Art Briles has led Baylor to three consecutive bowl berths for the first time in team history. (Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
By Martin Rickman
Throughout the preseason, Campus Union is providing a service: It will present one team from each of the six BCS automatic-qualifying conferences to root for in 2013. There is no scientific formula to these selections, but they do take into account some mix of watchability, intrigue, oddity and, of course, fun. The series continues with the Big 12 and Baylor.
It might have taken the attention brought by Robert Griffin III's Heisman campaign to finally put Baylor in the national spotlight, but now that the Bears are there, they have no intention of going away. With a $260 million stadium project underway and set to be completed before the 2014 season opener against SMU, Baylor is a program that should be taken seriously.
For those lacking a Big 12 rooting interest, there are plenty of reasons to make the Bears your de facto team, the biggest being the play on the field. Baylor is a high-octane squad that's willing to take risks; that sometimes gets it into trouble, but newly adopted fans should get a lot out of the style. Coach Art Briles has also taken Baylor to consistent heights unseen since the 1950s. In 2012, the Bears played in their third straight bowl game for the first time in team history (although they did play in three bowls over a four-year span a number of times).
Still, for Baylor to be relevant for years to come, it's going to take more than "Heisman, swag and [...] one of the coolest stadiums in the country," as Pete Roussel tweeted. Whether the Bears get there will depend on recruiting, a little luck, the landscape of the Big 12 and the ability to translate off-field confidence into on-field performance. But sometimes it's smart to dress for the job you want, not the job you already have, and the rest will take care of itself.
It starts with Briles
Art Briles is equal parts Poor Richard's Almanack, mad scientist and tactician -- a combination that makes for some truly great quotes.
On where the program currently stands, Briles told Grantland's Holly Anderson: "What we were, we ain't, and what we is, now, is good. How's that?"
Sometimes he even raps during practice:
‘I can throw,’ he said of his skills. ‘I don’t know about [throwing] down, but I can throw every once in a while with the right rhythm and the right attitude in the right environment.’
‘I don’t want to disrespect any artists, but we all did our time and started at different spots and now we’re here.’
He also gives almost all of his players nicknames.
Then there was the time he said it was "zero-zero" at halftime. That was Sept. 29, 2012, and Baylor was actually tied with West Virginia 35-35.
Baylor has some 'freaks'
I could pretty much cite any quote from this great article by CBS' Bruce Feldman, but I'll stick with this:
If a lot of these 40 times sound too fast to be true, you're not alone in the skepticism. I figured Kazadi must've been referring to hand-timed 40s.
"Noooo. They're all electronic. We don't hand-time anything," Kazadi said. "Hand times are for your mama. Your mama don't work here. We're not hand-timing anything around here.
Basically, these are not your mama's Baylor Bears.
Dr Pepper Museum? Dr Pepper Museum
Bad-taste "Not for women" ads aside, it is still cool to have a soft drink museum near campus:
There is a Dr Pepper Hour on campus every Tuesday between 3 and 4 p.m., when people go out and have a Dr Pepper. This has been going on for 60 years. School traditions are kind of amazing.
The helmets, my gosh, the helmets
I'm pretty sure you could rebuild a depressed economy with those lids.
The new stadium isn't messing around
Just as some people who win the lottery go out and buy a house, some schools that win a Heisman go out and build a stadium:
The new stadium is set to have a bunch of nice features, including, but not limited to:
• A lagoon with sailgating
• Stadium-wide wifi
• Expandable seating capacity
• A 5,000-foot video board
• A bridge connecting the stadium to the rest of the campus
We don't really have sailgating in the Midwest, so that idea strikes me as a bit dangerous, but more than a little enticing.
They can run up to 30 miles per hour. They weigh between 250 and 300 pounds. They wave. And they live on campus. Joy and Lady are Baylor's official mascots, and they've got it pretty good:
The players have fun
Here are a few examples:
Oh, and running back Lache Seastrunk thinks he's going to win the Heisman. To CBS' Dennis Dodd:
"Why not?" Seastrunk asked again.
That's how he answers a question with a question regarding a statement made to the Sporting News eight months ago.
"I'm going to win the Heisman. I'm going to win it in 2013. If I don't, I'm going to get very close. I'm shooting for that goal. I will gladly say it."
The Big 12 is a tough conference, and maybe Baylor isn't quite ready to challenge Texas or Oklahoma for the title. But it's getting close. And it's certainly dressing the part.