Crowd energy fuels Baylor play

Baylor fans cheer for the Bears Saturday at Floyd Casey Stadium. Baylor beat Rice 56-31. The crowd reached more than 40,000 for the third time in 2011.Meagan Downing | Lariat Photographer
Baylor fans cheer for the Bears Saturday at Floyd Casey Stadium. Baylor beat Rice 56-31. The crowd reached more than 40,000 for the third time in 2011.
Meagan Downing | Lariat Photographer

By Krista Pirtle
Sports Writer

In the recent past, the green and gold of Baylor fans seemed to be adequately matched with the colors of the opposing team.

This season, however, all three home games have brought in more than 40,000 fans, cumulating 126,921, and green and gold has outweighed the competition’s. This advantage is something Baylor players take pride in.

“It’s been a difficult process,” senior linebacker Elliot Coffey said. “I’ve been around for a long time, and there were games when we went out there and there were more fans for the other team than there were of ours. To look up and see that we’re finally putting seats in the stands makes us want to go out and play as hard and as well as we can to keep them coming, to get the numbers up even farther than they are now.”

Coffey’s freshman season was head coach Art Briles’ opening season as well. That 2008 season featured an average of 34,124 fans per game.

The number saw some decline in 2009 when junior quarterback Robert Griffin III injured his knee and was redshirted.

Last season with the first bowl berth in 15 years, Baylor averaged just more than 40,000.

Could the excitement of this season’s successes and expectations be directly related to the green and gold clad fans in the stands? Griffin thinks so.

“I haven’t seen this before,” Griffin said. “Didn’t matter who we were playing, we weren’t getting fans here. They’re excited about what we’re doing; we’re excited about them showing up and yelling for us. I’m happy they’re showing up, wearing the green and gold. It’s home field advantage. When you’re at home, your fans are there. They outnumber the other fans by a lot and that’s a great feeling.”

Baylor, however, does house one impressive tradition: the Baylor Line.

Freshmen, clad in their gold line jerseys, run across the field to make a human tunnel, welcoming the football players as they step foot on the turf right before game time.

“It’s amazing when you walk out of that tunnel with all of that smoke, and you can’t see anything for awhile except the numbers on the jerseys in front of you,” senior running back Terrance Ganaway said. “You walk out, and the fans erupt. It’s just a great feeling.”

With the addition of defensive coordinator Phil Bennett, scrutiny has been placed on the Baylor defense.

Fans, whether they know it or not, have influence on the stands the defense makes.

“Its great especially on third downs when they have the make noise sign up on the scoreboard and everybody goes crazy,” Coffey said. “On top of wanting to make that play yourself, just knowing that you have everybody from Baylor behind you feels great.”

Since 2008, Baylor’s home field win record has been 10-9.

Last season, the Bears were 4-2 in the Case.

After all the team does during the summer, hearing the fans’ cheers adds to its love of the game.

“Your fans, 40,000 people cheering for you, rooting you on is a good feeling,” Ganaway said.

As Baylor continues to bring its loyal fans to Floyd Casey to watch as the program turns around towards national rankings, bowl games and all around more success, there is one more thing the team asks of its fans.

“Now we’ve just got to get them to stay the whole game, even when we’re blowing people out,” Griffin said.

Baylor witnesses the effect home field advantage can have almost every year within its conference.

The Oklahoma Sooners have only lost one game in Norman in 10 years, a 2005 defeat by TCU.

Texas A&M’s Kyle Field is loud, obnoxious, and yes, the upper deck does sway as the Aggies “saw ‘em off.”

Looking outside the Big 12 and into the Aggies’ new home, the SEC, stadiums are huge and filled with fans just as loud as the Aggies are known to be. For example, Death Valley, LSU’s hallowed stadium, is called one of the most dreaded road playing sites in college football. LSU has won 44 of its last 49 home games.