Beware Baylor Bears You Are No Longer Flying Under The Radar

I keep asking myself “what’s up” with all the Baylor Bear stuff. When I started writing these blogs I had to remind myself not to overdo it with Longhorn gab since I have been a fan of the Burnt Orange beginning with the 1960 football campaign. But here I am once again writing about the Baylor Bears. My first was an article on head football coach Art Briles and then I talked a great deal about the Lady Bears basketball in the article about Big 12 Women basketballers………….

But what brought this to mind is how good it must feel to be a Baylor Bear right now. What a year it has been on the Brazos for anyone who bleeds green and gold. For so many years the Bears have been able to fly under the radar. Sure there was the women national champs in basketball a couple of years ago but still that didn’t really set the Baylor nation soaring as an athletic power………….

But here in this current basketball season are the Lady Bears once again flying high. And look at their men. They climbed as high as number three in the country before going into Kansas, a perennial national champion contender, and losing on their court. And then Mizzou came to town and pulled out a hard fought win in Waco. But still the men are alive and well and the women are flat taking names in the tough Big 12…………………

And all of this comes on the heels of the most successful football season since Grant Teaff called the shots for the boys of fall. I give so much credit to my friend and head coach Art Briles and his innovative football mind along with a tireless work ethic and a genuine passion for kids. But it never hurts to have the Heisman Trophy winner driving the offense either. And with that said let me give my most ardent congratulations to Robert Griffin III or RG3 as we are all becoming accustomed to, who follow any type of sports conversation. What a phenomenal young man and one who had committed to the University of Houston when Coach Briles was the head man there. Thankfully for the Bears he followed his heart and a belief in Art Briles to the land of Baylor green……Good luck in the NFL young man and for those of us who have been made devout believers through your heroics on the gridiron, there is no doubt that your star will continue to shine brightly at the next level………………..

Let me tell you where this “under the radar” stuff began for me. In the 2009 season or Colt McCoy’s final year at Texas, I was invited by two of my great friends from DeLeon, Trent Thomas, a Baylor alum and Bodie Weaver, a UT alum, to travel with them to Floyd Casey stadium on the Baylor campus to watch the national championship game bound Longhorns take on a pretty young Baylor team. With RGIII out for the year due to injury the talent laden Longhorns hung yet another loss on the young Bears………………

Trent, who always has a classy ad in the Baylor program was flipping through that edition when he came upon a page about the Big 12. Listed on that page was all the member schools and the number of outright championships that each had won since the beginning of the conference. This of course included all sports for both men and women. Not surprising at the top of the list was Texas with the ability to fund all sports at a higher level than most of the other schools. But there on the list in second place was the surprising Baylor Bears. This private institution depending almost entirely on donations from the loyalists was ahead of the rest of the pack, many of those schools being the state university or one of the two top state universities for their respective states. Talking about doing a double take; I was in disbelief when I saw that! …………….

But then I started to realize how strong Baylor has always been in the spring. I knew that they were traditionally strong in tennis but after checking through the Big 12 site, I realized that they have completely dominated that sport. And even though their track hasn’t won any conference titles of late, the men’s team with Clyde Hart at the helm has produced some champions through the years, as well as some gold medal winning Olympians. So with a little thought and research I now realize how they landed in the runner-up spot……………….

But even winning titles, unless they are in the big three sports: football, basketball, baseball/softball still does not thrust any school above the radar. But given the recent success of the Bears in the “Big 3”, they have now been lifted to the forefront of the mind of every opposing coach. No longer does a trip to Waco or a visit from Baylor have the same feel as a night off or a chance to empty the bench with reserves who rarely see action. When Coach Briles accepted the invitation to be the head football coach he commented that he didn’t just want Baylor to be a Big 12 member, but a Big 12 contender. And here they are flying above the radar……………………

Art Briles and Kim Mulkey have established themselves nationally in regard to respect and position among the Division I elites. And now Scott Drew, the men’s head basketball coach is very quietly gaining that same prestige. No longer do high school prospects visit the campus as a polite gesture or just to look around, they now visit with a real intent to sign on the dotted line. And I am not talking about those kids who are at the bottom of many Division I recruiting lists, I am talking about the head of the class: the blue chippers…………

Give Coach Drew a world of credit, because when he came on board the basketball program had been embarrassed and shamed by both coaches and players and that included both on and off the court. Now they are first class and riding high……………………..

Now as a Longhorn fan and somewhat of an organgeblood I wish Baylor the best very reluctantly (just joking). They have earned my respect and no longer have to listen to the same old excuse that the only reason that they are in the Big 12 is because former governor Ann Richards, a Baylor alumnus, insisted that they be included. No these Bears belong, and with the quality of coaching that they now have in place, look for their place among the perennial powers to remain……………

And to my friend Trent Thomas and all those former Bears, I say great job and may it continue. But Beware Baylor Bears because you are now flying above the radar. Happy Flying! ………….RC

About Ronnie Clifton

Ronnie Clifton was a Texas Football Coach for 29 years. In addition to football, Clifton also served as the head coach in basketball and both girls and boys track. “I loved being involved in and playing sports as a kid, and I soaked up every ounce of available information about any sporting event; I also love to write. What better combo for me than becoming the writer of a sports blog?”
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