Throughout the last year, Baylor coach Art Briles has often shown prospective recruits artist renderings of the new on-campus football stadium.
Someday soon, he can show them the real thing.
With the Baylor board of regents approving the construction of the $250 million stadium Thursday night, the countdown is on until the Bears open the 2014 season in their new palace.
It’s 770 days until Baylor’s 2014 season opener against SMU.
“I can’t put into words what it’s going to do for Baylor,” Briles said. “It’s going to change the culture of game day at Baylor forever. It will be something our people will experience and be so thankful and grateful for. It’s going to change the perception of this part of the state and the city.”
Briles said his players are aware of Baylor’s stadium plans, and can’t wait to play there.
“If you see some coaches and players walking about four feet off the ground today, you’ll know the reason,” Baylor athletic director Ian McCaw said. “They’re all excited about it and energized. They’re all thinking about how far into their careers that they’ll play in this stadium.”
Stadium construction is expected to receive its final green light Aug. 7 when the Waco City Council approves the contribution of $35 million in public funds.
But the project has already made a positive impact on Baylor’s football recruiting. Briles can tell recruits that the Bears will no longer be the only Big 12 team that plays in an off-campus stadium.
After playing at Floyd Casey Stadium since 1950, Baylor’s new state-of-the-art 45,000-seat facility along the Brazos River will be a jewel with which Briles and his staff can impress recruits.
“It makes a tremendous difference in recruiting,” Briles said. “What we’ve done as a university is put ourselves at the front of the pack. I’m not sure if this stadium will be rivaled in the next few years. It will be as good as any stadium in the United States of America.”
The timing couldn’t be better for Briles’ program. Led by Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Robert Griffin, the Bears finished 10-3 last season to match the most wins in school history. They finished third in the Big 12 with a program-best 6-3 record, and beat powerful Oklahoma for the first time in school history.
The new stadium will give the Baylor football program an additional boost that should pay dividends far down the road.
“It certainly makes the playing field a lot more level,” Briles said. “You’ve got to have great facilities and support. It’s vital in our world of intercollegiate athletics. We’re perceived as a leader of the pack now, and that’s a real good perception.”
Both Briles and McCaw believe the whole atmosphere surrounding the new stadium on game days will be exciting for Baylor fans. Most fans will likely have to walk across the Sheila and Walter Umphrey Bridge that will be constructed across the Brazos River to reach the stadium.
“When our students and alumni walk across the Umphrey Bridge to the stadium, it’s going to be an experience they’ll want to relive every day,” Briles said.
McCaw saw the impact that artist renderings of the stadium had on athletic directors across the country at a recent national meeting.
“AD after AD walked by and said this will be the best facility in the country, and that’s what we believe,” McCaw said. “We’re looking forward to bringing that to a reality. Baylor Stadium is going to be the most modern student-athlete and fan-friendly college football facility in America. To have it located on our campus is incredibly special.”
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