By Krista Pirtle
Does lightning strike the same place twice? Baylor athletics is on a mission to make sure that it does.
Going from an overlooked extra in the Big 12 to a front-runner in multiple sports, the Bears are not settling for the past but are hungry for more.
“My mantra for this year that I’ve told the coaches is ‘Stay humble. Stay hungry,’” Baylor Athletic Director Ian McCaw said.
This time last year, Baylor was not sure where it would end up.
The Aggies were begging for a spot in the SEC and the Pac-12 seemed to be the new home for four Big 12 schools.
If that would have happened, the Big 12 would have turned to dust, leaving a big question mark on the destination of Baylor University.
“Oh my,” Baylor president Judge Ken Starr said. “Last year at this time we were on the brink of the abyss. It looked very grim but now we’re on the mountaintop and thankful for the view.”
Since then, Baylor athletics has stunned the nation with a Heisman Trophy, 10-win football season and a bowl win, Elite Eight men’s basketball team, National Championship women’s basketball team and so on.
“As the year progressed, some stability was achieved,” McCaw said. “Ten schools committed to stay together and the new television contract helped as well.”
Now the public is aware of what Baylor is capable of but is doubtful for a repeat of the unprecedented Year of the Bear.
“We’re extremely excited for the opportunity to prove ourselves because that’s how we feel this season as a team and a coaching staff,” Baylor football head coach Art Briles said. “I think that there are a lot of question marks surrounding our program right now, and the only way that you can turn them into exclamation points is to go out there and prove it on the field. We’re still trying to earn respect and belief.”
Instead of telling Baylor Nation to hope for success, the athletic program has a standard to point back to and shoot for.
“We have a tremendous amount of momentum coming in,” McCaw said. “Historically, the Year of the Bear was the best in the history of Baylor athletics.”
But, like Baylor women’s basketball head coach did not sit down and stop coaching during the final minutes of the National Championship game, Baylor athletics will not settle for old success.
“It’s been a phenomenal year for Baylor Athletics,” Briles said. “I think our national brand is probably as good as it’s ever been on a national level. I’m just thankful and happy to be a part of it. What we have to do now is maintain it. And that’s where my inspiration, passion and drive certainly is going to come from.”
A major part of that drive came from Baylor Nation.
“It’s an exciting time,” McCaw said. “And it’s amazing to see the students rally behind the university.
The Baylor athletic programs are not satisfied with merely a year of success.
“We’re not going to settle for the Year of the Bear,” Starr said. “Let’s make it the Decade of the Bear.”