Rivalries are what make college sports, and specifically college football, special. However, the realignment roulette wheel that has been spinning for over a decade has forced the Texas Tech football program to face the reality of a life where neither Texas nor Texas A&M will be in the Red Raiders’ orbit barring some unprecedented circumstances.
Thus, schools such as Baylor, TCU, and Oklahoma State are the closest that Tech will have to rivals moving forward. With the Bears on the schedule this week, plenty of trash talk has been thrown about between the two fan bases making it fair to ask whether or not Baylor will become Tech’s primary rival as we move into the new Big 12 next season.
While there will never be as much hate from Red Raiders toward the Bears as there is toward the Horns and Aggies, there are plenty of ingredients for a strong rivalry between Baylor and Tech.
The series between Texas Tech and Baylor has the makings of a heated rivalry
For starters, Tech and Baylor have loads of history. The two teams have met 81 times. That means that this series has been played more than Tech vs. Texas or Tech vs. A&M. What’s more, the teams have met annually since 1956 making it one of the longest continually-played series between schools from the Lone Star State.
Of course, that series history has been defined by long stretches where one of the programs was nationally irrelevant. For instance, from 1979-1990, a time when Tech was woeful under the leadership of Jerry Moore from 1981-85, and then was rebuilding under David McWilliams and Spike Dykes, Tech went just 2-10 against the Bears.
The script would soon flip, though, as Baylor would become the laughingstock of the NCAA around the time of the Big 12’s formation. In fact, from 1996-2010, the Red Raiders would rattle off 15 consecutive wins against the Bears.
Those prolonged streaks of dominance by each side led to decreased animosity between the fan bases. In fact, when I was a student at Tech in the early 2000s, I remember seeing a bumper sticker on a truck that said “I’d rather be on probation than lose to Baylor”, something that many Tech fans agreed with not because of hatred toward the Bears but because of how inept Baylor was as a football program.
However, both programs now seem to be on even footing. Though Baylor can claim something Tech can’t, a Big 12 title (in 2021), they haven’t necessarily capitalized on that momentum after putting together a losing season in 2022.
Now, both Tech and Baylor enter this year’s matchup at just 2-3 overall and still searching for a way to convince outsiders that the 2023 campaign can be salvaged after disappointing early-season losses. That makes Saturday night’s game a pivotal contest for both teams.
Another reason this could become an intense rivalry is that there is familiarity on both sides of the equation. Texas Tech head coach Joey McGuire was an assistant at Baylor under Matt Rhule and then under current Baylor head coach Dave Aranda.
When McGuire came to Lubbock, he naturally brought several assistants and support staff members with Baylor ties along for the ride. Current assistants Justin “Juice” Johnson and Josh Bookbinder were also part of the Baylor coaching staff with McGuire, for instance.
Also, McGuire has stated that he was disappointed in the fact that he didn’t get the Baylor head coaching job in 2020 when Aranda was hired from the LSU coaching staff to replace Rhule who had been hired by the Carolina Panthers of the NFL. While McGuire harbors no animosity toward Baylor, there is no question that beating the Bears would mean quite a bit to him as it would to all of the people with Baylor ties that he has brought to West Texas.
Finally, Baylor has become much more despiseable as a university in the last two decades. Once considered just a harmless little private school in central Texas, major scandals in two high-profile sports have cast the Bears in the role of the villain.
Of course, the most notable was the Art Briles controversy that involved the alleged cover-up by the Baylor coaching staff of sexual assaults committed by members of the football team. That led to Briles’ termination in 2016 and the fallout cast just about everyone at Baylor in a negative light. Though almost all of the key players from that drama have moved on, the residue from that dark period in Baylor’s history still lingers in the minds of many fans around the country.
However, that wasn’t the first controversy at Baylor to make national headlines. In 2003, Baylor basketball head coach, David Bliss, was fired after it was revealed that he tried to cover up the facts in the murder of one of his players, Patrick Dennehy by another Baylor player, Colton Dotson. The ensuing investigation uncovered a litany of NCAA violations committed by the Baylor basketball program leading to heavy sanctions.
Those two ugly incidents in Waco helped turn the Bears into one of the most universally hated athletic departments in the Big 12 if not the entire NCAA. In other words, there is plenty of reason to hate Baylor, even nearly a decade after the Briles era came to an end in disgrace.
Ultimately, no school is going to fill the hatred void in Lubbock left by the absence of UT and A&M. However, as long as Tech continues to play sports, the fans are going to find someone to hate.
While TCU is also a great candidate to become Tech’s primary rival, one has to wonder if the Baylor series might be the one that Red Raider fans annually want to claim victory in the most. There is a long history with the Bears, both programs seem to be of equal status in the conference these days, and Baylor has become one of the most easily disliked schools in the nation.
So this week, go ahead and embrace the Baylor hate. Try it on for size and see how it feels. After all, it might be the most animosity-driven rivalry Tech will have on the schedule moving forward.