By Tyler Alley
Some people are calling it “the Golden Age of Baylor Athletics,” as 12 teams are ranked in the top 25 and the Baylor brand is being seen on a national level.
“This is very exciting time,” athletic director Ian McCaw said. “We are enjoying period of great momentum. Great to celebrate being a Baylor bear. Our role is to glorify God through our athletic program. The media exposure has been receiving has is beyond measure.”
Since Nov. 1 until Monday night, Baylor football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball combined won 40 straight games.
“It’s really extraordinary,” McCaw said. “I’d like a statistician to figure out odds of that. Last two months have been really special. Never seen any program perform like this in my time.”
The recent success of Baylor athletics has brought new buildings and renovations to Baylor campus in the recent years, including the Simpson Athletics and Academic Center and Allison Indoor Football Practice Facility; the Grant Teaff and Letterwinners Plazas at Floyd Casey Stadium; the Lt. Jack Whetsel Jr. Basketball Practice Facility; the Willis Family Equestrian Center and the Getterman Softball Practice Facility.
One major change on the horizon for Baylor athletics is the addition of an on-campus stadium. The conceptual art for the stadium was released last year and the work is underway but completion is still a long ways off.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” McCaw said. “We’re still working with the architect and the feasibility study and trying to build donor support for that. Just like there is in the athletic program, the momentum of the success that we’ve had has really been something that’s really captivated our donors and I think interest in the stadium is at an all-time high.”
President Ken Starr said the success of the athletic program has played a role in Baylor’s 2012 strategic plan.
“It helps tremendously,” Starr said. “It builds community. It builds pride. I’m an adopted child [of Baylor University]. I’m learning about the fierce loyalty of the Baylor family to their alma mater. Every person loves their alma mater, but there’s a pride here that is deep. It’s part of the DNA; we’re the oldest continuing operation in the state of Texas. That’s all part of the Baylor Proud and now we have an athletic program that really is befitting for this kind of institution.”
Baylor’s overall athletic success is magnified by the state it was in less than a decade ago. Football had not seen been bowl eligible since 1994 and many seasons was finishing below .500. Men’s basketball was in the worst state in 2002-03 when one of the worst scandals in college sports history struck the Baylor campus.
“Its’ been really humbling to see growth,” McCaw said. “You appreciate the high times when you have been through challenging ones. We’ve been transformed by our coaches, players and staff. We are blessed to be in this situation.”
Women’s basketball head coach Kim Mulkey said she is glad to see the Baylor name in a positive light.
“It’s fun. It’s fun to have positive things written about you,” Mulkey said. “Lord knows this place has had a lot of negatives. The most fun is winning, but probably the pleasure I get out of it, truthfully, is that I got so tired of hearing people say it can’t be done at Baylor.”
One of the biggest examples of that attitude was when junior quarterback Robert Griffin III was up for the Heisman. Many analysts said he would not win the Heisman because he was from Baylor, as some other analysts have doubted Baylor’s success because it is a small school.
“I got so tired of hearing that because I go back to the experts- who are you to have that kind of opinion?” Mulkey said. “You don’t work here. You don’t recruit. It’s kind of like all the so-called experts said Robert Griffin couldn’t win the Heisman. Do you think I’m not laughing at those guys today? That’s the fun part of me, is that I knew it could be done here with the right coaches, the right administrator and certainly the right players.”
Baylor has also seen a large improvement in the academics of its student-athletes, according to Starr and McCaw, as the cumulative GPA is 3.2. For now, Baylor fans can only wonder how long this era of Baylor overall success in athletics can continue.
“The enthusiasm within Baylor nation is at an all-time high,” McCaw said. “We had about 50,000 fans in San Antonio. It’s great to see the Baylor community and central Texas rally behind this athletic program. No streaks last forever but we’re happy to see it [while it lasts]. I’m looking forward to march madness.”