September 22, 2010
By Chris Dell
When SMU faces rival TCU on Friday, September 24, at Gerald J. Ford Stadium, they’ll be battling it out for a trophy shaped like an iron skillet. But why an iron skillet?
“To be completely honest, I don’t really know,” sophomore Andrea Barreto says. “It kind of makes me think it has something to do with food.”
Sophomore Ethan Patrick, a member of the Mustang Band, says: “It’s the rivalry between SMU and TCU; everybody knows that. But I don’t know where the iron skillet got started.”
According to a Nov. 30, 1946, article in The Dallas Morning News, the “Battle of the Iron Skillet” was started to prevent “mutilation of school property” by rowdy fans. The previous year, more than $1,000 in damage had been done to both campuses.
“The SMU student council proposed the skillet as a symbol of the rivalry and substitute for vandalism,” says SMU Archivist Joan Gosnell.
Gosnell says minutes from fall 1946 student council meetings provide more clues. On October 1, the agenda includes: “Further set up idea of Little Brown Jug Trophy,” referring to the Michigan-Minnesota football rivalry. On November 12, the committee arranging an SMU-TCU banquet and trophy “was reminded of their job.”
And on November 19, a student reported that he had purchased the trophy – “an aluminum skillet.” A motion was made that SMU and TCU would share the expense of the trophy.
“The skillet was presented to the winner Saturday night after the game, when the two student councils had a joint banquet,” Gosnell says.
Darwin Payne, professor emeritus of communications at SMU, has written extensively about Dallas history, including a new book on athletics at SMU, titled In Victory or Defeat, scheduled to be released late this fall. Payne says the SMU-TCU rivalry dates from 1915, when SMU’s first team traveled to Fort Worth for the season opener, losing 43-0.
“The rivalry over the years has been perhaps the greatest and most consistent rivalry of all for the two teams,” Payne says. “It took on even greater dimensions through the years because the game represented Dallas against Fort Worth when these two cities were often bitter rivals.”
This year marks the 75th anniversary of perhaps the most important clash in the teams’ history, Payne says. “SMU was ranked first in the nation, TCU sixth, and tickets that sold for a dollar were scalped for as much as $100,” he says. “SMU won in dramatic fashion, 20-14, and was headed for the Rose Bowl.”
TCU has claimed the Iron Skillet in the last three match-ups, but Mustang fans are hoping for another upset of the No. 4-ranked Horned Frogs during Friday’s game, which will air on ESPN.
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