Baylor Bears Athletic Program Has Risen From the Dead
Let’s go back ten years to Waco, Texas home of the Baylor Bears. The school was getting a lot of media attention, but not for the right reasons. The Baylor Basketball program was a complete mess. A player was charged with murdering a team mate, and just when Bear fans believed that things couldn’t get worse the NCAA decided to investigate the Bears for multiple NCAA violations. The NCAA decided to punish the Bears by imposing such harsh penalties no one was sure the Bears would ever be able to come back. Their first task in the mass rebuilding project was to hire a new coach. In 2003 they settled on Scott Drew who had spent the previous season coaching Valparaiso, a small team in the Horizon Conference. Little did Bears fans know that Drew would be the answers to all their problems; even though it would take a while. The next four seasons the Bears went a combined 12-52 in Big 12 play. At this point fans had lost hope. Despite this, the following season Coach Drew led the Bears to the NCAA tournament and from there on, things would get much better.
photo credit: grantland.com
Now let’s fast-forward to the present. In the past three years the Baylor Bears have made two appearances in the Elite 8. The reason for Baylor’s success is not a secret; Coach Drew has done an amazing job recruiting. He has gotten top talent such as Perry Jones III, Ekpe Udoh, Tweety Carter, Quincy Acy, and LaceDarius Dunn to buy in to his style of coaching. Considering everything Baylor basketball has been through the past decade Coach Drew deserves a lot of credit for turning things around and the University deserves credit for giving him the time to do it.
Next up is the Baylor Bear Football program. Before the 2010 season and the arrival of Robert Griffin III, the last time the Bears had played in a bowl game was 1994. The Baylor football program needed someone to put them back on the map and that’s exactly what Griffin III did. In 2011 Griffin III threw for 3,998 yards while completing an amazing 72.4% of his passes. Griffin III also threw for 36 TDs and only 6INTs. The Bears spent most of the season in the Top 20 poll and finished out the year ranked #13 in the AP poll-their best ranking since 1986. The most amazing accomplishment though was that Griffin III was able to win the Heisman Trophy over pre-season favorite Stanford sensation Andrew Luck. Griffin III was the first Heisman Trophy winner in Baylor football’s 116 year program history. Winning the award helps Head Coach Briles recruit players who would normally go to the University of Texas or other elite programs in the Big 12 and shows that any player can receive national attention at Baylor; something that didn’t seem possible five years ago. Despite Griffin III’s departure for the NFL, the football program appears to be on the right track.
Though it’s true the men’s football and basketball teams have had a lot of success the past few years, the most successful team in Waco, Texas right now is the 40-0 Baylor Lady Bears Women’s Basketball team who just routed Notre Dame to win their second national championship in six years. The Lady Bears were led by AP National Player of the Year Brittney Griner. Griner will be returning for her senior year next year so expect the Lady Bears to compete for another national championship.
The turnaround at Baylor has been remarkable and should receive more positive media attention. It seems the media only focuses on negative things these days and doesn’t like to focus on positive things. A lot of credit should be given to Ken Starr, the president at Baylor. He has worked very hard to hire the right people and make sure everything is being done the right way. Waco, Texas is officially on the college sports map. So next time someone asks where is Waco, Texas? Tell them it’s the home of the Baylor Bears.
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