100 years a rival: Reflecting on the lost history of Baylor-TCU
Praise be to the football gods and pass the communion of some fine whiskey - The Revivalry is now the hottest rivalry in college football.
Put out the tents, start preaching that pigskin salvation and go find a receipt to write down a score. By god, start making fun the new incoming classes and claim to know better than your ignorant brother-in-law who thinks he can beat you in football trivia.
Make the rounds loud, proud and boastful. Texas has a hootenanny of a rivalry happening, and its once dormant history is now something to be remembered.
Today, most people only know the high-powered offenses and explosive games between the Bears and the Horned Frogs. Heck, in the past five years, the Revivalry has featured two top ten teams, more than 5,000 yards of offense, three Heisman contenders, five conference champions and a lot of nasty words.
The Revivalry may be a play on words with the Christian roots of these two Big 12 private schools, but the name reflects on something more significant. TCU and Baylor has one of the oldest rivalries in the lores of college football, and there is - in fact - revival in the land that I-35 claims its home.
However, there's just not enough said about how this history has unfolded. After all, these two schools have been playing for 110 contests, and The Revivalry is the revival of some authentic, good old fashioned Texas-bred hate.
With the 61-58 jokes from Baylor "coincidentally" having, players trying to dismiss the rivalry and TCU and Baylor both at all-time preseason highs, it's worth revisiting how TCU and Baylor got to the state that they're in today.
After all, with 116 years of history, there's a lot to talk about - and a ton of history that's been ignored in the growing popularity of The Revivalry. Let's begin this history lesson, congregation, as the storybooks of history get opened to recall the tale of TCU and Baylor's football love and hate affair.
A steep history of tradition
Let's start the history lesson with a bang: What was the first-ever homecoming in the history of college homecomings?
If you listen to the likes of Jeopardy or NCIS circa 2011, you'll give the contested answer that it's the 1911 game between Kansas and Missouri.
However, if you look at the research, you'll see that Baylor had a homecoming event in 1909, two years before Missouri claimed their homecoming and a year before Illinois claimed theirs.
And who was Baylor opponent during those coming home traditions? That's right, TCU.
Although Baylor's regular traditions of homecoming didn't begin until after World War II, it is well documented that Baylor sent out invitations to "renew former associations and friendships, and catch the Baylor spirit again."
Festivities for the week included a parade, concerts, pep rallies and a football game, all staples of homecoming activities.
According to Baylor Lariat and Round-Up yearbook archives, nearly 5,000 spectators filled Carroll Field, which was adjacent to Carroll Science Building, on the Thanksgiving Day homecoming game against Texas Christian University, the third meeting of the two teams that season.
The Bears went on to win that game, 6-3, which was Baylor's only win against TCU in three tries that year.
Although a very low-scoring affair, it was a rather common trend for the TCU-Baylor Rivalry during that time. In fact, TCU's three points nearly hit the Frogs' 4.73 average points per game against Baylor at the time.
The first 11 times TCU played Baylor (which the games are from 1899-1906), TCU was shut out every time. It wasn't until Nov. 24, 1904, that the Frogs would even score. A single touchdown was the difference as TCU won 5-0 (remember, touchdowns were only worth 5 points during this era).
Despite the low scoring averages for the Frogs, and generally low scores for all teams during that era, flashes of offense showed up between the squads. In between tied games featuring three 0-0 scores and most games showing less than 15 points per team, Baylor found ways to produce offensive production.
During the first sixteen years of the rivalry, Baylor won some games with scores of 36-0, 42-0, 20-0, 51-0 and 52-0. The Oct. 10, 1910, 52-0 game still remains as the largest margin of victory for either side in the rivalry.
The two Waco-based schools would play each other up to three times a year for several years in Waco, at least until a fire (of which the origins are still unknown) ravaged TCU's Waco campus in 1910. Following the fire, the Frogs moved to Fort Worth, where the rivalry continued for the next ten years.
By 1920 though, the series was put on a hiatus and needed a fresh jolt with some bigger implications on the line.
That jolt came in the mid 1920s, as Baylor - which had been a charter member of the Southwestern Conference since 1915 - was finally going to start playing TCU again, but this time in conference play.
The SWC years
1925 became a big year in the Baylor-TCU rivalry, as a five year drought in play ended in a showcase game in Dallas - the only TCU-Baylor game in history to not be played in Waco or Fort Worth.
Additionally, it was a big year for boosters and supporters, as it was the first time TCU’s band received uniforms (a purple uniform with white trim, provided by Fort Worth media mogul Amon G. Carter).
Although the first-ever TCU-Baylor SWC game ended in a 7-7 tie, it was the beginning of an emergence for TCU.
No longer an anemic offense, the Frogs averaged 17.6 points over the next 15 years of playing the Bears, including 28-0 and 39-7 routs during the Frogs' respective 1935 and 1938 national championship runs.
It was also the start of home dominance for TCU in Cowtown, who would lose only 7 home games to Baylor over the course of the next 40 years.
As legends such as Bob Lilly and Jim "Ramblin Rusk" Swink entered into TCU's program, the Horned Frogs would have a stranglehold on the series, going 15-2 against Baylor from 1955 through 1971.
As TCU legends grew in Fort Worth though, one man never got to quite rise to the level of TCU legend the way he wanted.
Jim Pittman, brought in for the 1971 season from Tulane, was known for his military-style of discipline and his rigid form of coaching. In what was expected to be an era of clean-cut football and a hopeful renaissance of TCU glory in the Southwest Conference, Jim Pittman was getting knocks in against the likes of Penn State and Washington while getting respectful wins over teams like Texas Tech. When the lowly 1971 Bears welcomed TCU to Waco, Pittman was ready to do business as usual.
However, as David Ubben says in his fantastic profile of the coach, business wasn't usual in Waco.
Soon after the first few plays of the game, Pittman grabbed the shoulder of his offensive coordinator as he fell to the ground. He was pronounced dead of a heart attack a few hours later - the only head coach in college football history to die on the field.
TCU fans know all too well what happened to TCU's program in the years that followed. Despite TCU's heroic 34-27 win over Baylor that tragic night and commendable 6-4-1 season record, instability at head coach and terrible play would plague the Frogs for the next 14 seasons, with TCU finishing last or next-to-last in nearly every year until 1984.
Names like Kenneth Davis and John Denton helped lead the Frogs to a Bluebonnet Bowl bid and a bounce-back 8-win season in 1984, but self-imposed sanctions would drop TCU back into the depths of the SWC cellar for most of the remaining years of the Southwestern Conference.
Unsurprisingly, Baylor began to catch up on TCU's winning streaks during the Frogs down years. The Bears would win eight straight from 1974 to 1982, and go 18-6 against TCU until the demise of the Southwestern Conference in the mid-90s.
As the SWC dissolved, TCU and Baylor once again were in a hiatus - the first one since the early 1920s. Some bitterness existed among Horned Frog fans, claiming governor Ann Richards had a direct role in keeping TCU out of the Big 12 and citing Baylor's 16-year drought of winning seasons as reasons why TCU got the short end of the stick. Baylor, meanwhile, continued to play in the Big 12 amongst some of its former SWC foes, and the two teams went their separate ways for 11 years.
It wouldn't be until 2006 and 2007, nearly a dozen years after the demise of the Big 12, that the Frogs and Bears would meet again. This time, the contests were for two out-of-conference games.
The games were just about that - games. Largely inconsequential to the history of the rivalry, TCU won both games by healthy margins. No headlines were made, no shenanigans were had. It was a fun revisit before the series went on pause for another three years.
The three-year wait was worth it though. After that timespan, an out-of-conference game between a Rose Bowl team and a young RGIII lit the fuses to the powder keg that is the modern version of The Revivalry.
Lighting the Fuses: 2010’s Good, Fluky Job
Two key moments in 2010 happened for The Revivalry, but both just looked like minuscule moments at the time.
With hindsight though, they were two explosive moments that lit the fuses to what would eventually be 2014’s powder keg bomb.
The first fuse lit was Baylor’s, and it was lit moments after TCU, the non-BCS AQ team, beat up on a not-so-great Baylor team, 45-10. Then members of the not-big boys table, TCU rightfully had a little bit of contempt for the schools, administrators and conferences that claimed the Frogs didn’t deserve a chance to be with the big dogs of the college football world.
Naturally, when this type of anger meets a blowout “told-you-so” victory, then gets fueled with the power of alcohol, you get the four words that kickstart a historic rivalry.
“Good job, Big 12.” shouted the TCU fan to the visiting Baylor Bears. “Enjoy the bus ride.”
The Baylor folks didn’t take kindly to that.
“What if I kill your ass right now?” shouted a Baylor staff member as he was pulled away by a peace officer.
“You paid to watch them, you punk ass bitch,” shouted another Baylor staff member. “You’re a T-shirt guy, you’re a nobody.”
As another Baylor coach walked out to start lecturing the TCU fan, including the fantastic line “You’ll still be a horny toad in the morning,” it seemed at the time just like a run-of-the-mill bad fan moment. People got flared up in the heat of the moment, and no one was supposed to remember the incident.
At the time, it was a fan blowing off steam. But in hindsight, it lit Baylor’s fuse - the one attached to The Revivalry powder keg.
That incident didn’t rub off well on the Baylor fanbase, and it wasn’t forgotten at all. It clearly affected a certain player on the Bears roster, who wouldn’t take too long before sending TCU some counter-insults.
In October 2010, Baylor quickly had its own fuse-lighting ceremony - yet like TCU, no one expected the initial lighting to be as loud or bright.
In a salty post-game interview, Robert Griffin III threw shade at TCU, and tried to justify Baylor’s loss to the then-Mountain West foe.
In doing so, he gave TCU strong bulletin board material, invented a Frogs fanbase war cry and ignited TCU’s fuse attached to the rivalry powder keg.
“The TCU game was a fluke,” the then-junior quarterback said after defeating a terrible Kansas team 55-7. “To come out here and have a victory like we did today can wipe that game out.”
Again, it just looked like another incident that in another other case probably would have just gone away. At the time, it looked like a young man spitting a late diss to a team that shouldn’t have matter to Baylor by that point.
Instead, it leveled out the playing field, and began to get emotions back together for two old foes. Not only had RGIII called out TCU, but he implied a comparison of TCU’s Rose Bowl team to the pathetically bad 2010 Kansas Jayhawks and dismissed a five-touchdown smack-around his team had already been given.
Just as Baylor fans refused to let go of “Good job, Big 12,” TCU fans refused to let go of “fluke.” Those insults are still unforgiven to this day, and the narrative would only continue to grow as Baylor finally became recognized in the national spotlight.
The Birth of Baylor Football, and the first “true” rivalry game
Brothers and sisters of the congregation, this is the part of the history lesson that is completely subjective.
There’s no doubt that the 2011 TCU-Baylor game was the most electric game of The Revivalry up to that point, and there’s no doubt that bad blood began to be shed between it and the 2010 game.
Both sides well know how RGIII came roaring out of the gates as he began his Heisman campaign, torching a young, inexperienced TCU secondary as the Bears won 50-48. TCU fans vividly remember Casey Pachall throwing a pick to end his first-ever TCU start as he was trying to lead a winning scoring drive during the final minutes.
I remember the birth of TCU and Baylor finally getting national attention for the first time.
SB Nation called the TCU-Baylor game the best game of 2011. ESPN called it the start of a Heisman campaign for RGIII. Fans called it the birth of modern Baylor Football.
Whether the game was the birth of a modern program or not, it certainly was the rebirth of a rivalry.
Plenty will rightfully point to 2014’s infamous 61-58 game as “the” rivalry game, but 2011 stands out for what it did to show the world about two small schools in Texas. Yes, 2014 had longer, louder implications, but 2011 got to boast about how a Texas shootout is done, all while showing that TCU and Baylor were here to stay.
TCU made noise late for a BCS campaign after toppling #5 Boise State, only to fall short in the final polls to get a *technically* automatic bid by virtue of being ranked higher than the Big East champion. Despite the non-BCS appearance, TCU walked home with 11 wins and a third straight undefeated MWC title.
Baylor, meanwhile, got a Heisman winner, a top-15 finish and the first 10 win season capped with a bowl victory in decades.
Similarly to the comments from 2010, these seasons were supposed to be minor blips - forgotten to time like the years long before in TCU and Baylor’s programs. However, once TCU got a Big 12 invite and both teams proved they were worthy of recognition, The Revivalry was here to stay.
The 2011 game made the fuses burn faster and brighter. It made the rivalry an interesting game for the first time in decades and most importantly, it only needed one more massive moment to finally explode.
One True Champ: The powder keg ignites
Unfortunately for TCU and Baylor, that moment needed a few more years before it arrived.
At risk of diminishing the importance of the 2012 and 2013 games to individual season, the fact of the matter is that the stories of 2012 and 2013 aren't exactly remarkable, nor even that rememberable sans Gary Patterson's public shaming of Art Briles’ treatment of Ahmad Dixon’s targeting ejection.
Yes, there's plenty for TCU to shout about with their numerous forced turnovers and blowout win in Waco in 2012, and plenty to say about how they slowed Baylor's 2013 squad to season lows in yardage, but the games themselves didn't necessarily help define The Revivalry aside from a few snippy words at press conferences.
Three years had passed since TCU and Baylor got their signature game in 2011, and although The Revivalry was once again big between the two schools, it still wasn't a nationally relevant game. The national news cycle was starting to question whether TCU and Baylor could be lasting programs following TCU's dismal 4-8 season and Baylor's collapse in the Fiesta Bowl.
Then Oct. 11, 2014 happened. And talk about a signature rivalry game. Do you have a moment to talk about 61-58, dear friends? Pass the communion, for it will be needed to discuss the game.
As aggravating as the final result was for TCU fans that night on the Brazos, the 61-58 game is what cemented The Revivalry as a rivalry to be revered and respected.
In what may be the most mind-blowing fact about the TCU-Baylor rivalry is that 2014 was first-ever time the two opponents played each other while ranked - in any poll. There didn't seem to be any official records explicitly stating the statistics, but its probably safe to say that playing 109 games without both teams being ranked has to be a record of some sort.
What a first game to be concurrently ranked though. No. 9 TCU was on the road at No. 5 Baylor. The Frogs were the last team to beat Baylor in Waco, doing so in their 2012 edition of The Revivalry. Several pundits predicted that the hot Frogs would continue the magic they had against Oklahoma as they went into the new McLane Stadium - the first Big 12 Conference game held in McLane Stadium.
There were dozens of 30+ yard plays. So many bone crushing hits. Exquisitely beautiful touchdowns were ran with superhuman speed. There were who knows how many controversial calls made. Nearly 1300 yards of offense happened. 119 points were scored. And for the third time in four years, the game came down to the final seconds.
The story of Baylor and TCU's fates at the end and after that game are well-known by now, including the debacle of "One True Champ" and how the seasons ended for both teams.
But there's something else well-known at this point: The Revivalry.
Every college football fan has Nov. 27, 2015, circled on their calendar for what should be the de facto Big 12 championship. Just about every pundit has TCU or Baylor in this year’s playoff picture. Both teams are starting in the Top 5 of just about every preseason poll.
And more importantly, for the first time ever, The Revivalry should be a more nationally relevant rivalry game than any other rivalry game in 2015.
For a rivalry that goes back for more than a century, it’s exceptional to think that this is the Golden Age of TCU-Baylor. And for all the history that’s been forgotten in those decades, this rivalry should have substantially more history to come.
That, ye believers of the grace of college football, is the story of The Revivalry. May it live for another 100+ years as fans continue to taunt and tease.
May Gary Patterson continue to lose his voice while being frustrated at Baylor players, while Art Briles continues to be a poor man’s Steve Spurrier with hilarious quotes as hokey as this impersonation of a preacher throughout this article.
Go now in peace as November 27 dawns nearer and nearer to the Kingdom of Kickoff. Amen.STATS AND NOTES
- The largest margin of victory is Baylor’s Oct. 10, 1910 52-0 win in Waco.
- There have been 39 shutouts in the rivalry’s history, including three 0-0 ties. Only six shutouts have been made since 1958, with TCU claiming five of them. Baylor’s 1985 team beat TCU 45-0, the only Baylor-led shutout since 1939.
- TCU went scoreless for the 11 games of the rivalry. TCU’s 5-0 win in the second Baylor-TCU meeting in 1904 was TCU first-ever score and first-ever win.
- There have been 39 shutouts caused by TCU and Baylor’s defenses. TCU has shut out Baylor 20 times, and Baylor has shut out TCU 19 times. Six of those shutouts include 0-0 ties. Baylor has shut out TCU just once since 1939 (1985).
- TCU and Baylor have played on Thanksgiving or on Thanksgiving weekend 15 times, with 2015 marking the 16th occasion. Baylor holds a lopsided 12-3 advantage when it comes to Thanksgiving time games.