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    Last week, in Part I, we discussed all of TCU's past lives; as a team in the state of Texas, and in the SWC, WAC, and Conference USA.


    This week, we will focus on TCU's current conference, the rest of the "Power 5," and a few other conferences like the Big East and the MAC.


    And away we go ...


    Big 6/7/8/12/XII-II


    TCUs current conference was always closely intertwined with its old one.  The Oklahoma schools started in the SWC before Oklahoma founded the Big 6 and Oklahoma State turned the conference into the Big 8.  Then when the SWC went belly up, half the conference merged with the Big 8 to form the Big 12.  In between, Texas and Oklahoma remained each other's primary rival, often to the chagrin of their in-state rivals.


    The first chart shows the history of the conference after the expansion to 12.




    At the time of the expansion, Nebraska was dominant, playing elite MNC-level football.  Colorado was at a peak but was about the start a slow decline after the McCartney era was exposed and Bill Snyder was getting Kansas State to a pretty elite level.  A&M comes in as the best program of the Texas schools but is in decline.  


    Then around 2002, Nebraska and Kansas State begin to decline and Texas and Oklahoma begin to rise and those two schools dominate the conference for the next decade.  It is at this point that Nebraska, Colorado, A&M, and Missouri leave, resulting in the entry of TCU and West Virginia.  Texas falls off while Oklahoma State and Baylor emerge as contenders with Oklahoma remaining pretty elite.


    The 2005 Texas team ekes out the 2008 Oklahoma team as the best single season in the Big 12 history.  The 2014 Frogs are the highest rated team in the Big XII-II's short history.


    The history of the Big 6/7/8 prior to the addition of the Texas schools appears below.




    The Big 6/7/8 started out as the original Missouri Valley Conference, with Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa State as charter members with Drake and Washington (Mo).  Kansas State and Grinnell would join shortly after, and Oklahoma joined as Drake, Washington, and Grinnell dropped out of "big time" college football.  From 1928-1947, the conference was six teams.  The addition of Colorado (from the precursor of the WAC, see Part I) in 1948 made the conference seven, and Oklahoma State in 1960 (from the Missouri Valley) formed the Big 8.


    During this entire time, the conference was pretty well dominated by two teams -- Nebraska and Oklahoma.  Nebraska dominated the first three decades up until WWII.  After the war, Oklahoma took over as the dominant team for two decades.  Then after the OU-NU hegemony was challenged for a few years by Missouri and Kansas in the early 1960s, Nebraska and Oklahoma vaulted to super-elite status in the late 1960s and remained there for the next two decades when Oklahoma fell apart after Barry Switzer left to coach the Cowboys and Colorado started to emerge.


    The clear heyday of the Big 8 was the decade of the 70s when NU and OU were out-of-this-world good and even the perennial bottom-dwellers Kansas State and Iowa State put together decent programs.  Note that aside from this period, Kansas State was consistently atrocious from WWII until about 1990 when Bill Snyder came aboard.  The 1973 Oklahoma team was rated the best in conference history, but pretty much any Nebraska or Oklahoma team from 1970-1974 could have been considered one of the best of all time.


    PAC12 (previously the Pacific Coast Conference/Athletic Association of Western Universities/PAC-8/PAC-10)


    The schools that would become the PAC-8 started out in the Pacific Coast Conference with Idaho and Montana.  The plot below shows the conference during the PCC years.




    Throughout these years, Idaho and Montana struggled to be competitive, generally always comprising the bottom of the standings.  USC emerged as the dominant team in the late 1920s and early 30s, but then came back to the pack prior to WWII.  From that point on, the conference was very evenly competitive with Stanford, Cal, and UCLA all vying for championships most years and many of the other teams, at least briefly, becoming competitive.


    In 1959, the California schools and Washington rid themselves of the Oregon schools, Washington State, and Idaho (Montana had left the PCC in 1949) and formed the AAWU.  Washington State was let back in the club in 1962 and the Oregon schools in 1964 when the conference became known as the PAC-8.  For the purposes of continuity, the following chart, which shows the conference from 1960 on, doesn't reflect these rejections and readmittances.




    With the official formation of the PAC-8, USC reemerged as the dominant program through the early 1980s (by which point the Arizona schools had moved over from the WAC, see Part I) followed by strong years from UCLA and Washington in the late 80s and 90s.  Note that the USC program at the time of the Sun Bowl was going through its lowest point since the early 1960s.  One of the many ways in which the football gods were smiling on us in 1998.  The Trojans once again re-emerge as the dominant team of the mid-to-late 2000s and then Oregon leveraged that Nike money to get good in the current decade.  Utah and Colorado join in the 2011 season with Utah being solid, middle-of-the-pack and Colorado mostly battling with Washington State for the cellar.


    Aside from an extended two decades of bad play from Oregon State at the end of the last century, the PAC has been a pretty competitive conference throughout.  The best ever single season was the 1972 USC team and the highest program marks were reached by the Pete Carroll USC teams of the mid 2000s and the USC teams of the early 1930s.


    SEC (previously the Southern Conference)


    If you thought the 16-team WAC was the most insane conference ever devised, you probably weren't around for the Southern Conference, which was the precursor of both the SEC and the ACC.  The teams that founded both of those conferences plus a whole bunch of other teams played together in the Southern Conference, which at its greatest extent was a TWENTY-THREE team conference.  It is not immediately obvious how scheduling was handled during this time; there were no official divisions but it does seem like the schools who would become the SEC mostly played each other and the schools that became the ACC mostly played each other.  Some schools played eight conference games; others played four.


    The chart below shows the ridiculous history of the Southern Conference up to the time when the SEC split in 1933.  I don't expect you to be able to figure out which squiggle belongs to which school.  Just trust me when I tell you that the top squiggles chronologically are Vanderbilt (yes, Vanderbilt was once good in football), Auburn, Georgia Tech, Alabama, and Tennessee.  The 1917 Rambin' Wreck was the dominant single season team of the era.




    The conference at this time also included schools like Tulane, Sewanee, Washington and Lee, and the Virginia Military Institute.  The last two of these teams were left out of the SEC  but remained in the Southern Conference along with most of the teams that would become the ACC.


    Next we see the early years of the SEC.  Sewanee hangs on until 1939, battling Mississippi State for the cellar.  Tulane is initially quite competitive, with a 5-year MAV that generally hovered just below Alabama, Tennessee, and an emerging LSU up until WWII.  After the war, Tulane falls off, replaced by Georgia and Georgia Tech, the latter of which became the clear dominant team in the mid-1950s.  Mississippi, which was a clear bottom-feeder in the Southern Conference caps off a slow ascent and becomes the top program in the conference in the late 1950s and early 60s when Alabama takes over. 




    It is at this point that Georgia Tech and Tulane leave the conference; Tech still very competitive (Tulane not as much).  It is also at this point that Kentucky, Vandy, and Mississippi State set up shop as the bottom programs in the conference, a distinction they will maintain through most of the remaining history of the conference.




    Alabama remains the dominant team of the 70s and early 80s when the retirement of Bear Bryant marks the beginning of their decline as a program (although still good enough to grab an MNC for Gene Stallings in 1992).  During Bama's decline, Florida, Ole Miss, and Georgia rise until the early 1990s when Florida and Tennessee pull ahead of the rest of the conference where they will stay for about a decade.  South Carolina and Arkansas join the conference at this time, staying firmly middle-of-the-pack throughout their history.


    As we all know, Alabama has re-emerged as the dominant team in the conference over the last half decade, during which time A&M and Missouri join the conference, also shoring up the middle of the conference.


    The best ever single season for the SEC was the 1971 Alabama team and 1975 marked the pinnacle of the Alabama program, although another few strong years from Nick Saban might get the most recent incarnation of the Tide in the same rarefied air.


    ACC (preceded by the same Southern Conference)


    For the first three decades in the history of the ACC, refer to the first chart in the SEC section above.  Trust me, they're in there.  After the SEC splits, the Southern Conference becomes a little easier to digest.




    You'll note that at the time of the SEC split, the top programs in the Southern Conference were most of the ones that left, with the notable exception of Mississippi State.  In the vacuum left by the SEC schools, Duke and UNC rose quickly, and in particular Duke (yes, Duke) was the dominant force in the Southern Conference up until the ACC formed in 1953.  Schools were added to the conference in the wake of the SEC split including Wake Forest and then Virginia left after 1937 only to return after the ACC formation.  Once again, the newly formed conference split from the poorer performers as Davidson, Richmond, Virginia Tech, the Citadel, VMI and Furman, many of whom had been added with Wake Forest back in the late 1930s.


    Compared to the other 'Power 5' conferences, the ACC has easily the least auspicious beginnings.  Maryland emerges as the first dominant team in the ACC but falls off quickly and then the conference slides into a pretty mediocre state.  Duke, NC State, and UNC all take turns as the "top" program in the conference but by 1970 (the year South Carolina leaves and goes independent) the ACC has more teams with below average MAVs than above average.  If I were to tell you in 1970 that between the ACC and SWC one conference was going to collapse and the other was going to become one of the five elite conferences in college football, I think most people would have put their money on the ACC for the collapse.  But the conference made some very strategic moves that the SWC didn't make. Like ...




    ... making wise expansion choices.  The ACC initially added Georgia Tech in 1983.  Georgia Tech was not immediately a big player in the conference and Maryland, UNC, and Clemson all made big improvements in play in the late 70s and early 80s.  Then everybody except Clemson fell off and the conference started looking pretty mediocre again until they scored Florida State who would thoroughly dominate the ACC from 1992 until their next expansion move in 2004.  This move was the first of two death blows the ACC landed on the Big East, grabbing Miami, Virginia Tech, and BC.  This immediately added two teams that would become mainstays at the top of the conference, even if Miami would never replicate their Big East success.  Then they ACC landed the second blow, adding Pitt, Louisville, and Syracuse.  Combined with Duke and Wake showing some improvement of late making the bottom of the conference not look so atrocious, the ACC is now a clear "Power 5," even if arguably the weakest.


    The best ever ACC team was the 1993 Florida State team.




    The Big 10 began with seven teams in 1896 (shown below back to 1892 because the data was there) -- Purdue, Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Northwestern, and U of Chicago.  Indiana and Iowa joined in 1899 and Ohio State in 1912, giving the league ten actual teams until Chicago left in 1939.  The chart below shows the conference for this era.  The conference was pretty equitable during its first 5 decades with Purdue and Minnesota dominating the 1890s, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Chicago the 1900s, Minnesota the 1910s, Michigan the 1920s, and Minnesota, Purdue, Ohio State and even Northwestern all vying for supremacy during the Depression.  Only Indiana never really maintained a competitive program at any point of the conference's early years.  Clearly, by WWII, the University of Chicago was struggling to remain competitive.


    The 1940 Michigan and Minnesota teams edge out the 1917 Minnesota team as the best single-season teams during this era.




    Once Chicago drops, the Big 10 had nine teams for 14 years until Michigan State was added in 1953.  It's not only the modern Big 10 that can't seem to maintain the correct number of teams. 


    After WWII, Michigan has the first extended era of dominance from 1942 through 1952.  Parity reigned again through most of the 50s and 60s with Michigan State, Ohio State, Iowa, and Purdue all staking a claim to the top program in the conference during the period.  Once again, Indiana is really the only program never to get consistently into the upper echelon during this period. 




    By 1970, several Big 10 programs have taken severe downturns, including Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, and most notably Northwestern which goes from a MAV of 15 in 1962 to -10 by 1980, about where the U of Chicago was when they dropped out of the conference 40 years before.  In a trend of one- or two-team dominance that is noticeable in most of the major conferences in the 1970s (Texas and Arkansas in the SWC, Oklahoma and Nebraska in the Big 8, Alabama in the SEC, USC in the PAC-10), the Big 10 is dominated by Michigan and Ohio State throughout the decade.  The 1947 Michigan team, 1973 Ohio State team, and 1944 Ohio State team were the best of the era.


    Ohio State, and to a lesser extent Michigan, come down to the pack a little in the 1980s as Iowa, Illinois and Michigan State improve.  In the 90s, the conference becomes a three-headed monster with the admittance of Penn State in 1993 (making the Big 10 eleven), the resurgence of Ohio State, and continued elite play of Michigan throughout the decade.  The new millennia sees Penn State decline leaving Ohio State and Michigan at the top.  Michigan finally starts to decline in the late 2000s, replaced by Penn State and Wisconsin as Ohio State's primary competition over the last decade.  Wisconsin's resurgence in the 1990s is stark, going from bottom-dwellers (with Northwestern) in 1990 to top-tier status in two decades.  During this time, Northwestern, Illinois, Minnesota, Purdue, and of course Indiana are never particularly competitive.


    Also during this time, the conference adds Nebraska (2011), Maryland (2014), and Rutgers (2014).  Only Nebraska is above average since joining.  The 1994 Penn State team is the top team of the era.




    Big East and the Eastern Independents


    The Big East started as a basketball conference in the 1979 but in 1991 became a football conference.  The conference was formed from the Big East basketball schools that played D1-A football (BC, Syracuse, and Pitt) and from a number of other eastern independents (Miami, WVU, Rutgers, VaTech, and Temple).  Notre Dame, while never football member of the Big East, is included here because they were among the eastern independents from which the conference was born and played in the conference in other sports.  Army and Navy are also included in these charts for any years where they weren't parts of other conferences (e.g., Army in CUSA starting in 1998)




    The conference was immediately dominated by Miami, coming into the conference at their zenith.  Lou Holtz had Notre Dame riding high at this point as well.  By 2000, Miami had come down a little and Syracuse and Virginia Tech emerged as serious contenders.  Then in 2004, the Big East's two bellwethers at the time, Miami and Virginia Tech left for the ACC, followed by Boston College the following year.  Those schools were replaced by UConn (a Big East basketball school moving up to play D1-A football), and Cincinnati, Louisville, and South Florida from CUSA, but the death spiral had begun.  WVU emerged as the class of the conference during these final years before leaving for the Big XII-II after the 2011 season.  Pitt, Syracuse, and Louisville leave for the ACC the following year and the conference folds.


    The 2001 Miami team was the best single season in Big East history.


    Prior to the formation of the Big East, most of the eastern schools, particularly in the north and mid-Atlantic where the ACC and SEC didn't have a footprint, played as independents.  In some respects they were in a de facto conference as most of these schools played each other on a yearly basis, or nearly so, but they never officially formed.  Not until the Big East.


    The military academies and Penn State had SRS numbers dating back to the 1890s.  Army is the dominant team in these early years, followed by Pitt and Notre Dame starting around 1915.  Knute Rockne had Notre Dame as the dominant force in the northeast during the 1920s and early 30s when Pitt emerges again just before WWII.  The war drives Pitt into a prolonged funk that lasts until they recruit Tony Dorsett and Dan Marino but launches Notre Dame and the military academies, particularly Army, to stratospheric heights.




    After the war, Notre Dame and the academies come back to Earth (albeit Notre Dame more slowly) and by 1960 the northeast is lacking in many good programs.  Syracuse and Penn State are the best of a tepid lot.  Rutgers, as always, is terrible at this time.  Then in the late 1960s, Ara Parseghian returns Notre Dame to elite status while Penn State, Pitt, and Florida State all emerge by 1980 into serious national contenders.


    The 1943 Notre Dame team was the greatest team of the Independent era and arguably the best of all time.  I'm not sure why Notre Dame got so much talent during the war when so many other non-military academy schools struggled, but alas they did.




    The Sun Belt, much like her other "mid-major" brethren, has been turned over, almost entirely by the ACC/Big East/AAC/CUSA/WAC upheaval of the last few years, and so their chart is also a bit of a mess.  The SBC was created in 1976 but didn't become a D1-A/FBS conference until the 2001 season. with Arkansas State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Middle Tennessee, New Mexico State, North Texas, Idaho, and Louisiana-Monroe as the founding football members.  Utah State and Troy joined in the following two years.  Then the shuffling started.


    In 2005, Utah State, Idaho, and New Mexico State left to join the WAC after the MWC pilfered the WAC to replace TCU, Utah, and BYU.  The Sun Belt adds Floridas Atlantic and International, then Western Kentucky in 2009.  Eight years later, the SBC sheds MTSU, FIU, FAU, and UNT when all leave to go to CUSA after the AAC forms with mostly CUSA teams.  Western Kentucky follows suit a year later.  New Mexico State and Idaho return after the WAC collapses and are joined by Texas State, Appalachian State, South Alabama, Georgia Southern, and Georgia State during the 2013-2014 seasons, most of whom playing their first FBS football.


    So the chart below has all of these teams, plus the teams that are still remaining in the current version of CUSA.  It is a mess.  Make what you will of it ...






    And last but not least, we take a look at the history of MACtion.  The MAC was formed in 1946 and became a D1-A conference in 1962 with Ohio, Miami (OH), Western Michigan, Toledo, Kent State, Bowling Green, and Marshall and the seven initial members.  Marshall was booted after the 1969 season then Eastern Michigan, Central Michigan, Ball State and Northern Illinois were all added between 1971-1975.  During most of this time, the conference was led by Miami, interrupted by a brief meteoric rise and fall of Toledo around 1970.


    After 1980, the conference as a whole started a slow decline with no program having a better than average MAV from 1982 until 1997.  During this time Central Michigan, Bowling Green, and Miami all vied for the top spot in the conference.  Northern Illinois left after the 1985 season, replaced by Akron in 1992.  Then in 1997, Northern Illinois and Marshall returned, with Marshall immediately becoming the top team in the conference until the left again to go to CUSA in 2005.  Buffalo was added in 1998.  The conference then had brief experiments with Central Florida, Temple, and Massachusetts from 2000-2015, during which time conference play improved and NIU, CMU, and Toledo emerged as the top conference teams.


    The best ever MAC program was the Ben Roethlisberger-led Miami Red Hawks in 2003.



  2. FrogAbroad
    Latest Entry

    She stands tall and fair and impossible to overlook in the Managua airport’s duty free shop.  Her ash-blond hair and heaven-blue eyes cause more than one head to glance a second, a third time in her direction.  Her name is Evelina.  She’s 18 and Nicaraguan, but bears only latent genes from her tropics-born mother.  Instead her features carry the memory of her East German father, long-returned to his homeland.  Perhaps her delicate cheek bones and milky complexion are the only memories her mother has of her lover, one of hundreds of military advisors whose tour of duty brought them to this hot and dusty outpost.  Evelina is a woman-child born of a brief union between a soldier chilled by loneliness and a woman burning with a desire to escape a nation destroyed by war and political intrigue.  Her hair is pulled back and fastened with a black bow, exposing her ears and throat, emphasizing her whiteness next to her light bronze coworkers.  She is tall and slim, nearly a head taller than her Latin companions, an especially beautiful flower standing a bit more lovely than the others in their little garden.  Evelina sells watches and perfumes and T-shirts and American liquors to departing international travelers.  I sit observing her from the chairs in front of her shop.  I see her watch the departing passengers standing in line to board their plane.  I wonder how much of her heart leaves with them.  Does it seek someone like herself?  Does it seek a country where she does not stand out so emphatically as being different?  She shares a joke with Marvina, their laughter mingling on its way to where I sit.  Marvina’s laughter is like thick, sweet honey, Evelina’s like water bubbling from a cold spring.  Even as her lips grace her admirers with a smile, there is a distant look in her eyes.  How cold is the loneliness of her own heart every time she looks in the mirror and thinks of a father she never saw?  What are the passions that burn within as she works in a menial job, earning barely enough to pay her tuition as she seeks to escape the same desperation that entrapped her mother?  I feel drawn to her, to ask her these questions, to listen to her open her heart.  But...no…for now I hear my flight called.  I rise from my watching-place and cast a final glance her way.  Good-bye, fair Evelina.  May you someday follow your heart to find whatever it is you seek.

  3. old scribe
    Latest Entry

    This day, August 13, was my mother's birthday. She would be 106 today. Got to thinking, as us old codgers can do, about the lives preceding mine. Mama's lifetime (she lived to almost 87) saw her go from the horse-and-wagon era (she was born under a wagon near Kimball's Bend down in Bosque County in 1910) to the age of jets and computers. She went through the depression, 2 world wars plus Korea and Nam. She went to Germany for Oktoberfest.. She was a widow the last 38 years of her life. She was an excellent writer with a terrific imagination and sense of humor. l can recall years back when she heard ``I wonder who's kissing her now" on the radio and remarked, ``Where exactly is her `now'?" The Dallas News moved her from the state desk to what was then still ``women's news" because the sweet young things in that dept. were letting too many double-meaning things get by. Mama was a farm girl with a liberal education and could catch that stuff. She probably never castrated a calf, but surely had seen it done and knew how. She could have made the Olympics if crossword puzzle solving were an event. I still miss her.


    Think back to her parents,born in the 1880s. As children, and even young adults, they had virtually nothing that we take for granted -- cars, telephones, indoor plumbing, you name it. I remember in the late 1940s at their farm house, the phone would ring and Gran would say, ``Don't answer, that is Kleins' ring." Unless you wanted to listen on Kleins' conversation. Party lines were something else. She was a champ at wringing a chicken's neck, plucking it, cutting it up and frying it. All the way from chicken yard to dining table. Let Col. Sanders try that. When my grandmother was in her late 60s she got the most wonderful gift: A cream separator so she wouldn't have to churn so much. I miss her, too, even if she did think enemas were the cure for almost anything a little boy might have.



  4. blog-0311650001441913197.jpgNorman Lear almost killed TV in the 1970s. Oh, sure, he, Bud Yorkin and a few of their pals revolutionized the medium, and most of what they made was absolutely brilliant: All in the Family, The Jeffersons, Maude, Good Times and One Day at a Time, to name a prominent few. In the dying days of the Vietnam conflict and during the collective shame of Watergate, America craved yelling, screaming and fighting on television. (And maybe we still do in troubled times; look at the reality-TV boom of the early 2000s and all the events that occurred in that era. Apparently escapism isn't all it's cracked up to be and never has been.)

    The brilliance of Lear's creations was that, although the "liberal" side almost always won in his programs' episodes, viewers of all political and social stripes had somebody to embrace. Archie Bunker, most prominently by far, was supposed to be an easy-to-hate, ready-made bigot always comically set up for a fall by his own backward thinking or that of his goofy friends, or by his daughter and cultured son-in-law (and even sometimes by his sweet wife). Maude herself gave Archie fits in the early years of the series, as did George Jefferson and Irene Lorenzo. Pretty much all of Lear's subsequent creations (the successful ones, anyway) emerged like smoke from Archie's cigar. Archie Bunker was pater familias of the most dysfunctional extended TV family of all time. But a funny thing happened on the way to Archie becoming a villain. He became a hero. So many Americans loved him so much--warts, humiliations, bald-faced bigotry and all--that the show's producers eventually had to make the show all about him. The liberals faded, slowly, as did most of Archie's nemeses. Gloria disappeared. Meathead disappeared. Maude got her own show fairly early on. The Jeffersons got one even earlier. Even Edith, beloved wife, got killed off when Jean Stapleton quit the show. But Archie soldiered on, eventually half-spinning off into a show that really was all about him, Archie Bunker's Place. It ran into the Reagan administration, which surely would have pleased a real Archie Bunker.

    Archie possessed the same charm that Howard Stern used to rule the airwaves for a decade or two and that Donald Trump is using now to try to ascend to the highest office in the land. He said what he felt when he felt like saying it, and he didn't care who heard or what other people thought. Americans love a loudmouth, almost no matter what he (or she) says, and let's face it: Archie was lovable! And hilarious! And not always wrong! Mostly, that was because Carroll O'Connor gave the character more wrinkles than Abe Vigoda has on his whole body (if, indeed, Mr. Vigoda is still alive, and I think he is). But it was also because Archie said what a lot of Americans were thinking at the time, and the funny part is that history has proven him right on at least a few occasions. At the end of the Jimmy Carter election episode in 1976, maybe 1977, Archie barked to Meathead, "You're getting Reagan in '80!" And on another famous episode, Archie's televised proposal to arm every passenger on an airplane with a pistol in order to prevent hijackings foreshadowed the era of air marshals post-September 11.

    But back to Norman Lear almost killing television. In a nutshell, it all got to be too much. All in the Family's ratings started to slip, just a little bit, in 1976 and fell from there. Maude suffered a similar fate. George and Weezy lasted into the mid-'80s but with a vastly changed set of messages. They basically went from serious to silly. George ended up doing the unthinkable and palling around with Tom Wills! One Day at a Time also softened considerably, eliminating the contentious divorced-father character and turning Schneider, the famous building super, from a somewhat lecherous dude always wanting to boink Ms. Romano into a protector of the single mother and her girls (or girl, of course, after poor McKenzie Phillips went off the rails and took Julie Cooper with her). Good Times should have ended when John Amos left the cast. In any case, fighting got old. Yelling and screaming got old. Politics got old. No other entity can overdo a good thing and pound it mercilessly into the ground the way American television can. That's what was happening in the late '70s. The outlook was bleak. The Lear formula was boring, but networks kept trying it. And then somebody at ABC came to his (or her) senses.

    What you're about to see is powerful. It's borderline mind-blowing. This is how ABC responded to CBS and Norman Lear's hegemony on television. Stripping away all pretension, ABC went old school. It brought back stand-up-style comedy, sort of (Welcome Back, Kotter). It brought in an alien for more, and more bizarre, stand-up stuff (Mork and Mindy, of course). It brought back hot chicks, sexual tension and broad physical comedy (Three's Company). It brought something of a yeller-screamer show to the fore, but it made the conflicts personal, not political, and it gave multiple characters enviable depth, not just one or two (Taxi). And it brought back the '50s (Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley)! When in doubt, bring back the '50s. Nothing bad ever happened in the '50s, right, Archie Bunker? Now, ABC's revolution didn't start in 1978. It had been going for a few years, and by the time the long-form trailer below hit advertising agencies, ABC had become the No. 1 network on television, mainly by killing off Archie Bunker with Mork, the Fonz and Suzanne Summers. Behold:

    Now, let's take these gems one by one.

    Welcome Back, Kotter: It didn't have long to run, as Vinny Barbarino would soon be on his way out and Beau de la Barre on his way in, but Welcome Back, Kotter managed to capture inner-city pathos without pounding us over the head with it. There were two white guys, a black guy and a Puerto Rican Jew serving as the main characters on this show, along with a Jew-fro'ed, mustachioed, wise-cracking teacher who himself had been a Sweathog a scant decade or so before taking over in the classroom. We didn't ask why guys from diverse racial backgrounds were friends. (Norman Lear would have hammered that angle.) All we knew was that they were scamps, mostly low-level troublemakers who wouldn't so much as be called down in the classroom in today's era of school violence. And they loved the one guy they could relate to, the one guy who got them, who had been one of them in a not-so-distant former life. This is probably one of the better shows about teaching and classrooms ever made (Head of the Class also comes to mind) in part because it mostly deals with the everyday, fairly mundane problems that seem so magnified and earth-shattering in high school. There's really not much in the way of hard drug use, alcoholism, teenage sex or domestic violence on Kotter. (Again, Norman Lear would have had a field day with that stuff.) The guys worry about girls, sports, their hair, whatever. Kotter just wants to keep them out of trouble--not life-changing trouble, necessarily, just school trouble. This show teaches without preaching. That's why it worked in the let-up era of the late '70s.

    Operation Petticoat: This one doesn't jog the memory for me, but it looks sufficiently slapstick to fit into the lineup. Hey, not every hit is a home run.

    Taxi: This must have been Taxi's first season. (I did no research for this entry.) This show is criminally underrated (yes, really) and merits a long blog entry of its own. What made it appealing was an amazing cast and characters that people cared about because they seemed like people, not like the political caricatures Norman Lear (skillfully) drew. Sure, there was conflict, but there was also resolution (most of the time, anyway) and the strong feeling that these people could, and maybe did, actually exist. And seriously, that cast: Judd Hirsch, Danny Devito, Marilu Henner, Tony Danza (yeah, OK, but he had a pretty good career after Taxi), Jeff Conaway, Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future!) and, for heaven's sake, the unbelievable, inimitable, completely mold-breaking Andy Kaufman. And Carol Kane as his wife! Other than the cars and the telephones, this show holds up well today. It has a timelessness that the Archie Bunker family tree mostly doesn't have. That's not to say that Norman Lear's creations weren't great. They were. They just weren't set up to be relevant 40 years after they aired.

    Happy Days: The show that ended up originating the phrase "jump the shark" (which now dates to the late '90s, ouch!) hadn't quite done it yet in 1978. It was still goofy Richie and his pals, cool Fonz (how was he ever cool? ... that's another blog entry) and the straight-laced Cunninghams. Smooth and easy. Satisfying. Nostalgic for the middle-aged folks and yet entertaining enough for the kids. This show was emblematic of the ABC revolution and led the way. It didn't need to be brilliant. It just needed to be fun, and it was ... until Chachi came along.

    Laverne & Shirley: Happy Days with girls! And more laughs! And more goofiness! And Carmine "the big Ragu" Ragusa, the world's first dancing tough guy! And one of the great theme songs of all time! After half a decade of strife, yeah, people were ready for this. And it was great ... until they moved to California.

    Three's Company: Based on a British show (as so much of our television is, check out Til Death Us Do Part sometime) called Man about the House, this show became emblematic of mindless drivel on television and was probably the most prominent antidote of all to Norman Lear's seriousness. But you know what? Three's Company was funny. John Ritter was a brilliant physical comedian. The writing was vaudevillian in the best possible way. The setting, Southern California in the '70s, could not have been more enticing. And there were blondes, so many blondes, blondes with big hair and short shorts and halter tops. And there were the Ropers, and after the Ropers came Mr. Furley, who was actually funnier than the Ropers! As a kid, I wanted to live in Three's Company, just in the same neighborhood as Jack, Janet and Chrissy/can't remember the middle one's name/Terri. This show is still great today because innuendo, mild situational irony and a horny straight dude having to pretend to be gay will never get old. By the way, that gay thing ... Ridiculous as it might have been on this show, homosexuality was something Norman Lear never really, really breached in his a career, at least not prominently. Just saying.

    Starsky & Hutch: Overrated. Sorry, but it was. Great cars, cool clothes, but it got repetitive. But crime dramas get that way. Sacrilege, I know, but I don't care. Definitely cool at the time, though, and yes, I still have the toy car.

    Vegas: This, however, was great. Robert Urich is underrated historically. I never figured out, though, why he parked his car right in his house, or apartment, or whatever it was. Didn't the engine make the place hot? Didn't the car smell? Whatever, awesome show. Dan Tanna. Seriously.

    Charlie's Angels: Its best days were past it (Farah Fawcett returns to guest star ... ugh), but three beautiful women fighting crime for some guy we never see? Again, after Maude, America needed this. America wanted this, no matter how much Maude would have hated it. (Or would she have? It was all about female empowerment, after all.)

    Eight is Enough: TCU's own Betty Buckley! Eventually! This show was the serious Brady Bunch, but it worked because Dick Van Patten was strangely likable and Adam Rich was just cute enough. Again, ABC went with family here, but it was a family that fought over personal things, not over politics (mostly). These seemed like real people until one of the girls married a pitcher for the Dodgers.

    Mork and Mindy: Oh, wow. What is there to say? Robin Williams. An adorable Pam Dawber. Later, Jonathan Winters! A settling in Boulder that was brilliant, in that Mork could hide pretty effectively in a midsize college town that was half full of stoners, anyway. This was one long Robin Williams stand-up show, complete with his constant message of peace and kindness, with the occasional friendly chiding or shocked reaction from Mindy. And for a while, it worked. Spectacularly well. But it's hard to carry such a goofy set-up on for very long. Eventually, Mork starts figuring out Earth. He starts figuring out Mindy. He settles in. Then what? Then it's over. But what a sensation this show was, and what a brilliant and funny departure it was from the Archie Bunker family of shows. Mork was an alien right in the heart of the Star Wars era, when science fiction was huge. But he wasn't scary. He was Robin Williams, RIP and thanks. It's hard to watch this one now, but the appeal is still fresh. And remember, this was actually a Happy Days spin-off. The Fonz had a family of his own.

    What's Happening!!: Is it racist for me to say that this is very likely the best black sitcom in the history of television? Yes, really! Why was it so great? First of all, it was funny. Always funny. The characters were endearing. The scripts were memorable. (Dwayne bet on the football team that had the helmet he liked best. Tampa over Oakland? Oh, no!) There was plenty of charm to go around, from Shirley at the diner to Mama to Dee to Rerun and Dwayne to Roj, arguably television's first black nerd. But what really worked on this show was that it was about people--black people, but that didn't matter. After getting lecture after lecture from Norman Lear about race (some of them necessary, of course), here we had a program that featured black characters with no soapboxes. They were just funny characters. And the theme song was awesome. Another criminally underrated show.

    Barney Miller: Just as teachers talk about Kotter as the best classroom show ever made, cops talk about Barney Miller as the best cop show ever. Well, at least those old enough to remember it do, or used to. TV has tried so hard over the decades to come up with something both entertaining and authentic to depict the lives of police officers, but until the actual show Cops debuted, nothing had come as close as Barney Miller to nailing the scene. Sure, the cops on Barney Miller were detectives, not street cops (except for poor Levitt, of course), but their daily routine of filling out paperwork, drinking terrible coffee and dealing with fringe-ish types in Greenwich Village was much more accurate a portrait of cop life than the car-chase and gun-battle action shows that both preceded and followed the sitcom classic. Or so I've read, or been told ... or maybe I just want that to be true. In any case, here was another show that mixed characters seamlessly and didn't bother to talk much about the fact that there were white, black, Puerto Rican and Asian characters sharing the same small space. (Again, this was extremely post-racial stuff compared to All in the Family or The Jeffersons.) Even Linda Lavin had a turn as a female detective in the show's early years. Barney Miller was elite television, despite, or maybe even because of, numerous cast changes. It's still one of the best and most entertaining shows on TV, a cut well above most of what the medium has cranked out over the years.

    Soap: It wasn't Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman or Fernwood 2 Night, although the idea was similar, if not pretty much the same. Still, this show, which actually looked a bit like a Norman Lear comedy (remember, it spawned Benson), became a farcical '70s classic. Despite the always corrosive presence of Billy Crystal, Soap was a rollicking riot of a show that captured the Carter-era malaise by making every character on the show pretty much completely indifferent to every other character. This program took the feelings and anger of Lear's work and turned them into farce and complete stupidity--with hilarious results! Of course, it would never work today because the programs it parodied, soap operas, are basically dead, and realty TV has swallowed the last bit of potential irony on television.

    Family: To my somewhat limited memory, this show was Eight is Enough with fewer kids and with a budding star named Kristy McNichol, who pretty much disappeared after the show's run, save maybe for a few after-school-special-type programs. She did some damage on Battle of the Network Stars, though, another brilliant ABC creation (starring Howard Cosell and Bruce Jenner!).

    Donny & Marie: Mormon disco! This was the oldest of old-school crap. Whatever. People liked it ... for a while. It was definitely mindless, and that was appealing for the era.

    Apple Pie: One bad Apple didn't spoil the whole bunch for ABC, but this show only lasted eight episodes. I'd never actually heard of it until I saw the promo video. Sitcoms with historical settings only last if they're set in the '50s (including M*A*S*H). This was was from the '30s. Why? Still ... Dabney Coleman!

    Carter Country: Unquestionably the best mostly forgotten sitcom of all time, this show was about black and white cops in the South (Carter Country, as in Jimmy) but still managed to be mostly silly, with Roy, the gruff police chief; Kene Holliday's savvy cop character; and the Mayor, who coined the catchphrase, "Handle it, Roy! Handle it! Handle it!" goofing around in a small-town Georgia police station. This was a sillier version of Barney Miller that lacked Barney's gravitas but nevertheless turned out to be pretty entertaining. And again, we're mainly in post-Lear racial territory here, with everybody getting along for the most part and their relationships requiring no real explanation. Carter Country was an absolute delight and was as late-'70s as Sam Houston was Texan. It's a gem to see these days if it pops up on one of the nostalgia channels. Why this show didn't get a more legendary treatment remains a mystery.

    The Love Boat: Oh, wow. Oh, wow oh wow. I'm not saying that I named my first born after Isaac the bartender, but I'm not saying I didn't. Because I kind of did, kind of. This is a cultural touchstone if there ever was one. Basically a reference point for cheesy television, The Love Boat nevertheless ran for a very long time and roped in every guest star imaginable from mid-'70s and early '80s television. What an absolute tour de force of sappy, goofball television this was. Needed a break from Norman Lear's preachy creations? Oh, America, you got it. I mean you really got it.

    Fantasy Island: This show was awful, awful, awful. Diabolically acted, amateurishly cast, drippily dramatic and borderline scary, it's hard to believe that it's still pretty much the defining role of Ricardo Montalban's career. Still, again, it was a break from what the first half of the decade had brought to television. The unintentional comedy on this show was rampant, though, something I've mainly discovered watching the program in recent years on nostalgia TV. How did TV execs of the era green light this stuff? And how did it stay so popular for so long? Was Tatu really that cute? (By the way, Herve Villechaise, who was from Paris, had normal-sized organs in that tiny body and lived every day in excruciating pain. Which is sad. But apparently his not-dwarfy genitals were popular with the ladies. Really! Aren't you glad you read this far? I know. Nobody did.)

    The Hardy Boys: I vaguely remember this show, but what I don't remember about it was it being the gayest show ever. NTTAWWT, of course. But still. Wow, so gay. I actually feel some sense of retro happiness for all the poor, closeted gentlemen who, at least, got to get excited about seeing this show on Saturday nights, even if they couldn't express their true selves in the open in 1978. Good for you, guys, really. Somehow, Parker Stevenson and Shaun Cassidy (IMDB profile photo from 1978, no joke) are still working, Cassidy as a pretty big-time producer. There's no business like it. (OK, so I did a tiny bit of research. IMDB is a day killer.)

    Movies: Taxi Driver on network TV? How? I'm pretty sure I saw The Bad News Bears on ABC in 1978, deleted bad words and all. And Battlestar Galactica, wow, what a great show and franchise that was. World class, and I'm not even a sci-fi guy, normally.

    And then there's a musical number at the end of the video! (Remember the video? That's what all of this was supposed to be about.) Mr. Cunningham, Isaac, Shirley, Barney Miller ... they're all there, grooving to a mild disco beat. I've seen better promo dance numbers (much better), but it's charming nonetheless. And that voice of ABC was the best TV voice ever.

    Norman Lear was a genius, a revolutionary and quite possibly the most important person in the history of scripted American television. But when enough was enough, ABC came through with a lineup so powerful that its awesomeness and grandeur still resonate today. And most of all, it was fun. It defined the greatest era in human history, the late '70s. And it kept the beautiful medium, television, from eating itself. We owe much to Mork, the Fonz, Wojo, Alex Reger, Roj and even the Mayor from Carter Country. Long may their legacy endure.

  5. Baylor University, Please Stop Chanting “Kill” at Your Games

    An Open Letter to Ken Starr

    I recently flew from Kentucky to Texas in order to watch my beloved Horned Frogs take on the formidable Baylor Bear football team for the 110th time. I was eager to see the new stadium, and I was impressed with the hospitality I encountered before and after the game. The game itself was both exciting and intense from start to finish. However, there was one part of the whole experience that completely stopped me in my tracks – so much so that it is still on my mind more than ten days after returning home.

    Mr. Starr, did you know that your fans chant the word “kill” over and over again at your games? Of course you do, as I saw your spirited run across the field to start the game so I know that you were there. When I realized what they were saying, I began looking around. Students, senior citizens, young children, mothers holding babies...all rhythmically calling for murder together. This mental image is forever seared into my brain.

    Because here’s the thing. People really do die in collegiate sports. In America, high school and college football players die playing the sport at an average rate of more than twelve per year. These players have names – such as Chucky Mullins, Derek Sheeley, and Derringer Cade – and mothers and brothers and girlfriends that will never see them again. In fact, one sad facet of the shared TCU/Baylor history is that a TCU head coach died on the sidelines during one of our games in Waco in the early 1970s. I firmly believe that you don’t actually want young men to die on your football field, so I am uncertain as to why you would allow your collective voices to be raised in calling for this, over and over again.

    The pregame prayer that was offered up in your stadium described our two storied institutions as “unapologetically Christian.” To be unapologetically Christian requires a posture that always presents a gospel-oriented countercultural witness to the world. It requires standing up to the mobs that would chant “Crucify him!” It means refusing to allow the pomp and pageantry of collegiate sports to reduce itself to gladiatorial spectacle.

    But this goes beyond theological concerns, and I would be equally bothered by a secular institution chanting “kill” at sporting events. This is simply an appeal to our shared humanity. Let’s work together to let our competitive sports experiences bring out the best in human nature, not the worst.

    Linda Lotspeich

    TCU Class of '91

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    What can we do to make our Horned Frogs:



    Amped Up?

    We have the opportunity to influence things in a great way! What do we want our Game Day (Disney) experience to be? Just something to do...pass the hot Saturday away instead of lawn work/house chores....or a great froging time?

    Please share your thoughts! Any input is (almost always) better than none!!!

  6. As Benefield enters the WSOP final table on Monday, he has the least amount of chips in front of him. This is known as the “short stack” in poker lingo, and it is obviously a vulnerable place to be. Chips always equal power, and in tournament poker chips represent life itself. When you run out of chips, your game is over.

    Until then, though, you have “a chip and a chair.” This axiom, often said to players encouraging each other, points out that as long as you have a chip in front of you, you are alive and so can theoretically win it all. The saying traces back to the 1982 WSOP when the eventual winner Jack Straus pushed in all his chips and lost. As he got up to leave the table he discovered he had one chip under his napkin. Because he hadn’t said “all in,” the tournament directors allowed him to sit back down and he eventually won it all.

    When you are playing a tournament and find yourself as the short stack, your strategy should intentionally shift. First, do some math. When you are down to around ten big blinds, you should start looking for a place to make your move. Your move then should always be “all in,” and it is imperative that you don’t wait too long. Why? Because you still want to have enough chips to scare people out of the pot. If your final all-in is a small amount of money, you will have lots of callers. Lots of callers who want you out of the game. The more hands you are up against, the more likely you are to lose. Even if you have a monster pocket hand like aces, they are much less likely to hold up against several callers. It’s possible that you will feel disappointed if everyone folds and you thought you were going to win a bigger pot, but it is always “better to win a little than lose a lot” (in this case, all). Just stealing blinds is better than going up against several callers for your tournament life.

    Now you may be thinking, “but every person you survive makes your payout higher, so shouldn’t the short stack try to just hang on as long as possible, folding everything, so maybe a person or two goes out before them?” No. Poker players play to win, not to place one higher. Circling the drain for hours until you are forced in is wussy poker. Much better to take control of your own situation and force others to make decisions in response to your actions.

    So Benefield’s hope as the final table begins is that he gets a very strong hand fairly quickly, gets all his money in the pot against one caller, and then beats that caller. If this happens then his stack doubles and he is no longer the short stack. This would buy him some time then to settle in and be patient once again.

    One other note on tournament play…

    The object of tournament play is to get other players out. For this reason, it is customary that if one person is all-in then the rest of the players in the hand check it down rather than betting into a side pot. Why? You may think your hand is so great that you simply have to keep betting and this makes everyone else fold except the all-in hand. If that person ends up with the better hand then you have just allowed them to live. You may very well regret this later when this person takes you out of the tournament! When someone is all-in, the more callers they have means the more likelihood they are walking away from the table. This trumps any possibility of short term gains in a side pot.

  7. K State is over 500 miles from TCU. Just long enough to be a miserable drive.

    Wichita, Kansas (ICT) is a cheaper alternative to Kansas City (MCI). Cars are cheap to rent and the drive is just about the same.

    Airfares to MCI are about $218. ICT is about $174.

    For people who really like to do things the hard way, flights to Tulsa are $138. That leaves 275 miles in the car.

    Rental car prices are competitive in all those markets.

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    Hello Yogis,

    I started my Yoga practice at TCU some many years ago. Over the years I gone to a lot of different classes, both good and bad. I even practice Yoga on my own each morning (or try some mornings are better than others). Yoga has helped me on good days and bad days. I definitely do not think I could have made it through law school and the bar without some of the things I have learned from Yoga. Most people know Yoga as the stretching exercise class that women do to stay in shape. This is an untrue stereotype about yoga. Men and even some of the best athletes in the world of both genders use Yoga to help improve their own sports.

    Yoga can be much more than just stretching. I enjoy Yoga because it has helped with my breathing, stress, anxiety, back pain, and knee injuries. It has built total body strength based from my core muscles and helped clear my mind of unneeded stress. I have attached (hopefully, the upload worked) some poses that go from simple to advanced. I encourage anyone who practices yoga to try new poses. Some of the fun of yoga is the challenge of trying to hold a new pose. At first some poses can be extremely hard. However, Yoga is something that can constantly be improved and adjusted. Its part of the beauty of Yoga is that allows a person to move through different positions allowing for a new experience to occur.

    Growing up I loved to play competitive sports. Yoga is non-traditional competitive sport. Some may ask what is a non-traditional competitive sport mean? It means that the competition is against oneself. In yoga someone will always be better than you. It does not matter because you are not competing against others. I have a hard time touching my toes. Yep, I said it! You may ask how can someone who has been doing Yoga for so many years have a hard time touching their toes? It is something that I have always had to work on with stretching. While this has always been a challenging pose for me in Yoga. I've seen a Yoga teacher who can bend forward over and lay her head down on her knees! While she could do a lot of the flexible poses, she struggled with some of the arm balancing poses that come easy for me. The point is that you can always learn something in Yoga even if you practice by yourself or with others! I encourage others to post about their Yoga practice.


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