Ahh the Southwest Conference. The stories, the players, the teams all live on today. The SWC continues to receive coverage in an unprecedented manner. I’ve never heard of anyone celebrating the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association, despite the fact that the SIAA was the original conference for many of college football’s blue bloods (the seven founding members were Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, North Carolina, Sewanee, Vanderbilt and Georgia Tech).
In fact over the course of its history, the SIAA boasted members, such as, Clemson, LSU, Ole Miss, UT, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Miami (FL) and others. While the SIAA lasted until the 1940s, most of the founding members left by the 1920s and would found the SEC in 1932. After the founders’ departure, the conference more or less became a revolving door, changing members on a nearly annual basis.
In similar fashion, the west coast rarely revels in the Pacific Coast Conference. The PCC lasted from 1915-1959 and had the original founding members of California (Cal), Washington, Oregon and Oregon State. The PCC would also be home to Washington State, Stanford, USC and UCLA during portions of its history. Few, if any, rally around the PCC, rather the Pac-12 has been fully supported and promoted.
Why then, has the SWC continued to survive in the hearts and minds of so many fans while other great past conferences, such as the SIAA and PCC, have fallen to history? Perhaps it is that the SWC is so fresh in our memories. Perhaps it is that the SWC had a longer lifespan. Perhaps it is the perception that the SWC fell during its height and had a national respect that the Big 12 has often failed to maintain.
However, I think the reason the SWC remains strong in our collective conscious today is that it was Texan. There is nothing that a Texan loves more than something uniquely Texan. Whether it be BBQ, country music, high school football on Friday nights, a cold Dr Pepper with a Whataburger or any of the other countless things that make Texas culture, Texans love Texas. Heck, many even maintain we could be our own country (although I hope that’s at least half-joking).
For 82 years, the Southwest Conference defined part of Texas culture. Along with founding Texas schools Baylor, Rice, UT and Texas A&M, SMU and TCU were quick to join. In the 1950s Texas Tech joined the SWC’s ranks followed by the University of Houston in the 1970s. In fact, the only long-standing non-Texas member of the SWC was Arkansas and when they left they were largely encouraged by Texas to do so. This meant that when the SWC finally dissolved in 1996, the conference had eight members – Texas’ eight major universities.
Of course, how the SWC fell is much more complicated including stories of chasing television dollars and the incessant reporting of recruiting violations with each school ratting on the others. Today, most would agree that the SWC wouldn’t even be a feasible model due to its restricted footprint. However, the fact remains that the SWC was a college football powerhouse. Over the course of the SWC, member schools claimed about 15 National Championships (depending on selector), multiple Heisman Trophy winners and dozens of college football’s most memorable moments.
Fortunately for us, we have the opportunity to relive some of the SWC glory days this weekend with three different SWC rematches.
Rice versus Baylor
Two of the Southwest Conference’s founding members; this year marks the 80th meeting between the Owls and the Bears. Rice and Baylor first faced each other on November 20, 1914 at West End Park in Houston, resulting in a 14-13 Rice victory.
The Rice-Baylor game used to be a major part of each SWC season. In fact, from 1945 until 1976, Rice and Baylor played each other as the last game of the regular season. The only year that tradition was interrupted was 1963, when Rice faced the Horned Frogs in the final SWC game of the year after the original matchup had been postponed due to the assassination of President Kennedy.
In recent history, the game has decidedly turned in favor of the Bears. Baylor leads the all-time series 47-30-2 including winning the last six games against Rice.
The Owls will be looking to upset their former SWC brethren this weekend but it will be an uphill battle. Since joining the Big 12, Baylor is 8-0 when facing former SWC (non-Big 12) opponents. The Bears have beaten SMU five times and Rice three times. Even more daunting, the Bears have yet to lose at home since moving into McLane Stadium. In their new environment, Baylor is 7-0 while outscoring their opponents by an average of 32.1 points.
Of course, nothing is impossible. Perhaps one of the greatest games between Rice and Baylor occurred in Waco on October 12, 1991. In an early game, the Bears entered undefeated at 5-0. Ranked as the eighth best team in the country, Baylor had already beaten #12 Colorado, Missouri, SMU and Houston.
Perhaps Baylor was looking a week ahead to when they played #19 Texas A&M or perhaps the Bears’ heads had grown too large, but one thing was certain – Rice was the better team that day. In front of a crowd of 37,000 at Floyd Casey, Rice held off the Bears, winning 20-17.
The victory remains Rice’s last victory over a ranked team on the road.
TCU versus Texas Tech
I’ll be honest, I was a bit surprised to discover that Texas Tech leads the series with TCU. Meeting for the 58th time this weekend, Tech has a 30-24-3 advantage. That number favors the Red Raiders even more when you look at games played in Lubbock (18-6-3).
While the Horned Frogs and Red Raiders first met in 1926, the two weren’t conference opponents until Tech joined the Southwest Conference in 1960. Over the course of their time in the SWC together (1960-1995), Tech regularly fielded the better football team, posting a 21-12-3 record against TCU. Even more intriguing, the Red Raiders have beaten TCU four consecutive times in Lubbock dating back to November 6, 1993.
As many visiting teams will tell you, Tech knows how to get it done at home. Since 2002, Texas Tech has upset four teams ranked in the top five when playing at home. In three of those games, Tech wasn’t even ranked:
Of course, before anyone starts to think this might be an easy one for Tech, they should reconsider. In many respects, this TCU squad in no way compares with the TCU teams of the last few decades of the SWC. Entering Lubbock this weekend, TCU will carry the #3 ranking in the country. While the Horned Frogs have historically played poorly in Lubbock, Gary Patterson’s road record is astounding. Since 2009, TCU is 26-7 on the road – good enough for the nation’s third best road record in that time period.
Regardless, this game promises to be a fun one.
Arkansas versus Texas A&M
Many people have strong feelings one way or the other about Texas A&M leaving the Big 12 to join the Southeast Conference. However, one benefit is we get to see two founding members of the SWC face off every year. While Arkansas leads the overall series 41-27-3, Texas A&M has made the most of their time in the SEC reeling off three straight wins.
The Aggies three game win streak is the longest by a Texas A&M team against Arkansas since TAMU beat the Razorbacks in six straight games from 1938-1943. Even crazier, if Texas A&M can win this weekend, the 2015 senior class will be the first class to beat Arkansas in four consecutive contests in 80 years.
Things look good for the Aggies, as the offense has started to gel and the defense has shown flashes of inconsistent brilliance. So far in his career at Texas A&M, Kevin Sumlin is perfect in neutral site games with a 5-0 record.
While Arkansas appears to be reeling, there is always truth to the saying, “An animal is most dangerous when wounded.” No question, Arkansas is an animal. Despite a rash of injuries, losing two straight games and the outward appearance of total implosion, the Razorbacks still have a freak-mutant offensive line with a more than capable running game and a serviceable quarterback. If there was some history playing in Arkansas’ favor it would be that Texas A&M winning this game would mean the Aggies had won their conference opener in back-to-back years – something they haven’t done since the 2004-05 season.
If we can hope for anything, it would be for the Aggies to offer Arkansas the same service they did in their last SWC meeting. November 16, 1991 Arkansas makes the trip to Kyle Field. With a national TV audience furnished by ESPN, the Razorbacks employ the wishbone offense to try and outplay the Aggies. TAMU crushes the wishbone, limiting Arkansas to 121 yards of total offense and winning the game 13-3.
Want to see how the author of this article picked these games to finish? Read weekly selections here:
This article was written and researched by Ryan Sprayberry, Collections and Exhibits Manager at the Texas Sports Hall of Fame