By Cody Soto
DALLAS — With one day left before the fifth-ranked Baylor Bear football team faces No. 8 Michigan State in the 79th Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic, students, fans and school personnel rallied together to participate in the team fan fest Wednesday afternoon.
The event sponsored by the Baylor Alumni Network featured the Golden Wave Band, song leaders and cheerleaders as the crowd practiced their stadium cheers for tomorrow’s matchup.
Not only were fans able to enjoy kind words from emcee John Morris, but several familiar faces on campus stopped by to say hello. Judge and Chancellor Ken Starr and athletic director Ian McCaw encouraged the crowd to be loud and proud at AT&T Stadium.
The spirit rally featured a special appearance from former running back Walter Abercrombie, who introduced the Southwest Conference champions from the 1974 and 1980 Southwest Conference championship teams that also played in the Cotton Bowl.
No Baylor team has won the Cotton Bowl, and those teams hope that tomorrow is another day in history. Baylor alumnus Robert Wagner was a former tight end on the Baylor football team during the 1988 through 1991 seasons, and he and his family is still supporting Baylor athletics.
“We come every year [to the bowl games],” Wagner said. “It’s great to come back and see the program on track. It’s very nice and special to see them winning like back in the days with the 1974 and 1980 teams. Ask any of those players and they’ll tell you how great it is.”
Alumnus Scott Smith also came to the event Wednesday and reunited with some of his teammates. Smith was a member of the 1980 championship team. The Bears lost 30-2 to Alabama in the program’s second Cotton Bowl berth.
“We got blown out in the Cotton Bowl, but we had a great season,” Smith said. “We went 8-0 that year and I met some lifelong friends.”
The Toyota truck stopped by with the two Big 12 championship trophies for anyone to take a photo, and an obstacle course, football game, bean bag toss, and face painting entertained others throughout the afternoon.
Back-to-back conference titles means a lot not only to the current players, but the past as well. Smith credits head coach Art Briles for the success that the Bears are having.
“I am so proud of Art Briles and the leadership of the university and what they’ve done for Baylor,” Smith said. “I’m a Texas high school coach myself, and Briles can get players to play better than they are. He also recruits great kids at the best school in the country: Baylor University.”
All in all, the former players and students like what they see, and the fan gatherings are a great way to stay connected with the university, Wagner said.
“The more you can get people involved, the better it will be for Baylor long term,” he said. “We’ve seen that over the last few years.”
Baylor and Michigan State face off in Arlington at 11:30 a.m. Thursday morning. The Cotton Bowl will air on ESPN.