Newness seeps from every nook and cranny. Take a whiff — McLane Stadium even has that sweet new-car smell.
Nevertheless, that hasn’t prevented Baylor from moving some of its old knickknacks over from its previous home.
More so than probably anything else, traditions are what distinguish one college football program from its neighbors. So, while Baylor sought to incorporate every modern convenience possible into the construction of its new riverfront football palace, it also made sense to make room for some of the accessories so familiar to the school.
“If there’s anything that you have that brings people back year after year it’s the familiarity with things,” said Baylor associate athletics director Todd Patulski. “‘That’s what I did. I ran the Baylor Line or we all did the ‘Sic ’Em, Bears!’ together. Whatever it is. That’s what makes college athletics different from professional sports.
“So the need to at least to maintain it and maybe even take an opportunity to enhance it, boy, you’d be a fool not to try to prioritize that.”
One of Baylor’s most energetic and visible game-day traditions is the Baylor Line. It just wouldn’t feel like a Baylor game without 2,000-plus freshmen in bright gold jerseys making a frenzied dash onto the field.
From the start of the stadium project, BU athletic officials hoped to bring a better sense of organization to the mass chaos that is the Baylor Line. They met with both the architects and student groups to brainstorm ideas that might smooth out some of the kinks they’d spotted at Floyd Casey Stadium.
Namely, how to create two distinct, equal-sized sides to the human tunnel, instead of a ragged, unbalanced jumble.
“When you go to Floyd Casey and they run out, the students all lean to one side because they want to get to their seats,” said Brian Nicholson, Baylor’s vice president for facility, planning and construction. “The way we’ve designed it is, hopefully, that we’ll have equal lines. Doesn’t matter what side you’re on, because you’re going to go to a different hallway to get to your seats.”
The Line participants will sprint onto the field down a ramp near the scoreboard on the southwest corner of the stadium. Soon thereafter, once the Baylor Line has formed its man-made funnel to the field, the team will sprint out of the northeast tunnel. The rest of the time, like when coming out for warmups or after halftime, the team will use the northwest tunnel, which is closer to their locker room. The northeast tunnel is used exclusively for the Baylor Line tradition.
Once the players have arrived on the field, the Line will leave the field through the same tunnel. A partition will steer the students through a pair of vestibules and into a garage door — again, designed exclusively for them — that will eventually lead them to their gold-painted seats. Half one direction, half the other.
All along, Baylor officials wanted to eliminate the human bottlenecks that were so evident at Floyd Casey Stadium, as students tried to wrestle their way to their seats all the way up to kickoff time.
“Certainly we’ve had issues with getting kids off the field,” Patulski said. “That was definitely a topic of discussion for us. … How quickly can you get 2,000 people or whatever it is, 2,600 people off the field? We even gave (the architects), this is our timeline, we’ve got to get these people out of there. It’s kind of like a drain. How quickly can you drain it? … Now we’ve got the best of both worlds.”
Other traditions, too, won’t be lost with the closing of Floyd Casey. Baylor’s Golden Wave Band has been given a designated, field-level section beyond the north end zone. For the first time in decades, the school’s elaborate homecoming parade will unfold within a Hail Mary pass of the game site.
One of the newest traditions, started under coach Art Briles, that will carry over is the March of the Bears. Buses will carry Baylor’s players from one side of the river to the other, then drop them off at the tailgating area, where they’ll make a 600-meter trek through the line of fans, over the pedestrian bridge and into the stadium.
“I think we’ll end up with the best game-day pageantry we’ve ever had,” Baylor athletic director Ian McCaw said.
For their part, Baylor’s players can’t wait to experience it. McLane Stadium wouldn’t have felt like home if the traditions had been left off the moving van.
“You’ve always got to bring some of the old traditions back to Baylor,” defensive end Shawn Oakman said. “That’s what makes Baylor Baylor. You’ve always got to have that.”