With all the hype about the new Amon Carter Stadium, the Rose Bowl champion football team and the football powerhouse that is the Big 12 Conference, the focus is easily set on how the move to the Big 12 will affect TCU football.
However, the change in conferences has effects across the athletic spectrum. The baseball program is one that is impacted significantly by the switch.
The Big 12 is a very good baseball conference, as well. It has sent teams to the College World Series almost every year. TCU baseball will be presented with a bigger challenge in the new conference, but has some experience with Big 12 foes.
“It’s nice to be familiar with the teams,” TCU head baseball coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “We’ve played [Big 12 teams] in non-conference, we’ve played them in regionals, super-regionals and other tournaments, so it’s nice to know the facilities.”
TCU posted a record of 10-4 against six different Big 12 opponents in the 2011 season.
Schlossnagle said even in the Mountain West, the team always has strong opponents in mind.
“We’re trying to win a national championship in baseball, so we’re always trying to prepare for the very best teams,” Schlossnagle said.
Playing against Big 12 schools on a regular basis will be a different experience, as now the team will be competing in three-game weekend series rather than games in the middle of the week.
Schlossnagle said playing on the weekend would be a new challenge. TCU will see opponents’ top three pitchers and vice-versa.
“Mid-week games can be deceiving one way or the other based on who is available on the mound,” Schlossnagle said. “The weekend series and just competing over the course of three days is going to be a lot of fun.”
The Frogs went 3-2 in single games and 7-2 in three-game series against Big 12 opponents last season.
The switch to the Big 12 will present the baseball program and every other athletic program with games within a closer geographic distance.
The closest opponent in the Mountain West conference this season is New Mexico, which is more than 620 miles away. Three MWC opponents require a trip that exceeds 1,000 miles, including a 1,600-mile trip to Boise State.
In the Big 12, most of TCU’s games will be played within a 300-mile radius. Schlossnagle said he is excited about the shorter trips.
“I’m excited for some bus trips,” he said. “My family can get in the car and come to the games, and we won’t be flying all the time.”
TCU baseball finished last season ranked 10th in the nation in attendance, and was number one in attendance among private schools.
Schlossnagle said he hoped that shorter travel would boost the program’s attendance even more.
TCU can do even better, and playing against Big 12 teams on a weekend should draw even more fans, Schlossnagle said.
For the baseball team, the move is still in the distant future, as it has to complete its Mountain West tenure in the spring of 2012. Schlossnagle said the move is bittersweet at this time because of the wait, but the team is excited about the move.
The players are excited their parents get to see them play more, but the team is a long way off from the preparation aspect, he said.
All TCU athletics programs will be active in the Big 12 athletic conference as of July 1, 2012.