Gil LeBreton

TCU-Baylor not just a neighborly spat

At his weekly media luncheon, coach Gary Patterson was asked — several times and from various oblique angles — to describe the TCU-Baylor rivalry.

He punted.

At one point, the Horned Frogs coach even said, “Two private schools. It’s no different than the rivalry we have with SMU.”

If it had been a real football game, instead of a press conference, yellow flags would have erupted in the direction of the podium.

Patterson, 15 yards, intentional downplaying.

When TCU awoke from its long, fitful football sleep in the late-1990s, it was natural to begin looking for vengeance. Baylor, which had used its political clout to broker a favored post-Southwest Conference existence, was right in the crosshairs.

Texas and Texas A&M — of course, they belonged in the merged Big 12. And Texas Tech tagged along because of ... because of ... Buddy Holly?

But the Baylor Bears? While the Frogs were teeing it up annually with Rice and San Jose State, the Bears were sharing the Big 12 table with Nebraska and Oklahoma.

By the time the series resumed in 2006, the Frogs were in the midst of their football renaissance and brought a decidedly chippy demeanor into the contests. For TCU, caught in college football’s middle earth between the Mountain West and Big East, the games against Baylor became measuring sticks.

Patterson cited the overall series record — 51 wins apiece with seven ties — but I’m guessing he doesn’t think much about the first 103 of those meetings. In the Gary Patterson era, TCU has won four of six.

Just like SMU? Not even close.

Patterson claimed Tuesday that not much has changed in the rivalry, “now that we’re recruiting against each other.” TCU and Baylor, however, have always recruited from the same talent pool. The schools, after all, are only 90 miles apart.

Some might even suggest that some of those recruiting skirmishes laid the foundation for whatever ill will exists between Patterson and Baylor’s Art Briles. Bears nose tackle Andrew Billings and running back Shock Linwood, in particular, were TCU commits who, for whatever reason, flipped late in the recruiting process.

The offensive genius against the defensive guru. It’s understandable that Briles and Patterson would be rivals.

Briles looks at a football and thinks it’s a peacock. Patterson think it’s a rock.

“There’s very few people in this world that I dislike, to be honest with you,” Patterson said Tuesday, when asked about last season’s flap.

As far as coaches quarreling with coaches, Patterson said, “We all go through spats.”

But things got personal near the end of last year’s game. Patterson objected to Ahmad Dixon lingering on the Baylor bench, after he had been ejected for a cheap shot on Trevone Boykin. And when Briles cattily responded from his side of the field, the TCU players relayed the remarks to Patterson, who was steaming by the time he reached the postgame handshake.

That, more or less, is where they left it.

And now, come Saturday, both teams, both coaches, will bring a top 10 ranking into the game.

Old neighbors. New neighborhood. Offense versus defense. Two private schools, 90 miles apart, who have undergone remarkable football renaissances.

Just another rivalry, like SMU?

Not even close, coach.

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