To say the Texas and Baylor football teams are familiar with each other is an understatement.
The teams have played each other annually since 1945, and the Bears aggressively flash the “Horns Down” any time the Longhorns come to town. Given their annual squabbles spurred by trash talking and some occasional unnecessary roughness, it’s safe to say there isn’t much love lost between the two programs — on the field, at least.
Off the field, the schools’ coaches and players have relationships that, in some cases, span more than two decades. Texas head coach Tom Herman and Baylor head coach Dave Aranda’s relationship dates back to the mid-late ‘90s when the two were at California Lutheran University. Herman was a Division III wide receiver and Aranda was emerging as a standout student assistant coach.
“I remember (Herman) knowing everybody. He's talking to everyone and smiling, making jokes. This guy (was) like the mayor, walking around with him,” Aranda said. “My girlfriend at the time, my wife now, was on (the) basketball team. So I would show up in the gym, and there's Tom, he's announcing it. Then it would get to halftime, and the lights would turn down, and they'd have these strobe lights, and Tom is on the table dancing.”
The two coaches later became roommates for a semester before splitting when Herman left to coach at Texas Lutheran University in 1998, but they stayed in close contact. When Herman and Aranda became graduate assistants at Texas and Texas Tech in 1999 and 2000, respectively, Aranda said his then-girlfriend would make the trip to Austin to hang out with Tom and his now-wife, Michelle.
Herman said he and Aranda still speak regularly, and Baylor’s first-year head coach calls with questions about running and maintaining a program. He also said while the two may be opponents most days, Aranda will continue to be a close friend “until one of us passes from this earth.”
But the connections between the two teams go beyond the head coaches. Baylor offensive coordinator Larry Fedora spent the 2019 season as an offensive analyst for the Longhorns, and Baylor senior quarterback Charlie Brewer is Texas senior tight end Cade Brewer’s former Lake Travis teammate.
Texas senior quarterback Sam Ehlinger played against Charlie and Cade in high school while he was at Westlake High School. Ehlinger said he and Charlie spoke on the phone a few days ago, and they’re constantly keeping in contact.
“(He) obviously has had a tremendous amount of success in his career, and competing against him has been awesome because of the competition that he always brings and then also the friendship that we have off the field,” Ehlinger said. “I think that he's a really, really good dude and also a great football player on top of that.”
However, the two schools’ off-field connections might not give either opponent a leg up on Saturday. In 2016, Texas defensive coordinator Chris Ash left his position as Ohio State’s defensive coordinator to become the head coach at Rutgers. Ash failed to beat his former team and said it comes down to players executing the game plan.
Ash said he has plenty of friends in his profession, including Aranda, but when toe meets leather on Saturday, there won’t be any friendships on the field.
“We’re all getting paid to do a job, and it’s to win,” Ash said. “When the game’s over, guys can go back to being friends again, but when the foot hits the ball, it’s war, it’s a battle, and we want to go win.”