The Baylor University tradition known as the “Baylor Line,” which includes a sea of freshmen wearing gold jerseys and running across the football field to greet incoming players, will look a bit different at Saturday’s matchup against the University of Texas.
Women who attended Baylor between 1970 and 1994 will be able to take the ceremonial run before the game for the first time.
Spirit organizations supportive of the football program were divided by gender until 1994, when the all-female Baylor Sidelines merged with the all-male Baylor Line. Only the all-male group made the run before the merger.
Among the more than 800 women participating Saturday is 1994 Baylor graduate Lisa Stepp, who will run alongside her two sisters, who are also alumnae.
“When I was at Baylor, all my friends who were guys were getting to do it,” Stepp said. “We all thought, ‘That would be fun for us, too.’ ”
Stepp’s mother, Pearl, was a nurse in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Pearl Stepp has a campus lamppost dedicated to her, as many Baylor veterans do. An endowed scholarship with Baylor’s Truett Theological Seminary is also named in her father’s honor.
Alumnae have written to President Linda Livingstone asking for the event, Vice President for Human Resources Cheryl Gochis said.
Gochis earned a bachelor’s degree from Baylor in 1991 and later earned a master’s there. She will run Saturday alongside Robyn Driskell, another member of the 1991 graduating class who is now a Baylor vice president and chief of staff. Driskell also later earned a Baylor master’s degree.
“I think it really shows that we’re listening to our alumni groups,” Gochis said. “We’re looking for ways to incorporate the Baylor family beyond the four years that they’re in school. That’s been something that’s been really exciting. It was neat to see the president so responsive to those alums writing for that.”
Now, more than 3,600 Baylor freshmen buy Line jerseys, which bear a nickname and the year of the student’s expected graduation, director of Student Activities Matt Burchett said.
“I think it’s really the focus we’ve had the last two years on inclusiveness,” said Lori Baker, a Baylor vice provost and associate professor of anthropology. “This is a huge, inclusive thing. Now we’re getting a chance to feel included in something that’s a time-honored tradition that’s become very important in our culture. I just think the world’s changing a lot, and I love to see it changing at Baylor.”
Stepp said this event, and the hiring of Livingstone this year as Baylor’s first female president, has made her proud of her alma mater.
“I do think that, while Baylor has always tried to be very sensitive and open to all the students and supportive of all the student body, it is nice to see that there’s recognition of, ‘How can we be more inclusive? How can we take this to the next step?’ ” Stepp said. “I do think (Livingstone) will be an important part of helping Baylor move forward and take on this culture of a more inclusive environment.”