New TCU athletic director Jeremiah Donati has plenty of existing and potential projects in front of him in the early months of his tenure.
Donati, who took over in December after Chris Del Conte went to Texas, answered questions on the state of TCU athletics in a Facebook Live video on Thursday.
Nothing may have been a bigger point of discussion than the university’s plans to expand the east side of Amon G. Carter Stadium. The 45,000-seat facility, which TCU football calls home, will see the addition of a club level that includes more than 1,000 seats to the existing east-side grandstands. The project is set for completion by the start of the 2019 season.
Donati hopes the project will boost TCU football’s reputation in Texas and on a national level. The Horned Frogs, along with West Virginia, are the newest members of the Big 12 Conference, having joined in time for the 2012 season.
“Football is the economic engine here,” Donati said in the video. “Showing this kind of commitment does go a long way. It’s great for recruiting.”
That, however, doesn’t mean that major changes to the football program and TCU athletics can’t occur once the renovations are complete.
The state of TCU and Big 12
For all the wonders that stadium expansions can do for a college football program, Donati said TCU fans shouldn’t be caught off guard if the university ends up switching conferences again when the next wave of realignment occurs.
“I get asked all the time about conference expansion and realignment in 2024 and will this stadium expansion guarantee we’ll stay in the Big 12 Conference?” Donati said. “The answer is no, there are no guarantees.”
Signs have pointed to a potential college football conference realignment perhaps as early as 2023 — a year that will see several television contracts expire. According to ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg, FOX’s broadcasting deals with the Big Ten and Pac-12 will expire in 2023. The network’s contract with the Big 12 expires in 2024.
The Big 12 has endured its fair share of criticism in recent years — from failed expansion efforts to the lack of a conference championship game before the contest was restored in 2017. The Big 12, however, remains the only Power 5 conference without two divisions and a conference-wide network.
TCU, for what it’s worth, owns the smallest undergraduate population in the Big 12 with an estimated enrollment of less than 9,000 students.
You can view the full Facebook Live broadcast of Donati’s Q&A below: