After paying $800,000 to get out of a two-year football series with North Carolina last fall, the Gophers on Tuesday announced a new home-and-home series with Texas Christian that will strengthen their 2014 and 2015 schedules, while providing financial relief, too.
The Gophers took North Carolina off their schedule for 2013 and 2014, replacing the Tar Heels with New Mexico State this fall in a widely criticized move that was designed to make it easier to reach a bowl game.
With the second half of the New Mexico State series not coming until 2016, the Gophers still had to replace the North Carolina game on their 2014 schedule. Spurred in part by the Big Ten’s desire to strengthen nonconference schedules, the Gophers reversed course, challenging a TCU team that moved to the Big 12 last season after going 47-5 over the previous four years. TCU had its own scheduling needs and agreed to a deal that will help Minnesota financially twice:
• On Sept. 13, 2014, Minnesota will play at TCU. The Horned Frogs will pay the Gophers $500,000 for that game.
• On Sept. 5, 2015, TCU will play the Gophers at TCF Bank Stadium, and the Gophers won’t pay TCU anything. Minnesota previously was scheduled to play South Dakota State on that date, but TCU agreed to take over that contract, which includes a $400,000 buyout for which Minnesota is no longer responsible.
“We are certainly excited about it,” Gophers athletic director Norwood Teague said. “[TCU] is a great opponent to bring to TCF Bank Stadium and also a great opponent to play on the road. So it’s a terrific deal financially, and we’re excited moving forward to have a great team on the schedule.”
The money and quality of opponent could help the Gophers stem the backlash from the $800,000 North Carolina buyout.
“We don’t take lightly having to spend that money,” Teague said. “And we heard it from a lot of our fans, but we really got lucky, and TCU was willing to be a really good partner in the deal.”
With the four-team College Football Playoff coming in 2014, the Big Ten is determined to bolster nonconference schedules, adding more BCS (Bowl Championship Series) opponents and removing FCS (Football Championship Subdivision, formerly Division I-AA) opponents.
In 2015, TCU will help the Gophers accomplish both goals. After years of dominating the Mountain West Conference, the Horned Frogs went 7-6 last year after moving to the Big 12. David Benedict, the Gophers’ executive associate athletic director, has a relationship with Texas Christian AD Chris Del Conte, dating to their time together in the Pac-12 Conference.
“I think a lot of it was timing,” Benedict said. “They needed a game. We needed a game, and I think we made a compelling case that for it to work out, it was going to have to be a positive situation for us.”
Under coach Gary Patterson, TCU went 13-0 two years ago and defeated Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. Scheduling the Horned Frogs is a leap of faith for the Gophers after avoiding the Tar Heels, who were 23-15 over the past three seasons.
“We made the North Carolina decision with the information we had at that time,” Teague said. “We provided a bit of a cushion and some breathing room for ’13. But we went to a bowl game this year, [coach Jerry Kill’s] doing a phenomenal job. And we feel like it’s time to put a BCS opponent back on the schedule.”
Kill was a proponent of dropping North Carolina from the schedule, but Teague said he was on board with adding TCU.
“They have been one of the best college football teams in the nation the last five years,” Kill said through a team spokesman. “I have known Coach Patterson for a long time, and he will have his team well prepared. It will be a tremendous test for us and will be a fun game for our players and fans.”