College rivalries aren’t any fun without good, old-fashioned, family-friendly hate.
And because the games are played by teenagers and it feels wrong to direct any of that hate toward them, it’s the old men on the sidelines that draw ire from the fans.
North Carolina fans hate Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski more than they love their own coach, Roy Williams. Ohio State fans loathe Jim Harbaugh’s persona but derive great glee from his inability to lead Michigan to a win in The Game. Kentucky fans were shocked when former Wildcat coach Rick Pitino took over the Louisville job and overjoyed when his national title with the Cardinals was stripped.
And for a good long while, TCU fans could direct their unbridled animosity to Art Briles, the since-deposed Baylor coach that brought great success to the program while besmirching the university’s reputation. Jokes about what went on under Briles aren’t funny or appropriate, so we’ll skip past them here and focus on how much his tenure with the Bears heightened the TCU-Baylor rivalry. Gary Patterson couldn’t stand Briles, which anyone could tell by watching a press conference. Under Briles, Baylor had its best seasons in program history — which just so happened to coincide with some great years for TCU. The 2014 and 2015 editions of the rivalry will go down in each school’s lore (albeit for very different reasons), and that’s mostly due to the sheer dislike each school had for the other’s coach.
Then — after the peculiar one-year caretaker stint from Jim Grobe — Baylor hired Matt Rhule. A self-professed Yankee with just four years of head coaching under his belt, Rhule started his tenure with the Bears by going 1-11. We all got a good chuckle out of that.
But then Rhule started building something down in Waco, which was pretty strange. Something even stranger still happened — there wasn’t any chatter from TCU players or coaches about animosity between the Frogs and Rhule’s staff. Oh, sure, there was that scrap in the 2017 game, but you can attribute that to the Bears being fed up with a one-win season.
As it turns out, everyone liked Matt Rhule, and everyone knew he was a good coach. Texas high school coaches said Rhule was the second-most trustworthy college coach in the state, which is pretty impressive for a guy that had never coached in Texas until 2017. TCU fans even had a hard time making fun of him, which was a first. Eventually we all landed on his downright bizarre smock that he wears during games, sort of a cross between a painter’s apron and a pinnie jersey you’d wear during a youth soccer game.
But that’s all we could muster. The rivalry, I would argue, lost its luster during the last three years because Matt Rhule is a good person. That’s extremely weird to type, but I think it’s true.
And now Rhule is off to the verdant pastures of Charlotte, North Carolina, where he’ll make an obscene amount of money coaching a mediocre Panthers team. We wish him the best of luck, and we’re very, very happy to see him leave Waco. (Then again, everyone should be happy leaving Waco.)
Now please, Baylor: do the right thing.
Hire Hugh Freeze.