HOME ~ College Football History
University Mission Statement:
The mission of Baylor University is to educate men and women for
worldwide leadership and service by integrating academic excellence and
Christian commitment within a caring community.
Baylor Athletic Department Mission Statement:
To support the overall mission of the university by providing a
nationally competitive intercollegiate athletics program that attracts,
nurtures and graduates student-athletes who, under the guidance of a
quality staff, represent Baylor with character and integrity while
pursuing excellence in their respective sports.
Baylor began intercollegiate athletic competition in the 1890s, but was
without an official nickname until 1914. In that year, President Samuel
Palmer Brooks held a vote of the student body to determine how the
school's teams would be known nationwide. Former student Kit Rosborough
offered a $5 gold piece to the student who submitted the winning entry.
In what was reported as a close vote, "Bears" narrowly defeated
"Buffaloes." Other nominated nicknames were "Antelopes," "Frogs" and
"Ferrets." The December 17, 1914 Lariat headline read, "Bruin Is Elected
Patron Saint of all Baylordom." Coed Doyle Thrailkill of San Antonio won
the prize for her entry.
Although Baylor adopted "Bears" as its official nickname in 1914, it
wasn't until the 1920s that a real bear mascot came to the University.
The first live bear was made available by the troops of the 107th
Engineers, a unit of the 32nd Infantry Division stationed at Camp
MacArthur in Waco during World War I.
The bear, named Ted, made his first appearance at the 1917 Baylor-Texas
A&M football game, and when the unit got its orders to move on, the bear
was left in the hands of the Baylor athletic department. Since then, the
use of bears at Baylor football and basketball games has become as much
a fixture as the players, cheerleaders and bands.
A series of bears have served as Baylor's mascot, but perhaps the
best-known was Joe College, who came to Baylor through the work of Bill
Boyd, then a Baylor student. Boyd bought the bear from a zoo that went
broke at the Cotton Palace in Waco. He then approached Baylor's
president, Pat Neff, and offered to take care of the bear in exchange
for free tuition. Neff accepted the deal and the tradition of live bears
as mascots has continued since.
In 1974, the student body voted to name all the bears “Judge” followed
by a surname in honor of the university’s namesake, Judge R.E.B. Baylor.
The bears attend several Baylor athletic events, schools, community
centers, churches, and any other educational outreach.
The bears may also be seen at the Steve Hudson Memorial Bear Plaza
located in the center of the Baylor campus. “The Pit” as it is known on
campus was built in 1976 and is classified as a Class ‘C’ Exhibitor Zoo.
It is licensed to hold up to three North American Black Bears and is
regulated and licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture
and the Texas Parks and Wildlife.
In 1960, Baylor's yell leaders introduced the "Bear Claw" hand signal
and "Sic'Em Bears" yell. The initial student and faculty reaction to the
yell and coinciding hand signal, made by slightly curving all five
fingers inward to form a bear claw, was mixed.
The issue was a topic of hot debate, and their use was sporadic
throughout the '60s until Grant Teaff arrived in 1972. Teaff initiated a
new era of Baylor football and the "Bear Claw" and "Sic'Em Bears" yell
came to symbolize pride in Baylor athletics.
In addition to being used during the yell, the "Bear Claw" is held up
during the playing of Baylor's school song, "That Good Old Baylor Line."
Football players traditionally hold up their helmets during the playing
of the school song.