Gophers AD Teague calls addition of TCU series a 'terrific' deal
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The addition of a future home-and-home series with Texas Christian University was the type of deal the Minnesota Gophers were in need of making.
A bounty of criticism was directed at coach Jerry Kill's program in October when the Gophers spent $800,000 to buy its way out of a two-year series with North Carolina in 2013 and 2014. The move, which Kill adamantly defended as necessary given the state of the program at the time, left Minnesota with a slate of lackluster upcoming non-conference schedules, void of a BCS-level opponent until 2017.
But the Gophers, who are in the third year of Kill's rebuilding attempt, slightly softened the disapproval of their recent low-risk scheduling on Tuesday by announcing their agreement with the Big 12's TCU.
"I feel good about the fact that we provided Jerry with some breathing room this fall with the non-conference schedule," Gophers athletic director Norwood Teague said Tuesday. "Knowing what we knew when we made the North Carolina decision, that's a good thing. But it was time to add a stronger team into the mix for '14 and '15."
Under the deal, the Gophers will travel to TCU for their third game of the 2014 season (Sept. 13). They will receive a payout of $500,000 in return. One year later, the Gophers will host TCU at TCF Bank Stadium in their season opener (Sept. 5), which Minnesota does not have to provide a payout for.
In addition, TCU has taken on responsibility for the $400,000 buyout of the previous contract the Gophers had with FCS-level South Dakota State for their game in 2015 that has now been replaced.
"Financially it's a very good deal for us. It's terrific," Teague said. "It wasn't the only factor in the equation ... But the timing was right."
By adding TCU to their slate, the Gophers are starting to adapt to the scheduling changes that the Big Ten is pushing. The Big Ten is prepared to move to a non-game conference schedule in 2016, while also aiming to prevent the scheduling of FCS opponents.
Taking on TCU, a program that had gone 47-5 in a four-year span before being added to the Big 12 for the 2012 season, Teague said "certainly gets (the Gophers) used to" the required upgrade in competition.
The deal with the Horned Frogs was put in motion in large part due to Teague and executive associate athletic director David Benedict's previous relationship with TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte.
Kill and TCU coach Gary Patterson have a close bond that dates back to their origins growing up in small towns in Kansas. Kill was Patterson's best man in his wedding. However, Teague downplayed the role the pair's relationship played in setting up the upcoming meeting between the two programs, although he insisted Kill has been on board with the move since the negotiations began.
The Gophers did not end their now four-year streak of non-winning seasons last year (6-7), but they did double the program's win total from the previous two years combined and made their first bowl appearance since 2009. Kill concluded his third spring with the team on April 27 with the Gophers' annual spring game, which brought out a respectable crowd of 8,000 fans.
There is still a sizable gape between the Gophers and reaching a level of respectability in the Big Ten, but Teague has repeatedly vocalized that he is pleased with the direction the program seems to be reverting in.
"I just want to see constant improvement, and sometimes that's not related to wins and losses," Teague said. "I see a lot of improvements day to day. That's really encouraging for me. Jerry's a wonderful coach."