Ezra Hood, Riff, Ram, Bah, Zoo! Football Comes to TCU. Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 2013. 128 pp. Paperback $20.00.
In Riff, Ram, Bah, Zoo! Football Comes to TCU, Ezra Hood traces the history of TCU’s football program from its beginning to its entry into the Southwest Conference in 1922. What began as a tradition primarily at Ivy League schools, football came to Texas in the late nineteenth century with the onset of city teams and later college teams. By the early twentieth century, several Texas colleges fielded football teams. While the focus of Hood’s study is TCU, the work also serves as an overview of the history of the game of football more broadly and the manner in which football came to be a prominent aspect of university life and identity.
Hood begins with a brief history of TCU as an academic institution before delving into the history of its football program. Prior to becoming Texas Christian University, TCU was known as Add Ran College and was based in Waco, Texas. Hood notes the mixed feelings amongst the administration regarding football in these nascent years of the college, but the popularity of the sport ultimately prevailed. Hood’s study charts the ups and downs of the early TCU football teams and highlights TCU’s games against other area schools including multiple games against Baylor, Texas A&M, and Austin College. TCU football continued to gain prominence; the university hired E. J. Hyde in 1905, and in the years that followed, TCU had a .532 winning percentage, a time period which Hood argues is a “proud, and largely forgotten tale” (32). The program underwent further changes upon the university’s relocation to Fort Worth after a fire occurred at the Waco location in 1910. Moreover, in the years following the First World War, TCU’s traditional opponents such as Texas, Baylor, SMU, and Texas A&M became less interested in playing TCU as the university was not yet a part of the Southwest Conference. TCU would rejoin its “old foes” in the Southwest Conference in 1922, a move, which Hood notes, “mirrored TCU’s wandering among conferences eighty years later” (126).
Hood’s work draws largely upon university newspaper sources, including TCU’s paper, The Skiff. Hood also includes several photographs which complement his text well. Hood structures his work by dividing each chapter into individual seasons up through 1922. As such, he breaks down the key games of each season and charts the successes and failures of these early teams while also providing commentary on the changes occurring in football in terms of rules and regulations from year to year. Still, Hood could arguably better contextualize parts of his work. At times, the work seems to get bogged down in the details of each game and neglects the larger picture. For instance, Hood could have elaborated more on larger issues such as the formation of the Southwest Conference and TCU’s eventual entry into it. Also, while the focus of the work is TCU’s early years, the work ends somewhat abruptly; a bit more could have been said about what came after these early years perhaps in the form of a concluding chapter or epilogue. Nevertheless, Hood’s work serves as an excellent reference for those interested in the details of TCU’s first games and the role of the football program in the university’s early years.
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