A lot of moving parts go into a rivalry. Everyone who has any sort of investment in sports know this. Rivalries adapt, change, and take on new life as time goes on. For instance: the NFC East. Me and my father are, apologetically, Dallas Cowboys fans. My dad's Public Enemy No. 1 is the Washington team. Whereas, my hatred skews towards the Eagles. In addition to various personal reasons why I hate the team from Philadelphia; the simpler answer is that they've been better--they've been the team to beat in my lifetime. And now, in the Chip Kelly-era, it'll likely stay that way.
When I was seventeen I went to Italy on a family trip. This was 2006 and during the summer of a World Cup. Naturally, soccer fever took over my body. While shopping for jerseys at a questionable location in Florence, I decided I needed a club team to root for once the World Cup ended. I chose Arsenal for three reasons; (1) I'd actually heard of them and knew they played in North London, (2) I knew who Thierry Henry was, and (3) I liked the cannon on their jersey. Since 2006, and the interworking came a little before, their rivalry with Chelsea became more prominent. So, since I've been a fan, I've hated Chelsea much more than I hated Tottenham--Arsenal's North London rival.
So where does this fit into TCU football? I think a handful of folks know where I stand currently on the SMU rivalry. And for those who don't, I think it's a once dying rivalry that should get some needed life breathed back into it now that Chad Morris is in Dallas. But I don't think anyone at this point will tell you that the Battle of the Iron Skillet is anywhere near as important as The Rivalry--TCU fan or not.
The politics and socioeconomic makeup within the Rivalry is saltier than most of the rivalries out there. The bitter breakup of Southwest Conference, which we're still feeling tremors from (cough, cough); the politicking by former Governor, Ann Richards to get Baylor in, thereby forcing TCU out, is something reserved for pseudo-Medieval literature. If the Revivalry were a dish, it'd be a fine seafood dish. It's salt is inherent, organic, and thereof needs no added seasoning; and the recent games, the chippiness between Briles and Patterson--and the fans--have added the only thing really good seafood really needs; a bitter lemon twist.
If you're a TCU or Baylor fan you know this: the Rivalry is pretty even on all accounts. That in and of itself makes it pretty unique. Just about every college football fan, as they should, wants the Texas-Texas A&M Rivalry back in their lives. But Texas has nearly a 40 game lead on A&M. The Red River Shootout/Rivalry/Showdown/The Texas State Fair Attraction's Second Biggest Attraction Behind Fried The Oreo and Butter Sandwich: Texas has a 16 game lead on the Sooners. The Michigan-Ohio State Rivalry? The Wolverines have a 14 game lead in that. As for the Iron Bowl: The Tigers are slowly chipping away at an 8 game gap--thanks Bo Jackson!
Part I: Internet Trends and the Golden Age of College Football Programing
To be fair, The TCU-Baylor Rivalry took a big hit from the mid-90s to the late 2000s with the breakup of the SWC, and the Horned Frogs being banished like Daenerys to Essos. Unlike the Targaryen bloodline; unless you're counting a time before the United States entered the Second World War, TCU never sat on the Iron Throne of College Football. But now they're in a position, and so is Baylor--that should make both teams excited.
So how does the rest of the world view the TCU and Baylor Revivalry?
When I search "TCU football" and "Baylor football" on Google Trends, the spikes aren't a surprise. The Frogs' first biggest spike, in late 2010, early 2011, is attributed to TCU's undrafted season and Rose Bowl win. Google Trends, by definition "Numbers represent search interest relative to the highest point on the chart. If at most 10% of searches for the given region and time frame were for "pizza," we'd consider this 100. This doesn't convey absolute search volume" This means, it's relative to what you're putting it up against.
So compared to "texas football" and oklahoma football" searches, we get a staggering push into the pool of reality:
This, however, is very promising:
When searching "TCU Baylor football" vs "Texas Oklahoma football", there's an obvious advantage that the Red River Rivalry, or whatever we call it now, holds over the Revivalry. It seems like a drop in the bucket when compared to the Red River whatever sponsored by AT&T, but once you take into consideration that TCU's current population + their living alumni couldn't fill DKR, and would leave 8 thousand-ish without out seats at Gaylord Memorial. However, searches in 2014 for "tcu baylor football" heavily outweighed that of "texas oklahoma football". Granted, this had to do with the playoff debate; but given these are two schools, two volatile rivals, who fought for the last playoff spot in its inaugural year, bodes well for 2015.
Following similar trends discussed above--the highs and low of both teams, here's how searching "Gary Patterson" vs. searching "Art Briles":
You can write a hundred think pieces about the state of the Big 12; which, as a Texas or Oklahoma fans in their forties, who are coincidentally figuring out how Twitter works, can troll on their new favorite social media site and state with depleted evidence and tell everyone that TCU and Baylor's success have more to do with Longhorns and Sooners' "down years". There's some truth to it sure, but even when the Big 12 was at it's worst; 2010, the Sooners still found a way to win and beat a rising Baylor team, the perennial power in Austin, and the ever-salty underdogs, the Kansas State Wildcats.
TCU and Baylor will never have the numbers that Oklahoma or Texas does. They will never be either of those schools, especially TCU, located in, and sharing a metroplex smorgasbord with the likes of Oklahoma, Texas, A&M, Baylor, and their own alumni. Looking at those Google Trends, they obviously parallel both team's recent successes, with TCU's rise beginning the early-to-mid oughts. People Googling TCU and Baylor won't win either a National Championship, there's not trophy for interest. However, people are paying attention; and for both schools, their rivalry, the Big 12, and college football; that's delightfully auspicious. And it's hard to argue that this little rivalry isn't an important part of the college football canon going forward in the CFP-era.
So where does this fall into a television standpoint? Well, from Fox Sports, here were the Top 10 most watched games from 2014:
#3 Alabama vs. Missouri (12.8 million viewers; 12/6/14; SEC Championship) CBS
#4 Mississippi State at Alabama (10.3 million viewers; 11/15/14) CBS
#6 Alabama at LSU (9.2 million viewers; 11/8/14) CBS
#7 FSU at Miami (8.74 million viewers 11/15/14) ABC
#8 Clemson at FSU (8.1 million viewers 9/20/14) ABC
#9 Florida at Alabama (8.0 million viewers; 9/20/14) CBS
#10 Texas A&M at Auburn (7.2 million viewers; 11/8/14) CBS
Hats off to the SEC for that one. In a link below, there seems likes there's a little bit of home-cooking from CBS Sports, because Texas-OU, which according to some reports, drew 3.3 million overnight viewers, which should've made it a Top 25 most viewed game. The only two Top 25 games to feature a Big 12 team was the Oklahoma State-Florida State, West Virginia-Alabama bouts the first weekend of the season.
The good news: College football, thanks to the playoff, is simply becoming good television. ESPN’s VP of Programing and Acquisitions Ilan Ben-Hanen, said "All day there was something with national relevance…it's heaven. This is a golden age for college football fans, in my mind" in a piece from CBS Sports back in November. He's certainly not wrong. The inaugural College Football Playoff drew in over 34 million viewers, a 21%, 31% in other reports, increase from last year's BCS coda in Pasadena. The three College Football Playoff games are now the most watched programs in cable history, with the Ohio State's blowout in the Championship being the most watched; and the most streamed in ESPN history for non-World Cup programing.
Hearing "Golden Age" of television, in any sense, sends a tingle down my spine. It evokes the time of when the great narratives, highlighted by the Mt. Rushmore of: The Sopranos, The Wire, Breaking Bad, and Mad Men dominated our weekly viewing. The TCU-Baylor doesn't need a media spin, the disdain by the fans, players, and its two field generals are there. And the country is starting to pay attention: In their report of the Top 25 most watched, TCU-Baylor barely missed the cut with a 2.7 overnight, up from 2.5 the previous year. And given last year's game, and with the presumed stakes of 2015, it could very well eclipse 3.0 on Black Friday. The only TCU-Baylor matchup, to top 2014, somewhat unsurprisingly, was the pre-Labor day, Friday night lights, RG III led victory in 2011, which garnered a 3.178 viewership. This is all the more reason to believe the Black Friday game will eclipse not only 3 million, but surpass that 2011 game. Television dominated conversation, and with no other college games in that, and no other NFL games to compete with, it's safe to say that a good chunk of the country will be watching two schools by 90 miles, try and kill each other.
Texas-OU is the still the defining rivalry in the Big 12, and with Texas and Texas A&M Rivalry suspended in-limbo; there's no harm in letting the Revivalry take flight. The SEC has a copious amount of rivalries, and aside from the Iron Bowl, no one rivalry particularly outweighs the other. For every Iron Bowl, there's a World' Largest Cocktail Party, and though it's not on a neutral field, the Revivalry is starting to feel like the best day, whether you're a TCU or Baylor fan, to drink heavily.
The game doesn't have the kind of weight historically that say, the Red-River Rivalry does. Hell, it was backseat rivalry for fans of both of the schools until the early 2010s. But that doesn't mean more people aren't paying attention to it. Sports can pave careers, and even, ideally, provide a good education for student-athletes who deserve monetary compensation. But at the end of the day, it's entertainment. It's quality television. A rivalry reborn is fantastic television.