According to the lore, TCU was the inspiration for hand signs of the old Southwest Conference.
During midnight yell practice the night before Texas A&M’s game with the Horned Frogs in 1930, A&M board member Pinky Downs was said to have shouted, “What are we going to do to those Horned Frogs?”
“Gig ’em, Aggies,” Downs said while simultaneously making a fist and raising his thumb.
That supposedly was the start of an SWC legacy.
When seen for the first time, most everybody around the country — that is, outsiders — looks as if you asked them to spell supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.
Texas followed suit 25 years later when a future state district judge, Harley Clark, then a cheerleader, formed the head of a Longhorn using his index and little finger sticking up and his thumb holding down the middle and ring finger.
That was at a pep rally before the TCU game.
The Horned Frogs were among the last to adopt a hand sign. Cheerleaders designed it in the early 1980s. Now you can’t find a picture from a TCU football game on Facebook without the accompanying bent index and middle fingers.
Only Arkansas declined to keep up with the Joneses.
Here’s what the other schools of the conference adopted:
Baylor raises a hand with all five fingers bent to symbolize a bear claw. A cheerleader came up with the idea in 1960, but the university didn’t formally adopt it until 12 years later.
Houston adopted its “Cougar Claw” when it gained entrance to the SWC in 1972. Cougars fans raise their right hand and make the UT longhorn head with index finger and pinkie, then add a raised middle finger.
SMU had been using a raised index and middle finger for years — for victory — before reinterpreting it to be pony ears in the mid-1950s.
Rice students once upon a time joined both hands by locked thumbs and waved their fingers. For obvious reasons, university leaders never approved an earlier sign, that of a raised middle finger said to represent a pecking owl.
Texas Tech’s spirit organization, the Saddle Tramps, is credited with creating the Red Raiders’ thumb-and-forefinger pistols, using mascot Raider Red as their inspiration in the early 1970s.