By Shehan Jeyarajah
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Thousands of Baylor fans converged on the Scottsdale Plaza Inn in sunny Arizona to celebrate the accomplishments of a historic season and celebrate the first ever BCS bowl appearance in school history at the Baylor Fiesta Bowl pep rally.
“It’s incredible to see this crowd, it really is,” said alumna Glynn Gilcrease. “We never thought this day would come, but here it is. Things were far different when I went to school in 1963! Even just to see the changes in the campus and new stadium. What Coach Briles has brought to the program, being Big 12 Champions is really amazing.”
Reportedly, more than 4,000 fans were in attendance for the pep rally. Speakers at the event included all-time Baylor rushing leader Walter Abercrombie and athletic director Ian McCaw. The Voice of the Bears, John Morris, was master of ceremonies. The evening was capped off with a performance from former “The Voice” contestant and Lorena junior Holly Tucker.
Fan excitement was at an all-time high in the courtyard of the Scottsdale Plaza. The pep rally brought together Baylor fans of all ages, including current students and thousands of alumni.
“Seeing a conference championship and getting to be here in a BCS bowl, it’s just great,” alumna Paula Burnett said. “To think that Baylor is a popular school, everyone’s talking about it…we’re at a BCS bowl! I would have never dreamed that the school would have this attention as long as I lived.”
Baylor alumnus Mike Fisher has worked on staff at the Fiesta Bowl for 25 years, and said it’s a dream come true to see his alma mater represented in the game.
“Seeing all of these people at the Fiesta Bowl pep rally is one of the most exciting moments of my life, after, of course, the Texas versus Baylor game four weeks ago,” Fisher said. “Being in a BCS bowl is going to get the team more visibility nationally and more visibility in the conference.”
The event also served as a celebration of esteemed alumnus Drayton McLane Jr. and his family. It was announced Monday that the $270 million stadium being built on the Brazos River would be named McLane Stadium after the leading donor for the upcoming stadium.
“It’s an honor to have our name on the stadium next year,” McLane said. “This university represents many of the values that we hold dear, including a committed Christian education.”
The newly named McLane Stadium is well on track to open for the first game of the 2014 football season against Southern Methodist University.
“This is, as Coach Briles says, one of the four big bowls in the United States of America,” Baylor president Ken Starr said. “This is great for Baylor, it generates excitement, and I’m so happy we’re also able to honor Drayton McLane Jr. and Elizabeth tonight. Tonight was a great night.”
No. 6 Baylor football will take on No. 15 University of Central Florida in the 43rd annual Tostitos Fiesta Bowl at 7:30 p.m. on New Year’s Day in Glendale, Ariz. The game will be nationally broadcast on ESPN.