Since the late 1980s, TCU football has been the band that held John Runyon and eight of his brothers together. However, for the last eight years, another reason has been tied up: The knowledge of having taken one of the college's most mysterious hijackers in the latest story.
Saturday night in Arlington, Texas, nine will reunite from all directions at AT & T Stadium where their Horned Frogs will take on Ohio State. They will watch from a box that can also be called "Little Sisters of the Poor Suite".
As they were after all, they were behind 20 signs that appeared around Columbus, Ohio eight years ago.
"It's my core crew, and win or lose, TCU football is what keeps us together," said Runyon. "And the passion we have is what burned up the billboard."
This sign thing has just added to the build-up surrounding TCU's showdown with Ohio State.
True, both teams are nationally ranked. And yes, ESPN's College GameDay will be in Fort Worth to preview the matchup.
The Horned Frogs have also not forgotten to be away from the inaugural College Football Playoff in 2014, when the selection committee put the possible national champion Buckeyes over the Horned Frogs, which fell from No. 3 to 6 on the last weekend, despite hammering the Iowa State with 52 points.
Yet tensions between TCU and Ohio State date back to the backstretch of the 2010 season when Gary Patterson's undefeated Horned Frogs tried to be the first team from a mid-conference to play for a BCS National Championship.
Ohio State President Gordon Giving problems with TCU's candidature suggests that the Horned Frogs were only undamaged, as they played "Little Sisters of the Poor".
"I did this, unfortunately, but I'm well known for making unfortunate quips", joked Gee, now press id at West Virginia, in an interview with ESPN.com. "I always thought they had a good football program. I thought it was just a funny statement."
In the end, Runyon and his friends would have the last laugh.
TCU continued to be undefeated. And although the Horned Frogs just missed out to play for a national championship, they were invited to play in Rose Bowl against Big Ten champion Wisconsin, who also gave Buckeyes his only loss of the season.
Runyon and his eight friends met in California and went to the match together and watched when TCU beat Badgers 21-19.
"It was the only best sporting day in my life," said Runyon. "I have the bird just thinking about it. My dad and I rarely missed a home game that grew up. I had looked at TCU losing since I was in diapers."
"Unfortunately, my dad went away in 2005. So I had tears of sorrow, but tears of joy because I was with all my friends and we were celebrating the victory."
Runyon and his crew were not entirely satisfied .
Together had suffered by all the lost in the southwestern conference. They had gone through the humiliation originally submitted from the Big 12 Conference.
And just two months earlier, they had endured the indignity of their team compared to Little
They wished the Ohio state felt a bit of that pain.
And it inspired an email chain, with Runyon unfortunately two days later, suggesting that they "divide a bill at the expense of the Ohio State campus."
Wes Hoaglund took Runyon's request for e-mail seriously and im once called with TCU alum Dave Yacullo, who worked at an advertising agency that helped with national outdoor campaigns.
Yacullo was in.
"We were so lucky because Columbus is the first market where they tested digital outdoor advertising as a network," said Yacullo. "So there had been places where digital had been done before, but they had not really built an entire network that covered the entire market. Knowing that we could go up right became just a great opportunity. I said," Well, we will not Just posting only one, we will wallpaper the Columbus market.
This day, more than 20 digital signs went up around Columbus with the same message:
For their BCS Rose Bowl Victory
– Little Sisters of the Poor
Immediately headed headlines from all over the country. Apart from no-one knowing who was behind it.
"There were all these urban myths out there. People thought it was an oil shark from T. Boone Pickens," said Yacullo, referring to the Oklahoma State mega booster.
Since Clear Channel was still experimenting with the concept of citywide digital outdoor advertising, the total invoice was actually only $ 5000. Hoaglund covered it through his advertising company while the rest of the group pooled another $ 5,000 to donate to the little sisters of the poor order in Oregon, Ohio, whose mission serves the elderly poor.
"When in My Business, you need good humor, and I thought they also had a good humor," says Gee about the anonymous TCU signature quota. "And of course, that was very fun, I did not think it was a Catholic scheme called the little sisters. I still have bruises on my knees to ask for forgiveness."
Gee, who had also sent a personal check to the little sisters, was forgiven by the sisters to turn them into a punchline when he visited the order the following cases.
Runyon, Hoaglund, Yacullo and the others, however, chose to maintain their anonymity as a way to strengthen their friendship. Not even TCU athletic director Jeremiah Donati knew who had been behind the signs.
"There were people who took responsibility for what I knew were not involved," said Donati.
A few days ago Runyon flushed the beans to Donati during a donor event leading up to the Ohio State game.
Their signified secret can finally be out.
But when they gathered from across the country for one of the biggest TCU games since the Rose Bowl, their friendship has never been stronger.
"It could be another great moment for TCU football, and winning would be better than losing," said Runyon.
"But for us, that's what it's about."