It’s tough being the private school in a BCS conference.
Just ask Northwestern and Vanderbilt.
Academic standards are higher, it’s tougher to recruit and success is often few and far between.
Yet, Art Briles has been able to do what no coach in 16 years had done at Baylor — the Big 12′s lone private university — and that’s go to a bowl game.
Yes, the scoreboard shows a 38-14 loss to a 7-6 Illinois team in the Texas Bowl, but to be honest, that doesn’t quite tell the whole story. At one point in the 3rd quarter, Baylor trailed the Illini 24-0. Illinois was doing a great job of containing Robert Griffin and, consequently, Baylor’s offense was stalling.
But the Bears kept fighting back, and eventually, were able to cut the lead to 10 with plenty of time left to play in the game. The comeback never fully evolved, but Baylor nonetheless showed a tremendous amount of heart.
And that is 100-percent a product of the players buying into what Briles is selling.
For a program who has struggled so mightily in recent history, to even make it to the postseason is an accomplishment. I’m not typically one for moral victories, but what Briles has been able to do at Baylor is one hell* of an accomplishment.
(*Quick note: I fully understand, and embrace, the irony of using the word “hell” in regards to the success at a Baptist university)
Baylor is headed for success under Briles. He’s recruiting well and the players are believing in his system. That does not, however, mean a conference championship is coming to Waco next year, or even the year after that. The climb up the ladder of success is still steep for the Bears, but as long as they have Briles, they have a chance.
That is, of course, assuming Briles is still the coach in Waco for years to come.