At its core, college football is about tradition. A large part of tradition is rivalry.
No historic rivalry between Power Five teams flies under the radar more than “The Revivalry” between TCU and Baylor. The two programs will meet for the 118th time on Saturday in Waco, tying it for the most-played game between two Texas programs alongside Texas versus Texas A&M. With the Longhorns and Aggies not meeting on the field until at least 2024, TCU-Baylor is set to become the most-played intra-state game in Texas by the end of next season.
“It was like a brother-sister relationship, but neither of us like each other,” Former TCU defender Josh Carraway said. “It is a hidden matchup but one that should be on the national stage every year because of how close we play each other no matter the record or the coach. It always goes down to the wire.”
Baylor and TCU share more similarities than differences, making it a sibling rivalry of sorts. Both are private, Christian universities dating back to the mid-1800s. Both schools called Waco homebase for a time at the turn of the 20th Century. TCU was in Waco from 1895 to 1910, and that is where the football rivalry with Baylor began. The first game between the two was a scoreless draw in 1899. They played 10 times from 1899 to Nov. 12 of 1904 when it was common to play opponents two or three times a season. Baylor won seven and there were three ties. The Horned Frogs were shut out nine of the first 10 times the two played. The Horned Frogs didn’t win until the third meeting in 1904, which was on Nov. 24, in a 5-0 victory.
The two rivals played 23 times in Waco before TCU moved back to Fort Worth. The first meeting at TCU took place on Nov. 18 of 1910 – Baylor won 10-3.
The Revivalry may also be the origin of Homecoming, though Missouri and Kansas also lay stake to that claim due to a meeting in 1911. The Homecoming for Baylor-TCU dates to Nov. 25, 1909, when the two teams met on Carroll Field in Waco with the Bears winning, 6-3. Newspaper articles at the time allude to a “Homecoming” with a parade, reunion parties, and an afternoon football game.
The Three-Year War
The heyday of the rivalry took place a decade ago when Art Briles at Baylor and Gary Patterson at TCU put the game on the national map with multiple close games that decided conference races and impacted national standings. The rivalry between the two coaches extended well beyond the football field.
“What was always interesting to me was the Briles-Patterson relationship, or the lack thereof,” former Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty said. “There was definitely a personal vendetta, in my opinion, against Patterson. There was always a hype around TCU week that was different from the moment I stepped on campus to the moment I left.”
The first of six meetings between the two took place in 2010 when TCU won, 45-10. Four of the next five meetings were one-possession games. From 2013 to 2015, the two teams played three times – two finished in three-point wins by Baylor and the other was won in double-overtime by TCU.
“You could tell there was something more than just two coaches coaching against each other,” former Baylor wide receiver Levi Norwood said. “Whether it was a real rivalry between the coaches or just something they knew would rally a team, it worked, because both of those teams played close, exciting games with a lot of emotions.”
The 2013 meeting is credited by most as the start of a less friendly rivalry. Baylor won 41-38 thanks to two touchdown passes by Petty and two interception returns for scores by the defense. The Bears went 11-2 that season. TCU was 4-8. But an interaction between Patterson and a Baylor assistant following the ejection of Bears safety Ahmad Dixon for a targeting hit on TCU quarterback Trevon Boykin became the headline, and the fuel for future meetings.
“If that’s what class is, I don’t want to be it,” Patterson said after the game.
The 2014 clash went down in history as one of the best Big 12 games ever played. The fifth-ranked Baylor Bears hosted the ninth-ranked TCU Horned Frogs in the first-ever meeting between the two schools when each was ranked. The Horned Frogs scored the first two touchdowns of the fourth quarter to increase their lead to 58-37 with 11:38 left in the game. Baylor scored the next 24 points and won on a 28-yard field goal by Chris Callahan as time expired.
The comeback victory by Baylor in 2014 only fanned the flames heading into the 2015 matchup. A team photo by Baylor that placed No. 61 Jarrell Broxton next to No. 58 Spencer Drango didn’t calm the tension. Briles is close behind the pair. Baylor says that team photos were arranged from tallest to shortest by class and that it was a weird coincidence. Broxton and Drango were seniors of similar height and were put next to each other in the middle by a hurried photographer. Drango, to this day, swears by the coincidence story, though he admits that no one believes him when he tells it.
“We did not plan that at all,” Drango said. “If it was above our heads, I don’t know. But we didn’t even think about it until it blew up on the internet.”
The two teams met again in 2015 as ranked opponents. Baylor had won three of the previous four and three of five in the budding Briles-Patterson rivalry. Both sets of players were aware of their respective head coach’s distain for the other program. Every game means something in college football, but we all know a few mean more. This one meant everything.
“It definitely started at the top,” Former TCU safety Julius Lewis said. “The energy and the effort and the vibes in practice were on a different level. I know you want to prepare for every team the same, but that Baylor week was one we got up for.”
And it wasn’t just the coaches who took the rivalry personally. Most of both rosters consisted of Texans. These guys grew up playing against each other, either in real games or on the camp circuit. They knew each other from recruiting visits and rankings. Bragging rights were on the line, and when you play against the same guy once a year for a few years, pride becomes a factor.
“You either chose Baylor over them, or they chose TCU over us, so the game was about who made the right decision,” former Baylor defensive tackle Andrew Billings said. “When you look across the line, you know who you’re looking at, and we each wanted to win that next rep.”
TCU won the 2015 matchup, 28-21, in double-overtime. Lewis was in on the fourth-down stop in the second overtime to give TCU the win in 2015. Ty Summers was also in on the hit, and both attest to getting there first. A plague at Amon G. Carter Stadium commemorates the moment, and Lewis likes to point out that his name is listed in front of Summers, but sources say that was done alphabetically.
A New Chapter
The Revivalry lost some luster over the years as neither team seemed to be great at the same time. A 12th-ranked TCU squad won in 2017. A 12th-ranked Baylor team won in 2019. But the games remain close, and unpredictable. The last four were decided by an average of 6.25 points. TCU upset Baylor in 2021 with a backup quarterback during the best season for the Bears in program history. The last win for Baylor was a 29-23 victory in triple-overtime.
The Big 12 landscape is changing. The conference needs a marquee matchup to build around with Texas and Oklahoma taking the Red River Rivalry to the SEC. The Revivalry can be that, and while the current coaches won’t build a personal grudge, there are a few similarities.
What made the Briles-Patterson beef so fun, at least on the field, was that their genius was pitted against each other. This wasn’t Manning vs. Brady where we never saw them compete against each other in a real way. We got to see the Briles offense match wits with the Patterson defense.
“It was always a chess match between Briles and Patterson,” Norwood said. “. It was fun to watch, and it motivated the guys in the locker room.”
Sonny Dykes is an offensive savant. Dave Aranda is one of the best defensive minds in modern football. Baylor is the reigning Big 12 champions. TCU is 10-0 and already guaranteed a spot in the Big 12 championship game. The Horned Frogs are ranked fourth in the College Football Playoff Top 25. The Bears can join them by winning out and receiving help from a Kansas State loss. The stakes are closing in on those glory years of last decade.
“This could be one of the big rivalries in the Big 12 because of the tradition,” Billings said. “TCU-Baylor becomes bigger because of how close we are and because of what both schools stand for. I think it’ll be the national pick as the rivalry in the Big 12.”
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