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Bouton important part of TCU athletic program

Former Aberdeen resident Gretchen Bouton poses with family members following TCU vs Michigan in the 2022 College Football Playoff Semifinal in the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, AZ on December 31, 2022. From left is her son CJ, her husband Len, Bouton, and her daughter Ryann. (Photo/ Gregg Ellman)

FORT WORTH, Texas – When the FBS College Football Championship between TCU and Georgia kicks off this evening, it will mark a special event for one former Aberdeen resident.

Gretchen Bouton, a 1994 graduate of Aberdeen Central, is the Senior Associate Athletic Director for TCU. She has watched the Horn Frogs advance all the way to the title game, thanks in part to their victory over Michigan in the semifinals.

While that is cause for major celebration, she said the mood surrounding the squad has been businesslike leading up to tonight’s contest.

“Around here, it’s cheerful but no one’s like celebrating and screaming,” Bouton said before the team departed for the championship contest, “because everyone is just so focused on the task at hand and how big it is.”

It has already been a memorable season for the Horned Frogs, full of national exposure that included being in three road games that featured ESPN’s popular College GameDay show, the team’s starting quarterback Max Duggan being among the Heisman Trophy finalists, and the Big 12 Conference championship and FBS final four games.

A marketing firm that computes things like impressions and mentions of TCU, put an estimated value on that exposure.

“What it would have cost TCU marketing wise to get the amount of mentions, stories, all the attention, is somewhere in the area of $2.3 billion and that was as of (last) Monday,” Bouton said.

What does that mean? In short, it is huge boon of positive momentum for the entire TCU athletic programs, not just the football team.

Bouton said that the school has been interested in building a facility to study items like injury prevention, injury maintenance and injury projection.

“We decided to embark on building a new human performance center,” Bouton said.

The high-end price tag for such a structure was in the neighborhood of $75 million.

“We’re not a state school that can take on debt,” Bouton said. “We’re a private institution that has a debt rating that matters.”

However, as a result of all of the positive national exposure, that building will become a reality much more quickly than anyone could have imagined.

“For me in particular, to be able to have this momentum and have so many people excited about TCU and giving back and wanting to see us grow, the brand has never been stronger,” Bouton said, “and we’re seeing it through a lot of the donations that we’ve been getting since we launched the concepts behind the project and got our donor base really excited.”

Now, regardless of the outcome of tonight’s contest, the campus will take a major stride forward thanks to an unforgettable football season.

“It makes this project immediately doable,” Bouton said. “We are in a position now where we are going to be able to start this immediately because of our generous fan base.”

Not only that, TCU is now poised to become the centerpiece of the Big 12 with the announcement that conference kingpins Texas and Oklahoma will be leaving the league.

“It’s kind of like a mall if you will. Texas and Oklahoma are big box stores that are at the ends of your mall. They’re your pillars. We’re that expensive boutique,” Bouton said. “But what we’re trying to do is become the big brand and be the most valuable property in the conference. Things like this really set us up for that.”

Gretchen Bouton, right, poses with her husband, Len (left) and son Grey (center) during a game Georgia this past season. Courtesy photo

Bouton attended three years of high school in Aberdeen where one of her former teammates was Dawn Dell, who is married to Tennessee football coach Josh Heupel who also attended Central. Interestingly enough, Bouton and Heupel were on the same staff at the University of Arizona at one time.

Bouton has many fond memories of her time spent in the Hub City, including playing for the Golden Eagles in the Aberdeen Civic Arena.

“The Civic Arena was pretty cool,” she recalled.

The facility also led to a not so fond memory as well.

“I think they hosted the circus the week before we had prom, so that was a special experience to smell the circus when we had prom,” Bouton said. “That was totally an Aberdeen thing to have happen, I feel like.”

She also remembers long bus rides to games, which led to meaningful bonding with teammates, something that is not necessarily the norm in other states.

“I think it’s pretty cool when you’re a kid in South Dakota and you play these games that are an hour and half away,” Bouton said. “You bond so much when you’re with each other that long. That’s a pretty cool feeling.”

Bouton also pointed out two of her former coaches, Derek Roby and Lisa Schriver.

“They were just such incredible people,” Bouton said. “What’s really cool about those two is that you really felt like they genuinely liked you.”

Tonight’s contest will be memorable for a variety of reasons for Bouton, including the fact that one of her sons is a senior at Georgia.

While the Horned Frogs have played in big games before, it’s safe to say that they will have never been on a bigger stage than tonight’s national title contest.

That fact has not sunk in, yet, and may not for quite some time.

“To comprehend being in a national championship,” Bouton said, “it’s going to take like a month from now to sit back and appreciate it.”

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