Sports Take: Ranking Baylor football’s Big 12 rivalries, part 3

Assoah Ndomo | Photographer The Baylor defense stops Texas State for the 3rd down.

By Jonah Kramer | Guest Contributor

In case you missed parts one and two, here is the premise of my column:

Baylor football has a unique history with each inner-conference school, so I ranked them one-through-nine in terms of rivalry with the green and gold.

Rivalry is a difficult concept to define, but there are three key factors that contribute to animosity between schools in my eyes:

  1. Football: The activity on campus that garners attention to the point that even people who don’t normally like sports will attend the games. Defined as “competition for the same objective or for superiority in the same field,” rivalry is perfectly represented by football teams clashing against one another. Their entire institution cheering them on and even counting on them to generate revenue for the school.
  2. Location: The proximity between two schools plays into their desire to beat one another and prove their dominance in the region. Location also fuels academic competition between institutions, as they vie for the best and brightest students.
  3. Conference History: The longer two schools have shared a conference, the richer the history between them and the greater a fan base’s desire to beat said school.

It’s time for the final installment, so here are the top-three schools on my list:

3. Texas Tech

The third consecutive Texas program on this list is Texas Tech. The Red Raiders joined Baylor in the Southwest conference in 1960, and the two have competed in the same conference ever since.

Similar to the Baylor-and-TCU football series, the razor thin margin between Baylor and Texas Tech elevates the sense of rivalry between the schools, as Baylor leads the series 40-39-1.

Beginning in 2009 and continuing on from 2011-2018, the Bears and Red Raiders played each other at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. Playing the game at a neutral site encouraged fans of both teams to attend, with the 2009 game attracting 71,964 fans. This stretch of meetings at the Dallas Cowboys stadium testifies to the rivalry between Baylor and Texas Tech. Non-rivals simply do not play each other at neutral sites on a regular basis. High profile football games annually played at a neutral site include Oklahoma vs. Texas, Florida vs. Georgia and Army vs. Navy; all big rivalries.

2. Texas

No. 2 on the list features another in-state rival in the Texas Longhorns. Texas is a Big 12 powerhouse both athletically and academically. The Longhorns have won 56 total national championships, 47 of which are NCAA National Championships. Texas also heads the Big 12 on the US News’ 2022 college rankings, coming in at 38th nationally, 37 spots ahead of the next Big 12 affiliate, Baylor.

Texas’ excellence makes them easy to root against, especially if you have shared a conference with them for over a century as Baylor has. The streak of shared conference affiliation is scheduled to end in 2024 when Texas departs to the SEC, a move that will take away from the football aspect of this rivalry.

However, given that Austin is only a two-hour bus ride from Waco, it is likely that the athletic rivalry will be maintained through other sports.

1. TCU

Everything about these two schools screams rivalry. While Baylor and TCU are separated by less than 100 miles, they used to be even closer. TCU, formerly known as AddRan Christian College up until 1902, actually called Waco home from 1896-1910.

In 1923, TCU joined Baylor in the SWC, and the two universities competed as conference opponents for the next 73 years. When the old conference disbanded in 1996, Baylor and TCU went separate ways, with Baylor joining the newly formed Big 12 and TCU moving to the Western Athletic Conference.

The Horned Frogs hopped conferences for the next 16 years before joining Baylor in the Big 12. To this day Baylor and TCU are the only two protestant Christian universities in a Power 5 conference. Given the commonalities, the break as conference opponents did nothing to lessen the fervor of this rivalry.

The football history between the Bears and Horned Frogs adds to the friction, as TCU narrowly leads the all-time series 57-53-7. The old adage that records mean nothing in a rivalry game rang true last season, as TCU beat Baylor 30-28 despite Baylor finishing the season 12-2 while TCU failed to reach a bowl game, going 5-7.

Baylor fans certainly place high value on games against TCU, as the matchup between the teams was the highest attended game at McLane stadium for the 2016 and 2018 seasons. Those were the last two times Baylor hosted TCU without COVID-19 attendance restrictions.

Competition between Baylor and TCU extends beyond athletics and into academics. The US News’ 2022 college rankings slots Baylor at 75 and TCU at 83. With their base tuition differing by just $2,000, many prospective college students considering one Texas school also consider the other.