Celebrating 35 years of basketball in the Ferrell Center
Three trivia questions for you:
1) What is Baylor’s oldest current athletic facility?
2) What was the first featured event in that facility?
3) Who was Baylor’s first opponent in that facility?
Chances are good you answered the first question correctly; that would be the Ferrell Center, which opened 35 years ago this fall. The second question’s a little more difficult; the Ferrell Center debuted on Sept. 22, 1988, with a visit from then-President Ronald Reagan.
If you got the third question, then I tip my cap to you. The first Baylor sporting event in the Ferrell Center — Nov. 17, 1988 — was a men’s basketball exhibition game against the Adelaide 36ers, an Australian professional basketball team that’s actually still in existence today. (Many years later, Baylor fan favorite Aaron Bruce would go on to play for the 36ers.) The Baylor men, led by head coach Gene Iba, defeated the 36ers 75-57 that day to christen their new home court.
After 35 years playing across town at the Heart O’ Texas Coliseum (now the Extraco Events Center), the Bears and Lady Bears moved back to campus and into the new Ferrell Special Events Center in time for the 1988-89 season. Twelve days after that first exhibition, Baylor women’s basketball hosted Southwest Texas (now Texas State) on Nov. 25, 1988, in the arena’s first regular season game; the Baylor men hosted San Diego State four nights later in their first regular season contest.
The new arena didn’t pay immediate dividends for either team, but success would eventually come. The men lost their opener to SDSU, 83-58, and the women lost to SWT, 88-76. The men, coming off their first NCAA tournament appearance in almost 40 years a season earlier, would have to wait another 20 years to return to the NCAA tournament. But since 2008, head coach Scott Drew’s Bears have reached the postseason 14 times in 15 chances (11 NCAAs, 3 NITs), topped by the 2021 national championship.
Likewise, the women — led in 1988-89 by All-Southwest Conference performer Maggie Davis-Stinnett (BSEd ’91) — were 10 years away from their first postseason appearance. But since 2001, the Lady Bears have made 21 NCAA appearances in 22 chances, winning three national titles and reaching the Elite Eight 10 times.
Today, we’re counting down as the Ferrell Center hosts its final basketball games before the men’s and women’s programs move to the new Foster Pavilion in January. But the Ferrell Center will live on, continuing to serve as home for Baylor volleyball and acrobatics & tumbling, as well as Commencement ceremonies — plus countless Baylor memories down the years.
Sic ’em, Ferrell Center!