By Brooke Hill | Staff Writer
Did you watch the Baylor Line run at the first football game and wonder why it looked like it was split into two separate groups?
You might have even thought to yourself, “If I had to trip and fall and stumble over other people, so should they.”
The Line section has actually implemented a new system as of fall 2016. Instead of being released as one big group, the Line is released in two separate waves.
“We really took a strong investment in the Baylor Line starting in 2010, which were the Floyd Casey days … The reason why we did that is because we recognize with the emergence of Line Camp and certainly the traditions surrounding football that was a premier opportunity for us to advance a significant tradition in the campus community,” said Matt Burchett, director of student activities.
When they started emphasizing the Baylor Line in 2010, there were about 1,500 students maximum, with around 700 to 800 being the norm for most games. Now, with the help of the Line Camp experience and the new McLane Stadium, there’s 2,400 to 2,800 students wanting to run the line at each game, Burchett said.
For the past few years, Baylor has worked with a consulting firm that helps talk though crowd management at larger venues with institutions such as Baylor. One recommendation was the potential splitting of the Line.
“What we had determined is that the safest way we can execute the Line is to do in in groups of 1,200 to 1,500 students, which is what we’ve done now,” Burchett said. “There was a variety of reasons why that works, but that’s the reason why we have the two waves. In order for us to ensure the tradition persists for generations to come, we have to create a really safe environment for all who participate in it.”
Although this change was implemented last fall, it happened to be extremely noticeable at the first game of the 2017 football season.
“It may have been more noticeable in game one because the timing of the wave was little bit off for us and so it looked like it was two separate groups, when in reality we’re supposed to time that out in a way that the second wave is right on the heels of the first wave so it looks like its one big line,” Burchett said. “This puts us in a position that’s a little more manageable.”
Houston freshman Catherine Cohen has already experienced being a part of both waves. She said that she felt the Line experience was less safe because of the split.
“We are truly running in like thousand degree heat,” Cohen said. “Like, full speed with hundreds of other kids. This is our first time and it’s down a concrete hill. Once we got on the field everything was fine. We got off to the side and everything was good, but that second half is really scary because you’re running full speed down a concrete hill.”
Cohen said her experience in the first part of the wave during the second home game was more enjoyable. She felt that being in that first wave was much safer because it cut out the hazard of having to run down the hill.
“It’s just really what the Line is supposed to feel like,” Cohen said. “It’s more like you’re with everyone smushed together, which is what you want. That’s kind of the feeling you aspire for. You can kind of see the hype video on the side, you can hear the music playing. Back on the second wave, you couldn’t really see the stadium fully from the section you’re in; you just see the seats. When you’re in the first section standing near the front of the line, you can see where you’re going to run, you see the band, it’s just the experience you thought it would be when you’re in that front wave.”
The split wasn’t the only change that was implemented. The addition of the yellow gates outside of the stadium was another safety precaution, in hopes that students would have more space and breathing room while waiting to run the Line. The chamber members also take the very front of the Line down to the 10-yard line before running so that students are able to spread out quicker and run on a flat surface. There are also EMS officials at the top of the Line before students run and in the tunnel that the students go through to access their seats after the running of the Line is over. The concrete in the tunnel has been roughed up as well, in hopes that student’s shoes will be able to get a better grip, reducing trips and falls.
“We want them to have a great time, to experience the uniqueness that the Line has to offer running in front of 45,000 folks onto the football field but if it’s not done safely then we won’t be able to continue that kind of tradition,” Burchett said. “There are all kinds of things that we think about that help us to be successful with that experience because it is one of the finest traditions we have and we want to be good stewards of it.”
The Baylor Line will be running for the fourth time Saturday in the game against West Virginia. Burchett said there was a great student ticket turnout and encourages freshmen to come run the Line.
“I love the fact that our students continue to be dedicated to our football program and our student athletes in general and it just speaks volumes about the quality of students that we have here,” Burchett said. “We’re fans period, we’re not fans when we’re winning. We’re fans because we love the Bears and want to support them.”