Aranda drawn to BU for faith, family, football

New head coach Dave Aranda said being at Baylor “just feels right” during his introductory press conference on Monday morning at the Baylor Club in McLane Stadium. Mireya Sol Ruiz | Multimedia Editor

By Pranay Malempati | Sports Writer

When a program is looking for a new head coach, the search frequently revolves around who would be the best possible candidate to hire. It revolves around who has the best schemes and is able to recruit the most talent.

But often, the best coach to hire depends on the specific situation.

After Matt Rhule decided to take a job offered by the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, Baylor had a massive decision to make. Athletic director Mack Rhoades wanted their next coach to not only be someone who would help the university continue to build a successful football team, but one who would also continue to build the type of program that represents what Baylor stands for.

That is why Rhoades chose Dave Aranda as Baylor football’s new head coach. Aranda was introduced at a press conference on Monday.

Aranda had his own desire to find a program where he fit in. If he was going to leave LSU, where he has developed successful NFL players as defensive coordinator and just won a national championship, it makes sense that he wanted to choose a program he felt he connected with.

Aranda said that throughout the hiring process he could see that his values coincided with those of the university.

“I started to look at Baylor, and I could see the Christian mission,” Aranda said. “I could see small classes. Education was important. I could see great facilities, great community. People cared.”

Aranda said he keeps his Christian faith close to him. He said that when the Baylor head coaching job became open, he “felt in his heart that God was talking to him.”

In addition to his faith, Aranda values a culture of brotherhood and family. He saw that kind of culture when watching game film on Baylor and said his suspicions were proven correct when he met with the team.

“When I was standing in front of them, you could tell how close of a team they were,” Aranda said. “You could see the togetherness and the cohesiveness that was evident in that game film.”

Starting quarterback Charlie Brewer said the togetherness of the team was important to uphold during the head coaching search and made for an almost seamless transition between head coaches.

“I think a lot of the older guys, including myself, did a good job of just keeping the guys together,” Brewer said. “It was a pretty smooth transition. . . I know we have the guys necessary to take that next step.”

While the values and culture of the school and team were important to Aranda, he said the success of the football team itself was a main draw in his decision to come to Baylor.

Making the jump from coordinator to head coach certainly comes with its challenges. An extra challenge for Aranda this season will be the significant number of starters from last year’s team, including nine of the 11 on defense, who are either graduating or leaving for the NFL.

Aranda said he believes this team has the talent and depth to overcome these losses. Further, while Baylor’s new head coach is known in college football circles as a defensive guru, he does have some ideas in mind for the offense.

“I’d like for the offense to have the element of putting pressure on the defense at all times,” Aranda said. “So we can do that by formation. We can do that by personnel groups. We can do that by tempo. We want the defense to have to defend every blade of grass. We want to be on the attack.”

On a day honoring Martin Luther King Jr., Rhoades used one of King’s quotes to express the confidence he has in the culture and ideas Aranda brings as Baylor’s new head coach:

“If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl. But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.”

“And today, with Coach Aranda,” Rhoades said, “we’re not moving forward crawling, we’re not moving forward walking, we’re not moving forward running, but we’re moving forward flying.”