular season, but the team can't afford to sit back and with the attitude that they will take their lumps this year and gain valuable experience. They, literally, have to do it now. No pressure, though.
- During the Q&A, I believe someone asked who would be the team leader this season without Dalton, to which he basically said it's going to come down to the QB, of course meaning Pachall. However, in the same moment, he mentioned that the success of the team isn't going to rest 100% on the the QBs shoulders, clearly alluding to our ground game. So while I think he fully expects Pachall under center this fall, it sounds like he's still trying to "grow him up" a little and isn't going to pile on the unrealistic expectations which we all have been guilty of doing ever since he signed his LOI. Look what you've done, Brian Smith.
- Another person asked him what his biggest concerns were heading into the year, and he specifically highlighted three areas: Offensive Line, Wide Receiver and Safety. Two of those are probably on all of our lists, but I was surprised to hear him say Wide Out considering we have Josh Boyce, Antoine Hicks and Skye Dawson. But, I suppose any time you lose that much Senior leadership at a certain position, it's cause for concern. As for safety, he was very, very high on Elisha Olabode, Johnny Fobbs and, especially, Jonathan Anderson, so expect all of those guys to see a hefty number of snaps this fall. Like I've always said, if we can't trust GP to put together a winning defense even with a bunch of untested parts, then clearly we've been missing the point the past ten years. He really didn't go into detail about the offensive line, which is KINDA concerning, but hopefully our top notch strength and conditioning program working in concert with two-a-day reps will work out those kinks.
And really, those were the most important things I can remember. He talked a little more about the Rose Bowl - particularly the moment after Tank knocked down the 2 pt conversion and, rather than celebrate, how he instead took out his frustrations on Alex Ibiloye blowing his coverage. He also spoke very highly about Chris Del Conte, who I think we all recognize is one of the superior Athletic Director's in the entire country, although it certainly helps when your team is good and your donations are heavily tied to the Texas oil fields.
However, perhaps my favorite part of his speech came about midway through when he was talking about the upcoming season. Believe it or not - joking - he has already gone through tape of all of our early season opponents, having watched every single game from last season for Baylor and Air Force at least. And in some roundabout way his obsession in being over-prepared and how his wife sees it came up. As he put, his wife often tells him, "I love Gary, but Coach Patterson is kind of an asshole." Just like we want him to be. Just perfect.