Baylor, TCU ADs provide blueprint for remarkable turnarounds

Baylor AD Ian McCaw, left, and head coach Art Briles have overseen the Bears' remarkable football turnaround. AP Photo/Duane A. Laverty

Baylor and TCU are the current football front-runners in the Big 12. It's a statement that a decade ago would have seemed comical, if not impossible, because one of those schools wasn’t even in the league.

The work done by their respective coaches, Art Briles and Gary Patterson, has been commended. As it should. Their bosses, Baylor AD Ian McCaw and TCU AD Chris Del Conte, also merit a great deal of credit. Maybe they’re not receiving enough from the general public.

Their peers get it. That’s why a group of athletic directors recently named McCaw and Del Conte two of their four FBS ADs of the year.

They are among the country’s best ADs. Joining them on my list: two additional Big 12 ADs, a venerable SEC leader entering an important stretch in his tenure and an AD creating a new standard of consistency in the Big Ten.

The rise of Baylor and TCU to the cusp of the College Football Playoff has been nothing short of miraculous. There’s a larger behind-the-scenes department story, too; both schools have seen a number of team and facilities success stories.

McCaw, 52, arrived in 2003. It’s been a steady climb since then, most visibly via the construction of McLane Stadium and consecutive Big 12 football titles.

“It all starts with the AD and trickles down to the coaches and players,” Briles said. “If you’re looking for a driving force, that’s it.”

TCU was a vagabond athletic outfit, toting a suitcase from conference to conference. Patterson and Del Conte’s leadership guided the Frogs to the Big 12. After a 12-1 season in 2014, they seem to be settling. And while Amon G. Carter Stadium isn’t technically “new,” it might as well be after a $100-million-plus overhaul.

“He’s the guy leading the charge day to day,” Patterson said of Del Conte, 46, who arrived in 2009.