Over the course of their 100-plus years on the gridiron, the TCU Horned Frogs have spent time in a number of federations, including the Western Athletic Conference, the Mountain West Conference, Conference USA, and the Big 12. Since 1996, the university has jumped leagues four different times. While they may bounce around, one thing never changes: opponents continue to “Fear the Frog.”
From 1896 to 1953, Texas Christian registered just one campaign in last place. The club from Fort Worth was competitive right out of the gate, but it was during the 1930s that they began to show flashes of their championship clout. Hall of Fame quarterback Sammy Baugh began his storied career with the Purple and White, receiving All-American honors twice and leading the Frogs to a share of the national title in 1935. “Slingin’ Sammy” left some big shoes to fill, but 5’5” Davey O’Brien had no trouble slipping into them. In ‘38, the diminutive passer guided TCU to a perfect season and a second NCAA crown, and also nabbed the Heisman Trophy. As a lasting tribute to his excellence both on and off the field, the Davey O’Brien Award was created in 1977 and is given annually to the top college quarterback in the country.
After a win at the Cotton Bowl in ‘57, the Frogs experienced a slight hiccup in the quest to add to their trophy case. Between ‘58 and ‘94, TCU appeared in just five postseason contests and was denied victory each time. Coach Dennis Franchione ended the drought in ‘98 when his squad went 7-5 and won on the Sun Bowl stage. Two years later, Franchione orchestrated a 10-win campaign but stepped down before the season ended. Gary Patterson then assumed the reins, transforming TCU into one of the strongest programs in the country. Under his watch, the Purple and White turned 10-win showings into a routine and booked numerous trips to the postseason, including the school’s first-ever BCS appearance in ‘09. In ‘10, Patterson’s squad posted an undefeated season and downed Wisconsin at the Rose Bowl to cement their status as one the nation’s elite gridiron crews.
On Saturdays at Amon G. Carter Stadium, more than 45,000 screaming fans pack the coliseum to show off their Purple Pride. They greet one another by clenching their fists and curling their first and middle fingers. It may look strange to anyone unfamiliar with Texas football customs, but in Fort Worth, it simply serves as a way to let foes know that the Frogs are ready for a fight.
The Longhorns may be more renowned and the Aggies more popular, but TCU diehards aren’t concerned with any of that. The Horned Frog faithful have their sights set on something way bigger than statewide bragging rights. They’re ready for their next national championship, so that they can confidently strut their stuff wherever they go.