Art Briles

After leading Baylor to the 1974 Southwest Conference championship, Grant Teaff wrote a book detailing the Bears’ improbable rise called “I Believe.”

During his acceptance speech for the 2011 Heisman Trophy, Robert Griffin III called the Bears’ return to football prominence “unbelievably believable.”

Now, it’s time for Baylor fans to believe all over again.

Baylor will be the toast of college football when it opens the $266 million McLane Stadium Sunday night against SMU.

The 45,000-seat jewel on the Brazos River will feature all the bells, whistles and technological advances any football fan could want. When Art Briles arrived in November 2007, few people could have envisioned Baylor’s gleaming new stadium coming to fruition.

The Bears hadn’t produced a winning season since 1995 and Floyd Casey Stadium often seemed like a morgue. Briles inherited a team that had gone winless in the Big 12 in 2007.

But in just his third season, Briles produced a winning season as the Bears finished 7-6 and reached the Texas Bowl. After 60 years at Floyd Casey Stadium, conversations about building an on-campus stadium started to stir.

In 2011, those conversations became reality as the Bears produced their best season since winning the 1980 SWC championship. Griffin dazzled college football by becoming Baylor’s first Heisman Trophy winner as the Bears finished 10-3 following a thrilling 67-56 win over Washington in the Alamo Bowl.

The Bears couldn’t have produced a more perfect storm as they ride into their new stadium on the heels of their first Big 12 championship season. With excitement at an all-time high, every seat is sold out for McLane’s inaugural season.

It’s time for Baylor fans to believe all over again.

John Werner has covered Baylor football for the Waco Tribune-Herald since 1982.