I started at Baylor in 2003, the same year as Guy Morris. Baylor’s football games were played in an aging stadium that was never full, save for a few games against a dominant Longhorns or rival Aggies team. The athletics department was housed in the same stadium, miles away from campus, and Baylor was reeling from a scandal.
A lot has changed in those thirteen years.
There’s sentiment among those who want to see Baylor burn to the ground, and even among some of the Baylor faithful, that the good years are gone. After all, who would ever want to come to Baylor?
Here’s my answer: nearly anyone.
Here’s a list of the tangibles that will draw an elite coach to the banks of the Brazos:
• Facilities: This could be a post unto itself, but Baylor has some of the best facilities of any university in the entire country. We’ve at least got to be in the top five. We have a gorgeous, state-of-the-art stadium, brand new strength and conditioning facilities, a new(ish) indoor practice facility, a fantastic athletics complex, and, by the way, our university is still building and expanding.
• Strength & Conditioning: Look, I don’t know if Kaz is here next year or not. From my perspective, he’s hit the zenith of strength & conditioning at the collegiate level. He could end up working for an NFL team someday, but we’ve given him everything he’s asked for, so I’d be a little surprised if he moved on. I probably should have just titled this bullet point “Kaz.”
• Recruiting: Welcome to Texas, home of one of (if not the) most dominant recruiting talent bases in the entire country. While this isn’t as big of a draw if your office is within shouting distance of Downtown Houston or Dallas, it’s certainly a huge draw if you’re in Kalamazoo.
• Money: I have some complex thoughts on this front, but my overriding sentiment is that Baylor would scrape the roof off the Ferrell Center to pay the right person to come to Baylor. Many of the hands that steer the ship in Waco see the value of athletics success when it comes to achieving the ends of Baylor’s mission. Baylor is going to rank in the top 15 for coaching salary, period.
• Conference: Look, I know this year has been objectively terrible for the Big XII. Oklahoma has derped their way to a terrible record, Texas has lost their shimmer, and TCU lost to Arky. We’re still in a Power 5 conference, and there’s still more opportunity for us most years than there is for SMU, Tulsa, Houston, and others. It’s a plus, even if it’s a little bit tarnished right now.
And here are my intangibles:
• Hungry: There is a hunger and thirst for excellence at Baylor that is more uncommon than we think. The Wall Street Journal released an article a few days ago ranking Baylor fifth in the country (behind TCU, -grumble grumble-) for student engagement. We’re a school that is locked IN. There’s still a positive energy at Baylor that can’t be ignored.
• Brand: There are a lot of folks that think we should take the Baylor brand to the deep part of Lake Waco, weigh it down with our Big XII trophies, and sink it to the bottom. Then we should blow it up. If you read my previous article, you know I disagree. Baylor has developed a solid brand that’s created a place in the market landscape of Texas football where we can thrive. We’ve been so successful (smartphone analogy incoming) that the Windows (Texas – crashes a lot when it shouldn’t, vulnerable to everything) and Samsung (Texas A&M – basically has an annual timer for implosion) versions have tried to become more like us. Our brand is part of our appeal, and part of our success. The opportunity to continue that brand is attractive.
• Faith: This is both a positive and a potential negative. If you think we’re going to hire a coach that is not in lock-step with our core Christian mission, you’re nuts. There has never been a more crucial time for us to embrace our Christian identity with both arms. That has appeal to the right coach, and I have a very high level of confidence that it will play into the final decision.
I believe Baylor has what it takes to pull in a five-star coach who can find success here. We’re pressed, not crushed. We’re under scrutiny, but never beyond hope. #BGOD
**Joe Gastler is a regular contributor to BearsIllustrated.com and can be followed on twitter at @josephgastler.null