Departure of former TCU coach shows the humanity of the profession most of us miss

·4 min read
Richard W. Rodriguez/AP

As TCU welcomed and celebrated the arrival of its newest head coach on Thursday, the person Mark Campbell replaced was in Boston.

Raegan Pebley was visiting her teenage son, who attends a prep school in a post graduate year while he prepares for college. Maybe Harvard.

“We might drive up to Niagara Falls,” she said. “I am so good. I really am.”

Pebley is the former TCU women’s basketball who resigned late in the 2022-2023 season. She resigned with two years remaining on her contract.

Power college sports have morphed into pro sports, and the consuming audience doesn’t have much time for anything other than the games, a few headlines, and point spreads.

Whether it’s men’s sports or women’s sports, they are so disposable, when the people involved are not.

There are people behind all of this. People with families, kids, and lives. People who carry the normal stressors that hound us all.

People whose net worth doesn’t put them among the two percenters, who can’t buy solutions.

Most coaches who enter major Division I coaching do not make millions and millions of dollars. Most coaches in college sports don’t have agents who charge three to five percent.

Most college coaches make a good living, but exist in a world where a tipped pass, a rebound off someone’s foot, or teenager who acts like a teenager can all alter their long term job security.

If/when you take a minute to look beyond the final score, there exists a normal humanity in an abnormal career.

Pebley knew this long before she was hired to become the TCU head women’s basketball coach in 2014. She had been a college head coach since 2003, and was in the game as an assistant since 1997.

She knew the risks.

Knowing the risks and living the consequences of such decisions are entirely different.

Last month, she resigned. Her team was stuck in another bad season. She felt it was time.

“It was a good, healthy partnership I was able to have with (athletic director) Jeremiah Donati, and I don’t mean that in some cliche way,” she said. “I care about those people and that program, and I believe they can achieve great things.”

Pebley is well aware that in this profession, if she wants to be a head coach again, that it would require more moving. That’s if she gets another call to be a head coach.

She knows that landing these types of jobs is A.) Hard, and, B.) Harder to keep.

Now, throw in a life.

Throw in a husband who is in a good job at All Saints School in Fort Worth. Throw in a teenage daughter, Harper, who is a sophomore there.

Throw in a home, and a routine, that they all built since they moved here nine years ago. Throw in an extended family unit that is all here.

“I am looking forward to attending Harper’s (theater) performances; she puts so much time and energy into them and I’ve been to two of them,” Pebley said. “When my kids were little bitty, I thought this would all get easier in this job, and I was wrong.”

“Because the older they get the cooler they become and you want to be around them and you can’t because of the job. When I dropped (her son) off last year at school, it really hit me that it’s gone. I can’t get that time back. It’s done.”

That’s a trade you make, only you have no idea what you’re giving up until well after the transaction is complete.

She wouldn’t undo the deal, but these are the side effects.

Pebley is far too young to retire, and has no such aspirations anyways. She’s not exactly sure what is next.

She does plan to attend TCU’s spring graduation ceremony; not just to watch some her former players walk. Pebley is scheduled to earn her Master’s degree in higher education leadership in May.

She worked on the graduate program over the last five years.

“I’d go to class with my (graduate assistants), and I’d tell my players, ‘I don’t want to hear that you don’t have time,’” she said. “You have time. Schedule it. Make it a priority.”

Her task is to take her time to see what else she maybe was missing. To see what else is out there. Maybe enjoy Christmas this time, too.

“Christmas can be a real inconvenience in college basketball,” she said. “I will have more time for friendships. In coaching, it’s hard to have time for those. Your priority is your family, and your program. That takes a lot of time.”

This is the job.

Raegan Pebley knows it.

It’s the part of the job that most of us who consume sports are too busy to see.