The Baylor Bears football team represents Baylor University in Division I FBS college football. They are a member of the Big 12 Conference. After 64 seasons at the off-campus Baylor Stadium, renamed Floyd Casey Stadium in 1990, the Bears opened the new on-campus McLane Stadium for the 2014 season. The current head coach is Matt Rhule.
Baylor University’s football team has seen a wide variation in its success through the years, including an undefeated 3–0 perfect record in 1900.
Initially, starting in the year 1898, the university played its home games on an unnamed field near the university campus. Beginning in 1905, the team’s home games were played at Carroll Field, between the Carroll Science Building and Waco Creek. Baylor did not adopt a mascot (the Baylor Bears) until December 14, 1914 after the completion of the 1914 football season. Additionally, Baylor did not join an athletic conference until 1914 after the conclusion of the football season, when it became a founding member of the Southwest Conference. Baylor played its first home game against Toby’s Business College (located in Waco) in 1899, its first away game on 4 November 1900, at Austin College, and its first neutral-site game against Texas A&M in 1901.
For the 1899 and 1900 seasons, the team was coached by R.H. Hamilton, whose 5–1–1 record was distinguished with never having a losing record; in 1899, Baylor played, and lost, its first game against Texas A&M, which would become a rivalry (until 2012 when Texas A&M changed conferences), the Battle of the Brazos, with over 100 games played in the series by 2003. W.J. Ritchie coached the 1901 team, leading it to a 5–3 record; in this year, the first games of the Baylor-Texas and Baylor-TCU series were played. Texas Christian University (known as AddRan Male & Female College until 1902) was located in Waco from 1895 to 1910 and was one of Baylor’s greatest football rivals until the dissolution of the Southwest Conference in 1995. The 1901 season also welcomed Baylor’s first Thanksgiving Day football game, with a 28–0 win over St. Edward’s University. J.C. Ewing took control of the team in 1902, and led it to its first losing season, with a 3–4–2 record. R.N. Watts restored Baylor’s winning tradition in 1903, with a record of 4–3–1.
No team was fielded in 1906 following a ban opposing the violence of football; along with 1943 and 1944 (during World War II), 1906 is one of three seasons since 1899 that Baylor has not competed in varsity football. Luther Burleson headed the restored football team in 1907, and managed a 4–3–1 record. E.J. Mills led the team for the 1908 and 1909 seasons; their 3–5–0 and 5–3–0 records were notable for the 1908 loss to LSU, and for the world’s first “Homecoming” at the 1909 Thanksgiving Day game, which included a concert, parade, and bonfire. To this day, Baylor claims the honor of having the largest homecoming parade in the world.
Baylor has many traditions such as the Baylor-TCU rivalry game which is one of the most played in all of college football, the Battle of the Brazos (through 2011 when Texas A&M left the Big 12), membership in the historic Southwest Conference, a live bear mascot since 1915 and the Baylor Line.
In 1966, John Hill Westbrook of Elgin, Texas became the first African American to play varsity football in the Southwest Conference when he joined the Baylor team.
Early SWC Championships and Bowl success
Baylor won the SWC Championship in 1915, 1916, 1922 and again in 1924. In 1956 Baylor came close to the SWC title again but finished second and was sent to face the undefeated #2 Tennessee Volunteers in the 1957 Sugar Bowl. Baylor defeated Johnny Majors and the #2 Volunteers 13–7. This was the highest ranked opponent Baylor had ever defeated until defeating #1 ranked Kansas State in 2012. The 1924 SWC Championship would be the last for many decades until Baylor won the conference again in 1974 under the leadership of third year head coach Grant Teaff. From the late 1940s until the mid-1960s, Baylor also played in the 1952 Orange Bowl (vs. Georgia Tech), twice in the Gator Bowl (vs. Auburn and Florida), and the Bluebonnet (beating LSU), Dixie (beating Wake Forest) and Gotham Bowl (beating #10 ranked Utah St in New York City).
Miracle on the Brazos
Baylor had finished in last place in 4 of the last 7 seasons including the year before and had not won the conference championship in 50 years. Also, prior to this season, they had never appeared in the Cotton Bowl. Furthermore, coming into the 1974 season Baylor had lost 16 consecutive games to the Texas Longhorns. The 1974 Texas vs Baylor game looked like another easy win for Texas as the Longhorns took quick control of the game and went into halftime leading 24–7. Baylor was energized starting the 2nd half however, sparked by a blocked punt early in the 3rd quarter. The Bears rallied to a thrilling 34–24 victory over the Longhorns. Baylor went on to win the conference title that year and a first ever trip to the Cotton Bowl (the first time in seven seasons that Texas did not win the Southwest Conference title). The entire 1974 Baylor football season was dubbed the “Miracle on the Brazos” by many sports writers at the time. The win over Texas and the SWC championship have thus become a special part of Baylor’s athletic history.
Grant Teaff era (1972–1992)
One of the most successful coaches in Baylor football history was Grant Teaff. He led the Bears to Conference Titles in 1974, his third year in the program, and again in 1980 when he led the Bears to the Cotton Bowl to face the Alabama Crimson Tide. Grant Teaff recruited famous players such as Mike Singletary, Thomas Everett, Walter Abercrombie and James Francis to play football at Baylor University. Coach Teaff was also named National Coach of the Year after the 1974 season. He would go on to serve until 1992 leading Baylor to eight bowl games and two Conference Championships (1974, 1980) in his 21 years as head coach.
Chuck Reedy era (1993–1996)
Chuck Reedy was coach for four seasons and compiled a record of 23–22. His 1994 team was part of a 5-way co-championship of the Southwest Conference, though an ineligible Texas A&M held a better conference record. In 1996 Baylor joined Texas, Texas Tech, and Texas A&M, along with the Big 8 conference schools, to form the Big 12 Conference.