BY MICHAEL LEESE
It was “Blackout Thursday” in Waco, Texas as the No.6 Baylor Bears were set to host the No.10 Oklahoma Sooners. The game was billed as the “Biggest game in school history.” The fans were here hours before kickoff, gearing up for the big nationally televised game. Baylor was 7-0 and still had high hopes that they could stay in the race for the Big 12 Conference Championship and a BCS berth.
THE BAYLOR LINE is one of the first aspects of Baylor spirit to which freshmen are introduced. The Baylor Line is made entirely of freshmen and is the core of Baylor spirit and tradition. Students wear a gold football jersey with the number of their proposed graduation year and a nickname on the back. Before each football game the Baylor Line gathers at one end of Floyd Casey Stadium and waits for the signal to make a ‘mad dash’ down the field to create a giant human tunnel through which the football team runs through to enter the stadium. Six members of the Baylor Line carry flags with the letters B-A-Y-L-O-R while the rest of the Line runs behind them. After that, students rush the sidelines and stand in an exclusive Baylor Line section behind the opponents’ bench where students watch the game, cheer the Bears to victory, and sometimes heckle the opposing team.
The Baylor Line was organized in 1970 and was an all-male organization until 1993, when women were allowed to join. At inception, the Baylor Line was a group of freshmen men who lined the front of Baylor’s student section for the express purpose of protecting Baylor women from the more violent fans of their opponent.
The jersey colors of the Line were originally rotated between Baylor green (in odd-numbered years) and Baylor gold (in even-numbered years), but in the interest of having a more substantial looking student section, the decision was made around 1999 to use only gold.
NO BEARS ALLOWED……. Baylor keeps two American Black Bears, Joy and Lady, on campus in a natural habitat enclosure as mascots for the University. They are brought to the stadium by the Baylor Chamber spirit group on game days and they attend pre-game events, and are said to be the living symbol of Baylor University at the games. The university has had live bears since 1915, but since 2010, the bears are no longer allowed at football games or other campus events on leashes. The USDA informed Baylor officials that they would no longer be permitted to bring the bears to games, per Federal Code of Regulations.
ALMA MATER……Before kickoff and after each games conclusion Baylor fans sing the University alma mater ‘That Good Old Baylor Line’ while holding their “Bear paws” in the air. “Heeeeeeyyyyyy Sic’em Bears!!!”
HISTORY…….Baylor won the Southwest Conference Championship in 1915, 1916, 1922 and again in 1924. In 1956 Baylor again came close to winning the Southwest Conference title, but finished second and was sent to face the undefeated Tennessee Volunteers in the 1957 Sugar Bowl. Baylor defeated Johnny Majors and the No.2 Volunteers 13-7. This was the highest ranked opponent Baylor had ever defeated until defeating No.1 Kansas State in 2012. The 1924 SWC Championship would be the last for 50 years, until Baylor won it all again in 1974 under the leadership of third year head coach Grant Teaff. Baylor played in several bowl games, including the 1952 Orange Bowl (narrow loss to Georgia Tech), twice in the Gator Bowl (loss to Auburn and a narrow loss to Florida), and the Bluebonnet (beating LSU), Dixie (beating Wake Forest) and Gotham Bowls (beating No.10 Utah State in New York City).
No teams were fielded in 1906, following a ban opposing the violence of football, and in 1943 and 1944 during World War II. In 1966, John Hill Westbrook of Elgin, Texas became the first African-American to play varsity football in the Southwest Conference when he joined the Baylor team.
MIRACLE ON BRAZOS……The 1974 SWC Championship season was one of the most memorable in school history. Baylor had finished in last place in four of the last seven seasons, including 1973 and had not won the conference championship in 50 years. Furthermore, coming into the 1974 season, Baylor had lost 16 consecutive games to the University of Texas Longhorns. The 1974 Texas vs Baylor game looked like another easy win for Texas, as the Longhorns took quick control of the game and went into halftime with a 24-7 lead. Baylor blocked a punt early in the third quarter, and that energized the team. The Bears rallied to a thrilling 34-24 victory over the Longhorns. Baylor went on to win the conference title that year (the first time in seven seasons that Texas did not win the Southwest Conference title). The entire 1974 Baylor football season was dubbed the “Miracle on the Brazos” by many sports writers at the time. The win over Texas and the SWC championship have thus become a special part of Baylor’s athletic history.
GRANT TEAFF ERA……One of the most successful coaches in Baylor football history was Grant Teaff. He led the Bears to a 1974 Southwest Conference Championship in his third-year in the program, and nearly brought home a National Championship during the record-setting 1980 football season that saw the Bears take on the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Cotton Bowl. Grant Teaff recruited famous players such as Mike Singletary, Thomas Everett, Walter Abercrombie and James Francis to play football at Baylor University. Coach Teaff was also named National Coach of the Year for the 1974 season. He would serve as head coach until 1992, leading Baylor to eight bowl games and two Conference Championships (1974, 1980) in his 21 years as head coach.
JOINING THE BIG 12 CONFERENCE……Baylor joined the Big 12 Conference in 1996 along with Texas, Texas Tech and Texas A&M to form the new Conference. The early years of the Big 12 proved difficult as the Bears struggled. Art Briles was hired in 2008 in hopes that he could revive the Bear program. His first order of business was to find a quarterback to build the program around, and he did just that with Robert Griffin III. Griffin’s recruitment immediately paid dividends, as his athleticism at the quarterback position became nationally known. He later led the Bears to their first winning season in Big 12 play 7-6 in 2010. Griffin won the Heisman Trophy in 2011.
The Bears have 10 inductees to the College Football Hall of Fame. The most notable are Hayden Fry, Thomas Everett, and Mike Singletary. Singletary is also a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame!
NEW STADIUM ON THE WAY…… The Baylor Bears have played their home games at Floyd Casey Stadium, originally known as Baylor Stadium, since the facility opened in 1950. Construction began on what would become Floyd Casey Stadium right after World War II in 1948. In the Fall of 2012, Baylor University begun construction of a $260 Million dollar New Baylor Stadium on the north bank of the Brazos River, scheduled to open for the 2014 football season with the first game scheduled for August 30, 2014 against former SWC rival Southern Methodist University.
FEATURED FAN……I was fortunate to meet Don and Carolyn Drakes from springs Texas. The Drakes have been married for 26 years and are self-described, “Ultimate College Football Fans.” They travel all over the country to take in big games each and every year! Don is a Oklahoma alum, who played baseball at Oklahoma in the 1960’s.
THE GAME……Both teams struggled early, with Baylor holding 3-0 edge entering the second quarter. But a bizarre sequence of plays completely swung momentum to the Bears. Baylor was penalized 38-yards on one play late in the first quarter, including a targeting penalty and two flags for personal fouls. This gave Oklahoma a first and goal at the 7-yard line. The Sooners failed to score on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line, when quarterback Blake Bell was tackled for a 1-yard loss. The stop was made by cornerback K.J. Morton, who had been called for targeting only a few plays earlier. Morton was flagged after a vicious hit on Sterling Shepard that knocked the ball loose and laid out the receiver. Officials reviewed the play and determined it was a shoulder-to-shoulder hit, overturning Morton’s ejection and keeping him in the game. But the penalty still stood, and there was extra yardage tacked on the same play for the calls against cornerback Ahmad Dixon for unnecessary roughness, and then taking his helmet off while on the field. Two plays after Bell was stopped on fourth down, Baylor’s Bryce Petty was sacked in the end zone by Dominique Alexander for a safety. Jalen Saunders then returned the free kick 55 yards to the Baylor 12, but the Sooners would not get into the endzone. The Sooners settled for Michael Hunnicutt’s 22-yard field goal, giving Oklahoma its only lead of the game at 5-3.
The stand by the Baylor defense fired up not only the team, but the sellout crowd as well. The Bears went onto score 21 points over the final seven minutes of the half, and took a commanding 24-5 lead. Bryce Petty had two rushing touchdowns, and hit Antwan Goodley with a 24-yard scoring pass with 13 seconds left in the half, after a Sooner turnover.
The second half was more of the same as tailback Shock Linwood ripped off huge chunks of yardage against a tired Sooner defensive front. Filling in for the injured Glasco Martin and Lache Seastrunk, Linwood finished with 182 yards rushing.
It was the Baylor defense that was the difference in this game as they held the Sooners to 87 yards rushing and just 237 total yards. “Everyone talks about their offense, which is really good,” Sooners coach Bob Stoops said. “But I knew that their defense is really good with all the seniors that they have.”
The win convinced me that this Bear team is for real! Are they good enough to capture the Big 12? I guess we will find out in the coming weeks as they still must face Texas Tech, TCU, Oklahoma State and Texas. But right now, the Ba Bears are 8-0 and sitting atop the Big 12.
I want to thank all the fans I met for a wonderful experience at “Blackout Thursday”.
- Calling them Hogs, Gameday at Arkansas (bowlbound.wordpress.com)