It was a dream trip, a $100 dream trip, television commentators said during Baylor’s NCAA tournament game against Xavier. The journey didn’t end in storybook fashion, but the general consensus among Baylor students who traveled to Atlanta was loud and clear: Baylor did the right thing.
Students were delighted last Monday when the university announced a $100 package deal, which provided transportation, hotel and game tickets to Atlanta for Baylor’s third- and fourth-round tournament games. After students filled the original 95 slots, Baylor added 50 more spots to send a total of 145 students to Atlanta.
Nick Joos, executive associate athletics director for external affairs, told the Lariat the idea came after Baylor’s second round against Colorado in Albuquerque, N.M. Colorado offered a $50 deal to students to travel to the game and root on the Buffaloes. Although Baylor won, the Colorado students’ presence could be sensed on television with their noise filling the arena.
Joos spoke with head coach Scott Drew, director of athletics Ian McCaw and president Ken Starr, and three days later, funding from the athletics department helped Baylor send fans to Atlanta.
We commend Baylor for such a move, as it helped the university in several ways.
Fans in Atlanta helped reinforce the importance of national exposure.
People asked Baylor students where Baylor is located, and some weren’t even completely sure that Baylor is located in Texas. Some fans who didn’t have a vested interest in Xavier couldn’t locate Xavier on a map without Google.
While Baylor’s enrollment is roughly six times that of Xavier, both schools still sit in the category of schools trying to make their mark on the national stage. It wasn’t too long ago that Baylor felt fortunate to qualify for the men’s basketball tournament, much less win three tournament games, and Baylor football could barely win a Big 12 game.
Baylor has recently boosted its prominence with notable athletic accomplishments, such as a Heisman trophy, a Final Four women’s basketball squad, two Elite Eight appearances in three years from the men’s team, softball’s Women’s College World Series appearance and NCAA tournament appearances from various other teams.
These successes all help tremendously, but we must maintain our presence in the spotlight.
How does Baylor Nation prove it really spans the entire nation? Our fans must show up regardless of where our teams compete.
Maybe Baylor had confidence in the heavily favored Lady Bears team to clinch a Final Four berth in the Des Moines Regional and therefore didn’t send students. Even so, more Baylor fans could have been in the building, and we believe at least 100 students would have taken a package deal to watch the Lady Bears celebrate their second Final Four in three years.
Now the tournament becomes harder, and Baylor must defeat two of the best teams in the country for a national title.
With that being said, we implore Baylor to find a way to get students to Denver for Sunday’s game (and Tuesday’s if the Lady Bears advance to the title game). As we’ve said, the exposure is invaluable.
And if there’s any message Lady Bears head coach Kim Mulkey has sent to the fans regarding her team’s prosperity, it’s a reminder to appreciate successful seasons — fans cannot take them for granted.
As a university, we must realize how fortunate we are that out of more than 300 teams competing in both the men’s and women’s NCAA Division I tournament, it can be our fans screaming at the cameras on national television, representing our school positively.
The keyword is “can.” Baylor can show its colors at this weekend’s Women’s Final Four. Will we? We’ll see.