Baylor University’s triumphant, 30-10 season-ender against Texas wrapped up several loose ends — among them the tumultuous saga of play in 64-year-old Floyd Casey Stadium in South Waco and the Bears’ now-unquestioned status as Big 12 champs with an automatic trip to the Fiesta Bowl in the cards. But for those who shivered in “creeping ice fog” Saturday afternoon and evening, the Bears and their faithful proved once and for all the folly of all-knowing naysayers who once upon a time questioned why Baylor was even in the same conference as Texas and Texas A&M.
Such punditry back then looks silly today. While Baylor University is the Big 12 victor and ranked No. 6 after Saturday’s gridiron action in Waco and Stillwater, Texas didn’t even place in the top 25 of the 2013 AP College Football poll’s final ranking; Oklahoma and Oklahoma State occupied the 11th and 13th spots respectively. And A&M, which jumped ship and fled the Big 12, ranked 20th in the poll.
Such vindication is sweet. When the very existence of the Big 12 was threatened (twice) and forces seemed to favor massive super-leagues, some fans of these schools ridiculed the presence of Baylor as an unworthy contender. Some scoffed not only because its football program had long been erratic in quality but because Baylor is a private, religiously oriented school — as if only state-funded competitors need apply to be champions.
But a funny thing happened. The precision, energy and teamwork of the Bears football players under Coach Art Briles not only produced a winning team but their integrity, optimism and can-do spirit gladly brought local folks out on one of the coldest days of the year against a hardy opponent. And somewhere amidst all this, the Bears added to the feeling of momentum that has settled over our community in terms of growth and potential.
“We came out and fought and believed because people believed in us,” Briles said afterward, adding that this defining moment never would have happened “without the love of the Baylor Nation.” And with fireworks and the singing of “The Good Old Baylor Line,” what a way to close down Floyd Casey Stadium, formerly Baylor Stadium — now the name set for the new, $260 million, on-campus events arena under construction on the Brazos.
A few more acknowledgements: Our thanks to the Oklahoma Sooners, whose 33-24 defeat of Oklahoma State the same afternoon ensured the Bears of the Big 12 championship if they could then triumph over Texas. We know Sooners players, fans and coaches had something to prove to themselves and others, but we’re nonetheless glad for their victory up in frigid Stillwater.
And our very best to former Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, a truly inspirational figure — but, no, we hope and pray you and yours don’t succeed in luring Briles to coach the Washington Redskins. Baylor Stadium may be the stadium RG3 built, but Briles’ vision, insight and talent laid its foundation.