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SMU vs TCU: A Classic Rivalry No More-The Battle For the Iron Skillet

Football Field on the campus of SMU where the Batlle of the Iron Skillet is fought.
"SMU Spring Practice" by John McStravick via Flickr

This game was first played in 1915. They have faced off on the gridiron over 100 times for bragging rights and one prize - a kitchen utensil, the ubiquitous iron skillet. This classic rivalry between SMU and TCU is separated by 35 miles of hatred and disgust.

SMU vs TCU, The “Battle for the Iron Skillet," began in 1946 when an SMU fan was observed frying frog legs in a pan by a TCU fan. The skillet “trophy” travels to the winning school each year. This rivalry has seen some great battles over the years.


1935: SMU 20 – TCU 14

Both teams were undefeated and played for the right to go to the Rose Bowl. The Horned Frogs were led by All-American QB Sammy Baugh.

The legendary sportswriter Grantland Rice billed the game as “The Game of the Century” and “one of the greatest games ever played.” In addition, the game was the first football game to be broadcast nationwide on radio.

But SMU took a 14-7 lead into halftime. On an SMU possession with the game tied in the 4th quarter, the Mustangs called a fake punt and scored on a 50-yard touchdown pass from QB Bob Finley to Bob Wilson for the win. SMU earned its spot in the Rose Bowl and lost to Stanford. TCU went on to play LSU in the Sugar Bowl, where the Horned Frogs beat the Tigers 3-2 in a torrential downpour.


November 29, 1941: TCU 15 – SMU 13

The Horned Frogs squeaked out a close victory and then a week later, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, plunging the United States into WWII.


1947-1948: Tie Ball Games

Both the ’47 and ’48 games ended in ties, 19-19 in 1947 and 7-7 in 1948. SMU was led by the great Doak Walker, a three-time All-American with the Mustangs. In 1948, Walker rushed for 532 yards, threw six touchdown passes, gained 279 receiving yards and scored three receiving TDs, picked off three passes on defense, accounted for 11 touchdowns, and also was the kicker and punter.

For his stellar performance that 1948 season, Walker won the Heisman Trophy.


November 30, 1963: TCU 22 – SMU 15

SMU was coached by future Iowa head coach Hayden Fry. This game was played in Fort Worth one week after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas.

The Mustangs finished the season 4-7, but still earned a berth in the Sun Bowl and lost 21-14 to Oregon.


1972-1986: SMU Dominates the Horned Frogs

Over this period, the Mustangs won 15 straight over the Horned Frogs. The 1982 SMU team went undefeated, coached by Bobby Collins. They were led by the Pony Express, consisting of running backs Eric Dickerson and Craig James. The Mustangs won the 1982 game over TCU 16-13.


1987-1988: Canceled by the NCAA

Because of two NCAA violations within a five-year period, the NCAA dropped the hammer of Thor on the Mustang football program and issued the Death Penalty. The 1987 season and the four SMU home games of the 1988 season were canceled.


1995-1998: Split the Series

Over this four-year period, the two teams split the series, each team winning two games. The margin of victory was by an average of three points:

· 1995: TCU 19- SMU 16

· 1996: SMU 27- TCU 24

· 1997: TCU 21- SMU 18

· 1998: SMU 10-TCU 6


1999: TCU 21 – SMU 0

TCU had a paper-thin 6-0 lead at halftime. Then they outscored SMU 15-0 in the 3rd quarter. RB LaDanian Tomlinson rushed for 125 yards and 2 touchdowns. LT rushed for 1550 yards and 16 TDs on the season.


2011: SMU 40 – TCU 33 (OT)

SMU was outscored 23-6 in the 4th quarter, giving up a 17-point lead. In the OT period, SMU QB J.J. McDermott tossed a 19-yard pass to Jeremy Johnson to win it.

The loss ended a 22-game winning streak at home for the Horned Frogs.


2022: TCU 42 – SMU 34

TCU RB Kendre Miller rushed for 142 yards and a touchdown, and QB Max Duggan threw for 278 yards and three touchdown passes. The Horned Frogs held off an SMU rally in which they were outscored 20-14 in the 2nd half by the Mustangs.


SMU vs TCU - The End of a Rivalry

This rivalry will cease after the 2025 season, a victim of conference realignment and expanded playoff structure talks. Also, TCU wants more home games. But with the demise of the PAC-12, who knows if an expanded playoff will even take shape in 2024?

Rivalries are an issue in college football that does not get the taking points it deserves. It is all about money now and who is the big dog on the block. Super conferences are gaining strength in numbers.

They have the power to command large sums of cash and dictate coverage of their product on the field. Meanwhile, traditions and century-old rivalries fall by the wayside.

So, at the final horn of the 2025 SMU-TCU game, the iron skillet trophy will be retired to the winning school’s trophy case or the kitchen.

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