Sports Take: High expectations for Matt Rhule era

Collin Bryant | Sports Writer

Canadian actress Mary Pickford once said, “Failure is not falling down, it is not getting up again.” While Pickford was not an athlete, the meaning behind the quote remains true.

Even more true for Baylor football, which was less than ideal last season. The program, since its glorious run with Robert Griffin III in 2011, has been consistently plagued with flaws regarding Title IX. These Issues have taken a toll on the image and success of the program, supported by the declining trend in the record of the Bears.

Baylor football has seen its beloved coach Art Briles fired and replaced by interim head coach Jim Grobe who was seemingly brought in as a temporary fix.

Now, the new coach from Temple University, Matt Rhule, is extremely ambitious and positive of the direction this program is going in. Finally, a fresh take and fresh face who has not made promises of taking the program to the Promised Land, but has made very clear that his aspirations are to eventually take this team to the College Football Playoff. Walking in to a difficult situation, Rhule, like many of the other new football personnel, seem to be excited and ready to attack everything they have walked into.

Baylor had a less than stellar season in 2016, barely keeping their record above .500. With a record of 7-6, they managed to cap off a rocky middle of the season with a 31-12 victory over Boise State in the Motel 6 Cactus Bowl.

With the No. 39 ranked recruiting class, many people are skeptical of Baylor’s upcoming season. The Bears managed to have many games last year that in theory they seemed to have in the bag, only to be stunningly disappointed by the opposing team.

Starting with its first loss to Texas, 35-34 in the final seconds, Baylor seemed to have its bubble popped and was brought back down to the reality of its very shaky state. After this loss, like pulling the wrong block out of a Jenga stack, everything came crashing down. The Bears lost five straight games to TCU, Oklahoma, Kansas State, Texas Tech and West Virginia.

Many are afraid that the rebuilding Bears will get off to a quick start against less than all-star teams like previously done in the past era of the program, only to crumble when they get to conference play.

However, Coach Rhule is not hiding behind any mask regarding mistakes the program has made.

“That which we don’t acknowledge, we’re doomed to repeat,” Rhule said at Big 12 Media Day in July. “So, at the end of the day, I don’t know everything that happened, but I just know something happened that was wrong.”

Rhule has not tried to sugarcoat anything during his transition, acknowledging the fact that there truly were issues in the program that needed to be addressed. He merely has asked for the fair opportunity his predecessors received, while trying to bring back a team that was once considered a top contender not so long ago.

The questions everyone seems to be asking are, what are the real expectations for Baylor this season? Based upon all the skepticism and another coaching change, is Baylor a Big 12 or national contender? Can Matt Rhule really turn things around?

Personally, I think he can. Rhule is a young and hungry coach with the reins to a rebuilding oriented team, who verbally has accepted the challenge. Will we win the Big 12 or College Football Playoff championship? That remains to be seen, but at bare minimum I believe we will improve our team and conference record, culminating with a bowl win, as we did last year in the midst of a troubled season.

Everyone is extremely excited to see if this program can not only return to its recent glory, but if it can push further and bring home not only a Big 12 championship, but a College Football Playoff championship as well. One thing everyone should remember, regardless of their opinion is every team starts 0-0, and every team has an opportunity to rise from the ashes.