Rivalry stands test of time

Oct. 26, 2006

File Photo
Fans tear down the goal posts in the north end of Floyd Casey Stadium after Baylor's stunning upset of No. 16 Texas A&M University on Oct 30, 2004. The Bears won the game 35-34 in overtime. The Baylor-Texas A&M rivalry dates back to 1899, when the teams met in Baylor's first football season, a 33-0 Aggie victory.

Sports writer

To the casual observer, the Baylor-Texas A&M rivalry may seem like nothing more than a lopsided lesson in humility.

Baylor has taken just one game from the Aggies since 1985, and the series has only been competitive since 2004.

The latest generation of Baylor fans, students and supporters have been raised under the veil of Texas A&M domination in the series that has come to be known as the "Battle of the Brazos."

But Texas football legend Dave Campbell said it wasn't always that way.

"It's the Brazos Bottom, as we called it," said Campbell, who attended his first Baylor-A&M game in 1938. "You have that tie there, of (Texas A&M) being right down the road. It's not any further from schools like Texas or TCU, but it goes way back. And it just always seemed to have had a special tie in Baylor memories and feelings that (Baylor fans) would rather beat A&M more than nearly anybody."

To understand that tie, you'd have to go far beyond the current generation and back to the days of the horse-drawn carriage and the Spanish-American War.

In 1899, the Baylor football program was born, and the inexperienced R.H. Hamilton was named its coach.

Hamilton dubbed Tom E. Cranfill as Baylor's first captain and set out to craft the team's schedule.

Hamilton's first schedule consisted of just four games, one of which was in Waco against Texas A&M.

Fostering a rivalry from the team's very first season, Baylor's only loss that year would come at the hands of the Aggies in the form of a 33-0 pounding. After leaving the team the following season, the defeat at the hands of Texas A&M would be the only blight on Hamilton's otherwise perfect coaching record.

It would be another two years before another team even scored on the Bears, which ironically came in Baylor's first win over Texas A&M in 1901.

As the years wore on, the rivalry only intensified. In 1926, Baylor and Texas A&M met on homecoming and a tragic legacy was born.

Texas A&M fan A.B. Sessums was killed during a melee following a bleacher-clearing brawl between Bear and Aggie supporters at the Cotton Palace Stadium in Waco.

The legend grew, and stories passed down saying that a group of angered Aggies immediately raced back to College Station and hopped on a rail car bound for Waco with a howitzer in tow. But, as the legend goes, the National Guard met their advance and felled several trees across the tracks to stop the charge.

The truth behind the rumor is dubious, but the sentiment was not. Baylor president S.P. Brooks and Texas A&M president T.O. Walton signed an agreement on Dec. 8 of that year, ceasing all athletic contracts between the two schools. They wouldn't play another game until 1931.

The series took several twists and turns over the years, ebbing and flowing as each school rose and fell in strength. But with every victory by the opposing team, the rivalry grew.

"It felt like a rivalry the first time I saw it," Campbell said. "There was just a lot of hoopla about the game. When (Texas A&M) came to Waco, all of those games were homecoming games, so it was a very spotlighted game."

From 1931 to 1985, the rivalry was fairly split, with the Aggies holding a slight edge in the series record, 23-25-4. But in the 18 years that would follow, Baylor would fail to win one game in the once-vaunted series.

Everything changed in 2004 when Baylor upset the No. 16 ranked Aggies in Waco, bringing A&M's taunting streak to an end.

"We were really waiting to get them back at Floyd Casey (Stadium)," said senior outside safety Maurice Linguist, who has seen the highs and lows of the Baylor-Texas A&M rivalry in his four years of service. "Everybody else was shocked that we beat them, but we weren't shocked. I felt it really catapulted our program."

The very next year Baylor marched into Kyle Field in College Station and nearly shocked the A&M fan base for the second consecutive season. The Bears lost 16-13 in overtime despite being in control most of the game

Linguist said the outcome of that game should add even more fuel to a fire that's been burning for a very long time.

"It's a little added something to the game that we've played them so many times, and that the last few years we've been into overtime with them," Linguist said. "And we know this game could very well decide a lot for our season."

Head Coach Guy Morriss knows as well as anybody in the program that an entire season could hinge on perhaps the biggest rivalry in school history.

"I haven't had to say much (about the rivalry)," Morris said. "I don't think I'll have to say much of anything to influence them in this one."

Freshman linebacker Joe Pawlek, who is seeing this rivalry from a different viewpoint as a first-year player, said the upperclassmen have stressed the importance of winning this game. Not just because of the immediate bowl implications, but because of the bragging rights afforded to the victor.