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Ode to the Case: A Fan’s Perspective of 64 years of Baylor Football in Floyd Casey Stadium

In the midst of unprecedented success on the football field and the imminent opening of shiny new McLane stadium, it is fitting to take a walk down memory lane to remember the good times (and some not so good times) from Baylor’s 64 years at Floyd Casey Stadium. This multi-part series looks at Baylor football through the eyes of a fan who was in the stands for the first game, the last game and all in between.

[Ed. Note: This is the first of a series of retrospective articles on Floyd Casey Stadium and Baylor's history with it penned Grin & Bear It and his father, who grew up in the shadow of The Case. The next few days he will be bringing you unique insight into Baylor's football history, which a different decade of Baylor football being featured each day.]

What an exciting time it is be a Baylor football fan!  The past four years have been unbelievably believable.  Winning records, bowl games, Heisman trophies, and plenty of momentum have made everyone forget about the previous decade of gridiron futility experienced in Waco.  Now with a new stadium being built on the banks of the Brazos River, top 20 recruiting classes and a coaching staff that is secure and focused for many years to come, the future is so Briles I gotta wear shades.

As Baylor football makes the step up to the next level, inevitably some things get left behind.  No one cares about leaving the losing seasons, the tarp, and the long list of suitors begging Baylor to be their homecoming opponent far in the rearview mirror.  On the other side of the scale, everyone, including yours truly, is excited about the beautiful new riverfront stadium and moving into a premier facility.  One thing that is getting left behind but will be forever remembered fondly as a part of the legacy of Baylor football is Floyd Casey Stadium.  There is a certain nostalgia about that non-descript stadium off Valley Mills Drive, and I suspect that for most longtime fans, the excitement of the new is coupled with a bit of sadness in walking away from the venue that has provided Baylor fans with 64 years of memories.  So on the eve of opening a new era of Baylor football in McLane Stadium, I thought it fitting to take a look back at the 64-year history of Baylor football in The Case from the eyes of an eternal Baylor fan.

I was fortunate to grow up in a Baylor family, with my immediate family holding 8 degrees from the institution.  If I were to include additional generations, extended in-laws, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. the number goes quickly up over 30.  We are a Texas family with almost a century of heritage attending the small Southern Baptist school in Waco and we are proud, really Baylor proud.  One by-product of that pride is my dad's passion for Baylor football, which he in turn got from my grandfather.  As I was growing up, he took my mom, my sister and me to every game that we could attend even though for much of that that time it meant driving more than 4 hours one way to Waco.  When I say every one possible I mean all the ones that were not canceled by a meteor strike, volcano, or similar act of nature.  Given that there has never been an eruption of Mount Elm Mott, I grew up watching games in the Case since the early 70's.  And we got our money's worth by staying to the bitter/jubilant end.  We stayed, we sang That Good Old Baylor Line and then we left.  Down by 40 or up by 40.  It didn't matter; no one even asked if we were leaving because that was just not a topic broached in front of dad.  We even caught our fair share of away games as well, frequently driving to Houston or Dallas to watch them.

When the new stadium was announced and it was being built I started asking dad about what it was like in the early days.  I personally only saw one major change in 1988 when the venue was renovated and was renamed "Floyd Casey Stadium".  The more and more we talked, it became apparent that it would make a great series of articles for those of us not fortunate to have that level of Baylor Football history.

The Making of a Baylor Fan

My dad, Dan Cochran, grew up on a farm outside of Waco, frequently attending Baylor football games with his father and brother.   After graduating from Baylor, he lived in East Texas for over 40 years but still attended all Baylor home games throughout that time even though Waco was 274 miles away.  For the past several years he and my mother, also a Baylor graduate, have been residents of Waco.  He has gotten to see 2 stadiums built in Waco and can discuss at length any subject relating to Baylor football.  He graduated in 1963 with a Bachelor of Arts.  Today, he actively follows all Baylor sports, attends as many games as possible regardless of sport or venue, and is a board member of the Baylor Bear Foundation.   With that said, his true passion is football.  As I said, good or bad, we stayed at every game until we had sung the last stanza.  For this series of articles, I have tried to capture a decade-by-decade fans-eye perspective of Baylor football in first person straight from Dad.  He wrote the majority of the prose, I just cleaned it up a bit for publication on Our Daily Bears.

Before getting into the story, I wanted to point out some facts surrounding Floyd Casey Stadium.

  • The venue was originally known as Baylor Stadium and was built in 1950 at a cost of $1,800,000.  In today's dollars that equals: $14,700,000.
  • The stadium was renamed at halftime of the homecoming game on November 5, 1988 when Carl Casey donated $5,000,000 of the $8,000,000 ($15,300,000 today) required to complete a major renovation.  Floyd Casey was Carl's father.
  • So the major capital investments that went into the stadium are approximately an inflation-adjusted $30,000,000.  Obviously there have been other smaller investments along the way as well, but you get the picture.
  • The official seating capacity - 50,000.
  • The long-standing record crowd of 51,385 was set on October 2, 2006 against Texas A&M.  Baylor lost that game 21-31.
  • That record was broken in the past football season in a 30-10 win over Texas on December 7, 2013. Official attendance:  51,728.
  • Top 10 crowd opponents:  Texas A&M 6 times, Texas 3 times, Oklahoma 1 time which was also set in the 2013 season.
  • Baylor's win this year over Oklahoma was the first time that a victory was recorded in the presence of a top 10 crowd since beating Texas A&M 20-15 in 1985.
  • Baylor is 4-6 all time in games that featured a top 10 crowd at Floyd Casey.

Memories of Baylor Stadium - A Fan's-Eye Perspective

When Baylor Stadium was first built in 1950 there were no perks, it was a bare bones affair.  Although it was a vast improvement over Baylor's previous football venue, Waco Municipal Stadium on Dutton Street, there is no comparison to the current incarnation of Floyd Casey Stadium.  The scoreboard was small and gave just the basic information with light bulbs (there was not even a thought of a high definition video screen; that would have been considered science fiction at the time). The field was natural grass and very soft. We did not storm the field back then as we do today, but all of us youngsters would go down on the field and play around after games.  It was open for us to do as we liked, almost like a city park.

The grandstand seats were made of wood with the seat number branded in.  Those same wooden seats were used for almost 30 years.  In the late ‘70s the wooden seats were finally replaced with typical metal bench seats.  The end zones were concrete, not even wooden seats there. It was like sitting on a concrete staircase.  Smoking was allowed everywhere as well as umbrellas.  What was not allowed was liquor or any form of alcohol.  We were after all, a Baptist university and drinking was not allowed.  The exception to this rule was when the Arkansas Razorbacks were in town.  Almost to a man, the Arkansas fans had a clandestine flask and proceeded to drink throughout the game.  The north end zone just had seating and nothing else; there were no Galloway suites back then.  A really tall flagpole stood just outside the north end zone, and the scoreboard was located in the south end zone.  The goal posts were wrapped with crepe paper each week: Baylor's green and gold on the north goal posts, and the visitor's colors on the south. The tradition stopped around the time that I attended Baylor; I am not sure when they stopped exactly, but it certainly happened in the early days.

In '88 the name was changed to Floyd Casey, which I have never gotten used to. I certainly was as grateful as any fan of Baylor football for the gift given by the Casey family, but when I had been watching games in "Baylor Stadium" for almost forty years, the new name just never quite sunk in.  Honestly, I was glad that the new stadium was to be named "Baylor Stadium".  Drayton McLane supremely impressed me by specifying that the new stadium bear the name of the university even after his large donation.   Now that it has since been changed back to McLane Stadium I guess I will have to just get used to that one as well.  I will probably still refer to it as Baylor Stadium though.

Many additions have been made over the years. The north end had the Casey Athletic Center and Galloway Suites added on, new modern press boxes were added along with luxury suites, Grant Teaff Plaza was added to honor our former coach and gave the stadium significantly more facade, chair back seats were added, and the surface of the field changed several times. It started as natural grass, then went to AstroTurf, then back to grass and finished up with artificial SportGrass.

The old stadium was not fancy in 1950 and I wouldn't call it fancy now, even with all the changes and upgrades. But it has character. That's what I like about the place and after 60 years of ball games I'm going to miss it. I know the new stadium will have all the upgrades, big video score board and chair backs everywhere, but I grew up with the stadium on Valley Mills Drive and it is like leaving and old friend behind.

Next Up:  Ode to Floyd Casey - Baylor Football in the 1950's