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Pro Ecclesia, Pro Texana: The Baylor-TCU Rivalry

The Baylor-TCU rivalry is one of the most under-rated and storied rivalries in college football.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Note: Some people at other schools and other blogs do hate-week. Part of the reason I read and write for ODB is because they don’t do that, and I’m not going to start. This is not a hate-week piece, but an overview of a rivalry that I think has been way too overlooked since the ten-year hiatus. I’ll fire some shots obviously, but I mean them to be fun and tongue-in-cheek. Mostly.

I was a freshman at Baylor in 2006. I knew very little about Baylor’s history because I had grown up an Aggie (Jesus saves). So when I was getting ready to go to my very first Baylor game as a student, I knew very little about our opponent that evening, the Horned Frogs of TCU. All I knew about them was that they sent me way too much mail when I was in high school and that they wore an awful lot of purple for a bunch of preppy white kids. I happily put on my line jersey and joined my new friends to run the Baylor line.

My first impression of TCU came as I was standing in the tunnel waiting to run out onto the field at Floyd Casey. I am sure everyone here remembers that the Line gathered in the tunnel that was directly adjacent to the section of seats reserved for opposing fans. So there we were, in the middle of the Guy Morriss Era (Guy Morriss by the way played football for TCU in the late 60’s and early 70’s, which explains a lot in my opinion), hyped up to watch our first Baylor game, fresh with hopes that we might be the first freshman class since 1995 to see our Bears go to a bowl game. We were greeted with a hail of unfortunate hand gestures, obscenities, and thrown garbage and snacks from the TCU fans sitting above. During the course of the game, amidst plenty more unpleasantness hurled our way, a group of TCU fans sitting a section over from us got escorted out of the stadium for fighting with each other, despite the fact that they were beating us handily. At first I thought this must be how all college football fans were. Over the course of the season I would learn that not even Aggies or Red Raiders acted this badly when they visited. (I would also learn that fans who visit opposing stadiums can often be a lot like internet fans: the most vocal and worst-behaved minority in the fanbase and not representative of the quality of the school as a whole. I'm sure TCU fans have some unfortunate stories about visiting Baylor fans. In all seriousness, let's not be those people this week, y'all.) I learned quickly not to like TCU.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that I had been ushered rather appropriately into one of the most underrated, fiercest, and long-storied rivalries in football. I suspect that the fans who were hurling abuse at us were getting out some frustration after the rivalry had taken an unprecedented 10-year hiatus. Baylor had gained entry into the new Big XII Conference in 1995, while our other private school brethren from the SWC were left out in the cold. The resulting ill-will had festered for 10 years until that first rivalry game in the new millennium in 2006. I imagine that TCU was feeling a bit sore at what they saw as an unfair shake.

This Saturday will be the 110th meeting between Baylor and TCU. For comparison, TCU’s rivalry with SMU has only had 94 games, and Baylor’s rivalry with the Aggies has had 108. It’s actually a year older and has been played more often than the Red River Rivalry. It is one of the twenty oldest and most played rivalries in college football history. And it’s completely even: the schools’ records against each other stand at 51 wins for both sides and 7 ties. Including the ties, 41 of those games have been decided by less than a touchdown. That is a pretty decent pedigree for a rivalry, and it doesn’t stop there. Baylor and TCU are the two oldest universities in Texas (Baylor of course was founded in 1845 by the Republic of Texas, and TCU was founded in 1873, two years before the school we now know as Texas A&M). The two schools have played since before TCU was named TCU, before TCU moved away from Waco, and before either school had an official mascot. TCU was even Baylor’s opponent at the very first ever Homecoming game on Thanksgiving of 1909. There is history here.

Of course while I enjoy taking shots at TCU, I do owe them some very real respect. It’s hard out here for a pimp, pimp of course being the colloquial term for a small private Christian college with a D-1 football program. Just ask SMU how hard it is to make it in the ultra-competitive Texas college football world without offering sports cars to recruits. So the fact that TCU has a rich history with a national championship (I know they claim 2, but 1935 doesn’t count) and such illustrious names as Davey O’Brien and Sammy Baugh is impressive. And it was nice of them to make a trophy for our quarterbacks to win every year. Even more impressive is what Gary Patterson has done at TCU in the last decade and a half. Despite the fact that Uncle Gary is an unmitigated lunatic who might actually shoot blood out of his eyes one of these days, the high level of success he has brought to TCU is nothing short of impressive. Class-gate aside, he is a very good football coach, and the fact that he has a BCS Bowl win is worthy of respect. And clearly, his success has not been entirely because of weak competition. They have struggled the past two years, but they appear to have adjusted to the increased level of difficulty rather nicely in year three, which speaks to the adaptability of the program. All of this is to say that they are a worthy opponent.

In some ways, we come to this game as mirror images of each other. Baylor has been notorious as an offensive juggernaut, but this year the defense has improved to the level that it is getting national attention. TCU has been known for defense since Gary Patterson took the reins there, and this year the offense is finally beginning to catch up to the defense's reputation. Gary Patterson is boisterous and talks loudly and quickly. Art Briles is more soft-spoken and measured. Both teams have had to fight to earn respect and to prove that they belong in the Big XII. And they have earned each other's respect and each other's most determined efforts over the years.

And now we come to this Saturday, the 110th meeting, and appropriately enough the first Top 10 match-up in Waco in almost decades. Some national and even regional media types are billing Baylor-TCU as an exciting new rivalry, treating the animosity between the two teams as a product of the last few years. This is nothing new. This is the two oldest universities in Texas playing one of the oldest rivalry games in America, with a hundred years of stories, bad blood, and even the only on-field death in college football history between them. Sure, it doesn't have a name (some people like Revivalry; I'm not a fan), and it doesn't have a little cutesy trophy made out of a kitchen utensil or something. I’m fine with that. Because Baylor-TCU is big enough that it doesn't need a name. I’m not saying that this is an epic battle between good and evil. That would be ridiculous. All I’m saying is, who needs a kitchen utensil for a trophy when your trophies are the soul of God’s Own Republic, and the soul of His church (since TCU is at least nominally still a Christian institution)?

Pro Ecclesia. Pro Texana. Sic ‘em Bears.