DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece from a member of the BearsIllutrated community.
We are heading into a challenging season this fall. A season of change, a season of vitriol, a season of battle unlike anything we have seen in years past. More than any year in recent memory, we have a target on our back - not because of past success, but because of recent history. Don’t be swayed by the fear - we as Baylor fans can and should have a fun and successful season.
Obviously, by now everyone knows what’s floating in the dark cloud that has been pouring on us for a year now, and the fallout has been severe - we have lost our head coach, who was before universally beloved among our fan base, we have lost our much-hyped 2016 recruiting class, and will have to rebuild our 2017 class as well. The fan base itself has been vilified in the media (with heavy wafts of rotten garbage wafting out of Austin daily) as rape enablers or apologists, and we have people daily calling for more heads to roll within the athletic department. Some of this is justified - it seems clear by now that our beloved Baylor university has failed to protect victims of sexual assault, and did not fulfill Title IX obligations to thoroughly investigate claims.
It is always darkest before the dawn, and I believe it is time for a new age to dawn in the life of Baylor University and Baylor Athletics. We have made major and sweeping changes in the handling of Title IX claims, with the goal to be the national standard. We have hired a new Athletic Director who is respected as a good man who will support these goals. We have an interim head football coach who served on the NCAA ethics committee and is nationally respected for putting character first in his expectations of his players. None of that makes the cloud blow away overnight, but we are committed to being better and doing better. In time, the storm will pass if we can consistently demonstrate this commitment.
So, let’s talk 2016 Football. Did we lose some great recruits? Yes. Did we lose a great backup QB? Sure. Is the outside media fervor a distraction? Maybe. But — and this is an important ‘but’ — we are still a team stock full of incredible men, both coaches and players. We are keeping the schemes that have been so successful in the past, and the minds that conceived and executed them. We have Seth Russell, we have KD flipping Cannon, we have a roster full of men who were recruited for their excellent potential.
WE. HAVE. KAZ. Think about that for a moment. We have a roster full of people with potential and a man who has achieved national respect with his ability to sharpen potential into diamond-sharp reality. Do you have any doubt that our players could possibly come out of months of work with Kaz and not be ready to run through a brick wall at full tilt without feeling it?
As unquantifiable as it may be, this team will have tremendous ‘heart’ as well. These are men who saw the storm forming (while many of them were out of the country doing mission work), and decided to stick together, stay the course, “burn their boats,” and make this a year to remember. However much we may have thought in the past that our team was a family, a tight-knit unit, and we lauded the benefits of that in our ability to play, think — just take a moment to think — about the unity that comes from sticking together through the situation they are now under.
So, my friends, let us honor their commitment, let us honor our University as they work to do better, be better, be more. I have no idea what 2017 or beyond will look like, but I know what I expect of my team this fall, and I know what I will give them. Leave every game with your voice gone, pour your energy onto the field into this team. Let us cheer these young men who have thrown their hats over our wall, and support them as they and their coaches work to bring us a 2016 to remember. I know I’ll never forget this year.