The Eternal Flame has been a revered part of Homecoming since 1947—honoring the lives of the Baylor basketball players, known as the Immortal Ten, who were killed in a bus-train accident in 1927. Originally, the flame was housed in a metal canister known as the smudge pot, which was handed down to the incoming class as a symbolic welcome into the Baylor Family.
Homecoming begins every year with the Freshman Mass Meeting where freshmen are told the story of the Immortal Ten. At the conclusion of the meeting, the Flame was handed to the freshmen to safeguard.
In 2009, the tradition evolved from the passing of the smudge pot to the passing of a torch in honor of the immortal words of former Baylor President Samuel Palmer Brooks: "To you seniors of the past, of the present, of the future, I entrust the care of Baylor University. To you I hand the torch."
As part of Homecoming 2015, Baylor University and the Baylor Chamber of Commerce unveiled a six-foot by nine-foot artistic structure to immortalize the university’s Eternal Flame tradition.
In 1946, freshmen held guard during the five nights preceding the game to prevent the Aggies from painting the campus or kidnapping Chita, the new bear mascot. Bonfires were lit each night in different strategic locations, with the Friday night blaze serving as the climax.
Over time, the barricade program's focus narrowed to protecting the main bonfire pile. And at some point, required kissing became a central security measure. A Lariat article from 1974 describes the custom: "The procedure for guarding the campus is to stop each car as it passes through campus. If a Baylor student or ex-student will not kiss his date, his date must kiss each keeper of the barricade."
The barricade tradition ended in the 1980s (though kissing reportedly continues to be practiced around campus). But while the barricades have disappeared, the Friday night bonfire tradition has grown even stronger. As the campus has expanded over the years, the fire has been frequently relocated, from the heart of campus to the Intramural Fields to the Ferrell Center and a few years ago back to the heart of campus.
Of course, much pomp and circumstance precedes the lighting of the bonfire, including a pep rally, motivational speeches, and even activities planned for the whole family.