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Ode to the Case - Baylor Football in the 1960's, A New Hope

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.

Football in the 1960s - A New Hope

The early 60's brought new hope to the Bears.  in 1960, Baylor finished the regular season 8-2 and brought a #12 ranking into the Gator bowl.  Unfortunately a 1-point loss at the hands of Florida was the result, but things were looking up.  Baylor had Ronnie Bull and a sophomore by the name of Ronnie Goodwin as their running backs. Both were very productive. Baylor had Bobby Ply (MVP of the Gator Bowl) and Ronnie Stanley both running at QB. Coach Bridgers used them both for all of the '60 and '61 seasons. I don't remember any other coach using two QB's in tandem in the 60's. They were very effective in ‘60 and improved to be even more so in the '61 season.

A vivid memory that I had during the '60 season was at the Texas game.  I was sitting in the student section as always.  Somehow a Texas fan got a seat in our section a few rows down from me.  He had a ridiculous carnival style cane with a hand drawn "Hook'em" sign in cardboard attached to the end.  When Texas would do something good he would jump up cheer with abandon, poking his cane at surrounding Baylor fans.  Well this went on for a few minutes until a fan seated behind me had had enough.  The fan went down the longhorn, calmly took the cane away from him, broke it into several pieces, tore the sign all apart and tossed the pieces into the air.  He then turned and calmly proceeded to his seat to the roar of a thankful Baylor following. The Texas fan just stood there dumbfounded during this process.  When the Baylor student had returned to his seat the Texas fan turned to him and rubbed his two index fingers together and condescendingly said, "poor sport".  He then left the stadium never to be seen again.

The '61 season brought a new face to the QB situation.  That new face was a kid from north of the Red River and though we did not know it at the time, he was destined to become a Baylor legend.  His name was Don Trull and as we watched him play, we all knew that he was going to be special.  In Trull's freshman season, Ply and Stanley were still running as tandem QBs with Trull coming in for spot duty.  Trull went on to accomplish great things including setting the Baylor passing record that stood for over 25 years in 1963.  He was also an all-American and won the Sammy Baugh trophy twice as the nation's best passer.  Of course, having fellow all-American Lawrence Elkins as his primary target made accomplishing that task much easier.  He was also our first legitimate Heisman threat, finishing fourth in the voting after the '63 season with Roger Staubach the winner.  It would be years later, but another Baylor quarterback wearing #10 would also get a look at the Heisman.

In one notable November game, the Air Force academy came to Waco for a game.  Baylor won the game, but no one really cared.  We were all watching Air Force's falcon mascot flying all around the stadium.  Overall the season was unexceptional with the Bears going 5-5, but Baylor still earned a trip to the Gotham Bowl in NY.  The Bears played an undefeated Utah State team that had All American tackle Merlin Olson as part of the squad. Leading up to the game, Utah St. was bandying about some big talk about being the #1 team in the nation.  They felt somewhat cheated to have to play a 5-5 Baylor team in the Gotham bowl, but after a 24-9 loss at the hands of Ronnie Bull and company, that national championship talk was gone.

1962 was my senior year at Baylor and to be honest it was a real downer. Baylor went 4-6, but we won our last three games to finish on a high note.  Midway through the season we lost a thrilling game to A&M 6 to 3.  Three field goals were the sum of all scoring.  Art Briles would have not stood for that.

The '63 season was Don Trull's senior year and opened with high expectations. Baylor went 7-3 in regular season and beat LSU in the Bluebonnet Bowl with Don Trull as the MVP.  Unfortunately, I didn't attend a single game that year. I graduated from Baylor in the summer and a week after the graduation ceremony I was in the Army.  I was stationed at Ft. Polk, La., for basic training.  Unlike today's age of internet news reports, up to the second tweets, and streaming video, it was hard to keep up with the games.  By the middle of the season, I had finished boot camp and was in San Antonio at Ft. Sam Houston to be trained as a medic.  I had my car with me, a Ford Falcon, and when Baylor played, I would typically sit in the base parking lot listening to the games on the Ford's AM radio.

One of my best memories of listening to games over the radio was the announcer.  Kern Tips was the "Voice of the Southwest Conference" and he was a great radio personality.  He had a very distinctive voice and was constantly naming players and making witty comments on the air.  Similar to Art Briles' nicknames tending to stick with players, Kern's did too.   For example, he named L.G. Dupre "Long Gone" and that became his name.  He also had other great sayings like, "back to punt and punt he does," or "malfunction at the junction" instead of saying fumble or "delivered the mail" when a touchdown was scored.  He was sponsored by Humble Oil and was constantly making references and puns regarding that company as well.  The man had a way with words.

The Texas game that season was significant and had a lot riding on it.  Baylor needed to win or tie that game and they would be going to the Cotton Bowl.  Late in the 4th quarter, down by 7, Baylor was driving.  Texas made a tactical substitution that in today's game would have been extremely unorthodox.  Darrel Royal put his starting QB, Duke Carlisle, in at safety and he intercepted a Don Trull pass in the end zone to kill the Baylor drive. The game was over with Texas winning 7-0.  Texas went on to win the National Championship that year.

1963 also saw events in history rearrange Baylor's football schedule.  The November 23rd game against SMU was cancelled due to the assassination of President Kennedy.  The nation was in mourning and it didn't seem right to play football the day after such an event.  The game was later played on Dec. 7, and Baylor won.

A similar cancellation happened to the game with Minnesota, which was slated for September 15, 2001.  After the September 11 attack, no games were played in the following week.  Baylor was not able to reschedule with Minnesota, but was able to schedule a game with Southern Illinois for November 24th.  The game started at noon on a nice fall afternoon and a total of seven thousand fans took the time to show up.  Parking was not a problem.   Baylor was 2-8 going into the game and Southern Illinois was 1-9.  Baylor won 56-12 but it didn't really matter.  The fans had lost all interest in Baylor football that season and it really showed.

The only other strangely scheduled game that I remember was the 2004 Missouri game that spanned two days. The game was televised and started a few minutes after 9pm and wasn't over until after mid night on Oct 10.  Also a small crowd in Waco for that one.

Back to football in the ‘60s, Baylor's opening game in '66 was with Syracuse and it was televised which was a big deal in those days.  Syracuse had a whole host of big named players, Larry Csonka and Floyd Little to name a couple.  Syracuse was a big favorite and was ranked #7 in the AP Poll.  Baylor took it to them and won in convincing fashion, 35-12.  Baylor went from unranked to #10 in the AP poll on the strength of that victory alone.  After the following week's loss to Washington State, Baylor was unranked again.  The next game was against #5 Arkansas which was also a win, 7-0.  Baylor was 3-1 and was ranked #10 again.  By the fourth game of the season the Bears had gone from unranked to top-ten on two separate occasions.  Things were different back then.

From the '63 season on, Baylor was never able to do better than a .500 record.  Although we won some big games like the ones in '66, the Bears just weren't able to put together a whole season.  John Bridgers was the head coach and he was finished after the '68 season.  In came Bill Beall, an LSU assistant.  Things were about to get even worse.

Next Up:  Ode to the Case - Baylor Football in the 1970's, A Legend is Born