Baylor alumnae return to finally run the line

By Brooke Hill | Staff Writer

The traditional running of the Baylor Line will be particularly special this Saturday as nearly 900 women, who were freshmen at Baylor from 1970 to 1994, will experience running the Baylor Line for the first time.

The Baylor Line was founded in 1970 as a spirit organization for first-year male students. A year later, the Baylor Sidelines was created as a parallel organization for women. The Baylor Line eventually became a co-ed organization in 1994. All women participating in the ceremonial running have their own Baylor Line jerseys with their class years and chosen names. Before kickoff, the group of alumni will gather at the south end of McLane Stadium and will join the Baylor Line as they run onto the field to form a human tunnel and welcome football players to the field.

The idea has been floating around for a number of years, but alumni have reached out to Baylor President Dr. Linda A. Livingstone recently, asking if the women who were not given the opportunity to run the Line while at Baylor could run this season, according to director of student activities Matt Burchett.

The alumnae will run in advance of the first year students and in a different space. The first year students will line up in their typical ramp and alumnae will be in the end zone right in front of the berm. They plan to release the alumnae and then wait about a minute and a half before releasing the first year students.

The alumnae will have the opportunity to pick up their jerseys Friday or Saturday at the Student Union Building (SUB). Free breakfast will be provided for them in the H-E-B tailgate zone at 9 a.m., including of Milo Biscuit Company and Common Grounds coffee. There will be a processional over to stadium from the breakfast. Burchett said if the regular Line is as big as it’s been in the past few weeks, there will be around 3,000 people on the field.

“Our hope all along is that we find opportunities for restoration and redemption for those who may have been prohibited from participating in the tradition, and I think that we’re discovering along the way that that has certainly been the case,” Burchett said. “There’s great enthusiasm.”

Dr. Dawn Carlson is a Baylor graduate, a professor in the business school and is the H.R. Gibson Chair of Management Development in the Hankamer School of Business. She has a freshman pre-business daughter, Madeline, who she’ll get to run the line with this weekend.

“When I saw the announcement that they were going to do that, I just thought how blessed I was that it happened this year, when my daughter was a freshman,” Carlson said. “I interviewed for my job at Baylor when I was pregnant with this daughter.”

Carlson said she’s very excited about the opportunity to get to run the Line, but that she didn’t feel like she was missing out on anything during her time at Baylor.

“At the time when I was an undergrad and women weren’t allowed to run, it wasn’t a big thing that we didn’t get to run at that time … we didn’t even want to,” Carlson said. “I mean, we wore dresses and pantyhose to the games. The only time you sat with the Line is if you had a date with someone in the Line and then they were all crazy. We just played a different role … we didn’t even think that much of it. That was what the crazy freshman boys did.”

Cheryl Gochis and Dr. Robyn Driskell lived on the same floor at Collins when they were freshmen and are now in executive leadership at Baylor. Gochis is vice president for human resources and Driskell is chief of staff to President Livingstone. Gochis said that alums wrote President Livingstone and requested this opportunity and Livingstone was very receptive to the idea.

“[Driskell] and I were freshmen together literally 30 years ago and we were both on the first floor of Collins,” Gochis said. “We didn’t really know each other, but since we’ve been working here we’ve put that together … It’s a neat thing for us to think about. I think it really shows how much Baylor alums love their school and want to be a part of tradition and that the traditions we have aren’t just for college days, they really are things that we love about the university even beyond college.”

Julie Covington and Jill Underwood are sisters running the line. Their dad, Dr. Red Covington, was the team doctor for the Baylor football team during the Grant Teaff era, he served on the Board of Regents and was a physician at the Baylor Health Center. Julie Covington is assistant director of the Center for Ministry Effectiveness at Baylor and Underwood is a professor at Howard Payne University. Underwood said that she is looking forward to getting to run the line with her sister and with her Tri Delta sisters from her pledge class that have been talking about the opportunity on their alumnae Facebook page.

“I grew up from the time I was five years old going to practices and games and stuff, so Baylor football was a big part of my life back then and a big part of my life now,” Underwood said. “I always saw it as a big support to the team, and I knew how much the students helped support the team. Both my daughters graduated in May, but my older one got to run as a freshman in 2012 and she just said what a blast it was, and I thought that looked like so much fun and I wished I could’ve done it.”

Debbie Bryant Smith is running with her three college dorm mates. They are celebrating their 50th birthdays this year and said that running the line became a bucket list item for them when it was announced. They have not missed a year in 18 years of having girls trips together. They go to spas all over the United States, so they named their jerseys MamaSpaBear1, MamaSpaBear2, MamaSpaBear3 and MamaSpaBear4.

Dr. Lori Baker currently serves as vice provost for strategic initiatives, collaboration and leadership development and associate professor of anthropology. She says her students love her nickname for the back of her jersey. It says “Bear Bones,” since she is a forensic anthropologist.

“I am so very excited to run the Baylor Line on Saturday,” Baker said. “This is such a big deal for me. This have been on my bucket list for many years and I never imagined I would have the opportunity to actually get to do this. I feel like now I have the chance to be a part of something that is such an iconic tradition. It is clear to see with over 900 female alumnae taking part of this historic event, that we now feel included in a way that is extremely significant. I may just have my Baylor Line jersey framed and displayed in my office. I feel like this is a sign that our campus chooses to be inclusive of everyone.”