By Parmida Schahhosseini
It has been a season to remember for Baylor head coach Art Briles as he saw his hard work and commitment to Baylor University pay off with the university’s first Big 12 title and first trip to a BCS Bowl.
Through a season of ups and downs, Briles came out on top, building a program that was once ridiculed into a national powerhouse. For Briles, winning the Big 12 is much more than just a title. It’s about building a legacy at Baylor.
“It means if you get great players, great people, great administration and great fan support, everything can be reality,” Briles said. “If you stay the course and you stay consistent with what you do day in and day out, you have a chance for success at the end. It’s a defining moment for our program and it’s one I think we’ll be able to repeat many times.”
Prior to Briles’ arrival, the Bears never had a winning season since entering the Big 12. Baylor struggled in Briles’ first two seasons, but it was expected because of the time it takes to build a program. However, Briles promised two things: to bring Baylor football back on campus and to win a Big 12 Title, and despite the adversity along the way, it was a promise he intended to keep. After six seasons, that mission is accomplished.
“As a coach and as a player, you always expect positive results and you always feel that the opportunity is going to be out there if you work hard and stay steady,” Briles said. “I had a guy send me a quote a couple weeks ago that was something Michelangelo said, ‘The problem with people is not that they aim to high and miss; it’s that they aim to low and they hit.’ That’s the way you have to think and feel and that’s what we talk to players about. We’re always going to aim high.”
Briles continued to do just that. He continued to recruit and instill the value of winning into his players. Slowly, Baylor continued to improve before everyone’s eyes. Briles led the Bears to back-to-back bowl wins for the first time in 25 years, and is the first head coach to take the Bears to four straight bowl berths. Under Briles, Baylor received its first Heisman Memorial Trophy winner in Robert Griffin III, propelling the Bears onto the national map.
Despite going 11-1, there were some ups and downs this season. While the strength of schedule didn’t favor Baylor in terms of the polls, Briles kept his players humble despite the competition on the field. Baylor continued to play well, averaging 53.2 points per game this season. Baylor has won 11 of its last 12 Big 12 games, which has never been accomplished by Baylor in Big 12 history.
Success isn’t new to Briles, who has rebuilt programs before. When Briles coached at Stephenville, playoff wins were expected as he earned four state championships in 12 seasons. Briles also had success in the collegiate level prior to Baylor when he was the head coach at the University of Houston.
Briles took the Houston Cougars to four bowl games in five seasons, including three straight. His ability to rally his players, inspire to play bigger than themselves and believe sets Briles apart from the rest.
“When I was sitting in Coach’s office and he was telling me what he wanted this program to be, that’s when it hit me. This is what that vision was,” junior quarterback Bryce Petty said. “To be honest, when you have someone with that much of a vision and determination for things, it’s almost like it’s too much. But to be in the spot we’re at with this team, I couldn’t be more proud.”
The road to success wasn’t always easy. Road games didn’t treat the Bears kindly as the team didn’t have the comfort of the fans support (with the exception of those who traveled). Baylor faced a tough road game in Manhattan Kan., against Kansas State, but the team came out on top and found a way to win. That’s all that Baylor did this season as it climbed up the polls, all the way to No. 4.
However, the road to an undefeated season was halted after a 49-17 blowout against Oklahoma State. Baylor didn’t control its own destiny at the time, but Briles had faith. Briles rallied the troops and prepared the team for TCU.
Just days before Thanksgiving, Briles received devastating news that his brother Eddie Briles passed away.
With emotions high, the players dedicated the game against TCU for Briles. Baylor won the game with a game-ending interception from sophomore safety Terrell Burt and the Baylor’s Big 12 hopes were alive. After a win over Texas, Baylor got what is so desperately wanted — a conference title and national relevancy. Briles did the improbable. He built this program to high heights with expectations of topping this season next year. Through the highs and lows, Briles remained a Baylor Bear.
“He weathered the storm. He was here when it was horrible. He weathered the storm. It finally all came together with us. I’m very happy to be a part of this,” junior running back Lache Seastrunk said.