Texas Christian University has not claimed a national football championship since World War II.
The last time it was in 1938. Before that, it was in 1935, when two-time All-American center forward and captain Darrell Lester helped lead the team.
Lester’s great granddaughter, Katherine Lester, is now a senior at TCU.
“My grandfather is really proud of it,” Lester said. “He likes to talk about it a lot. He has, like, a whole room in the house where everything is just for TCU.”
She was there when TCU beat Michigan 51-45 on Christmas Eve in the Fiesta Bowl, a win that surprised both fans and the nation. With freshman head coach Sonny Dykes and a football team that didn’t make it into the rankings last season, every time football fans talk about the Horned Frogs, the one word that gets repeated is “underdog.”
Now, TCU will face the University of Georgia Bulldogs, the top-place national champion in Los Angeles on Monday night, and TCU students, alumni, and other hardcore fans will have the chance to cheer for their local team on an even bigger stage.
Lester said she is delighted that the team is entering a new era of success in its final year. She attended a Fiesta Bowl game and flies back to California to see the Frogs.
“I’m sure there are some doubts in people’s minds,” she said. “But I mean, the whole season we were saying, ‘We want Georgia,’ and here we are.”
Like many college football fans, Lester said walking back and forth and coordinated purple and white outfits are part of the TCU student gaming tradition.
Then there’s the Hypnotoad, an image of a toad with psychedelic eyes from Futurama an episode that was used by TCU fans and its athletics department.
“Everyone posts them on their stories and we all send them to each other and, like, everyone has been really busy with it this year,” Lester said.
While the hypnotoad is often seen as a good luck charm, Jeffrey Mitchell, co-host of the FrogCast podcast, says there is no magic: that moment is long overdue for the hard-working team.
“In 2014, if you ask any TCU fan who should have made the playoffs, they’ll say, ‘TCU should have made the playoffs,'” Mitchell said. “And the argument that Frog fans would make is that they were excluded because they are, quote, not a ‘gay-blood program’.”
Although TCU was not successful that year, the introduction of the College Football playoffs in 2014 gave teams like TCU a better chance of winning the championship. Previously, the Bowl Championship series relied more heavily on a subjective and non-transparent selection process that favored larger, more prestigious programs.
The committee now selects four teams for the playoffs. TCU is the first Texas team to make the playoffs.
Next year, the playoff pool will be expanded to 12 teams, opening the door to even more schools. And once a team makes the playoffs, it can control its own destiny, potentially balancing the rules of the game for some of the lesser-known schools.
The Georgia Bulldogs have been undefeated all season and are looking to win their second national championship in a row. But Mitchell said it’s not a David and Goliath story: what TCU may lack in name recognition, he said fans make up for with dedication.
“TCU is at the center of the state and at the center of a metropolitan area that is more passionate about football than any other state in the country,” Mitchell said.
Steve Stroud is President of the Dallas TCU Alumni Association. He knows the football world can turn up its nose at the Horned Frogs and their small fan base. But Stroud said TCU has been on the map for a long time. Now everyone is looking.
“You know, you don’t need 50,000 of us to be good at something,” Stroud said. “You just need a few people to come in and do it really well.”
Despite some naysayers, others have shown unwitting respect for TCU—even future opponents of the school.
Sara Sekrist plays drums for the Redcoats at the University of Georgia. She said she doesn’t know much about the Horned Frogs, but of all the other teams that could make it to the championship, she’s glad TCU is the one standing up to her school.
“Even though I want to beat them, I know it will mean a lot to them and it will be a great story for them if they can win too,” said Sekrist.
On Monday, fans will see how this story ends.
How to watch TCU vs. Georgia in the National College Football Championship playoffs live
SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles
Date of: Monday, January 9, 2023
Time: 18:30 CT
Any advice? Write to Toluvani Osibamowo at [email protected]
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