On Monday night, I tuned into ESPN (because a Monday night tip-off is not ideal for graduate students to attend) to watch the much anticipated Baylor-Texas men’s basketball game. As I listened to Brent Musburger skillfully narrate the intense action and to a full house fervently cheer on our boys in green and gold, I became curious as to why these two schools form one of the biggest rivalries in the country.
My first thought was location. BU and UT are located less than 100 miles from one another and it seems that every school that falls within that radius is a rival to Baylor (TCU and Texas A&M). The close proximity means that fans can easily travel on I-35 to any and all away games. The cities that the two schools call home are also vastly different. UT is located in the state capital of Austin. The city is known for being very hip (and “weird”) and has a great selection of parks, shops, and music venues. Waco, on the other hand, is the little brother of sorts. It is about half the size of its larger counterpart to the south and is just now coming into its own by being “wacko.” A lot of what Waco strives for, even down to its slogan, can trace its roots to Austin, which can account for some of the spite.
My second thought was academics. These two schools are the largest in central Texas and are ranked 52nd (UT) and 71st (BU) in U.S. World News Report’s most recent rankings. UT has been labeled as one of the “public ivies,” which implies that one can get an Ivy League education there for the price of a public school. Baylor, meanwhile, is strictly private and doesn’t have to create such titles. Over 50,000 students are enrolled at UT, while we have a little over 15,000, which creates a cozy atmosphere. Despite the disparity in the student population, both schools are known for their current research with Texas accruing a large research endowment and Baylor opening its BRIC operation just a couple of years ago; both also have general endowments over one billion dollars. The academic rigor that is paralleled at both institutions can only add fuel to the rivalry fire.
My final thought, and probably the one that should have come first, was athletics. BU-UT teams have competed in heated rivalry for decades (check out the 1963 football program at the bottom of the page courtesy of The Texas Collection), despite the fact that the Longhorns have had an enormously historic advantage. In recent years, however, they have been caught and the Bears are now consistently competing on the football field and basketball court and baseball diamond and on and on and on. The intensity brought by this transition of power has made the rivalry ever more intense, which can only enhance to the competitiveness.
While the basketball game continued to unfold in the background of my “research,” I kept hearing Mr. Musburger say two words that perfectly sum up the relationship of BU and UT: passion and respect. Perhaps the reason that this tandem has become so fierce is because we see a lot of the same qualities in each other. We are both located in Central Texas and proud of it. We are both continually improving our level of academics and research. We are both desperately passionate for our team. Because of those facts, a mutual respect has grown and, even though it may seem that we despise each other’s existence most of the time, we are only making each other better.
By Matthew Doyen