Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Once tied with KU as Big 12’s worst, Baylor now contending

Baylor football coach Art Briles answers questions from the media during the NCAA college Big 12 Conference Football Media Days Tuesday, July 23, 2013 in Dallas.

Baylor football coach Art Briles answers questions from the media during the NCAA college Big 12 Conference Football Media Days Tuesday, July 23, 2013 in Dallas.


— In 2009, the Baylor Bears finished tied with Kansas University at the bottom of the Big 12 Conference standings, 1-7 in Big 12 play and 4-8 overall.

Three years later, after ripping off seasons win totals of seven, 10 and eight victories from 2010-12, the Bears sat in the Omni Hotel ballroom on Day 2 of Big 12 media days talking about conference titles, national championships and Heisman Trophies.

Although chasing such lofty goals are closer to the norm for Baylor these days, several Bears in attendance Tuesday remember exactly what it took to reach that point and take steps forward while KU continued to struggle.

“The first thing I felt like we had to do was be respected and be credible because neither one of those things were facts at that time,” said Briles, now in his sixth season at Baylor. “So the first thing we had to do was make people respect us as opponents and then be a credible, formidable opponent, which we’ve accomplished both of those.”

As Briles continued to talk about the transformation from perennial doormat to national contender and his players chimed in, the whole process sounded very much in line with what second-year Kansas coach Charlie Weis and the Jayhawks are attempting to do.

“Learning how to get people close-knit really quick,” said senior offensive tackle Cyril Richardson when asked to pinpoint the most important ingredient in the rebuilding project. “Being a college athlete, you think five years is a long time, but it really isn’t. You gotta join together early and get with these guys and learn from them and see what they’ve experienced. That’s everything. And I think that’s what we do best. We learn from each other.”

In order to go from tied with Kansas for last in the league to three straight bowl seasons, Briles said the entire Baylor program had to lock in on the little things, which included as many things off the field as on.

“I think it’s about everything,” he said. “It’s about how you walk, how you talk, how people listen and look at ya. It’s gotta start with how you brush your teeth and, if you got any hair, how you comb it.”

Asked if preaching that kind of program overhaul was a tough sell, Briles said it was a difficult message to get across to the athletes he was attempting to recruit but added that it was much easier to push on the guys who already were in the program.

“Those people hadn’t eaten in years so they were just, ‘Throw me a bone and I’ll eat it,’” Briles said.

Having fought for respect, built confidence and amassed victories, the gains the Bears are making these days are a little more flashy and fun.

“You don’t want a coach that’s gonna come out there and give you this and give you that,” said senior defensive back Ahmad Dixon, a Waco, Texas, native. “We’ve had to work for everything. Everything we’ve ever had has been earned. You see the gold, shiny helmets; we earned that. The black uniforms, we earned that. The new stadium, we earned that.”

There’s no question that an influx in talent — Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III certainly helped — played a role in the Bears’ rapid rise to the upper half of the Big 12, but the current players charged with maintaining Baylor’s success believe the most important ingredient in the recent turnaround remains in Waco. His name is Art Briles.

“It all starts at the top,” Dixon said. “You have to have a great coach. That’s something that we have. If coach Briles went to the NFL, I’d probably try to enter the supplemental draft and go with him right now. When you have a coach that’s understanding of you and who you are and all you’ve been through, why not play hard for him? Why go play for a coach who can’t even tell you your mom’s first name or where your mom works? Coach Briles goes to my barber shop, he hangs out around the community, and you want to play for someone like that. He’s seeing what your life is about, and that’s a big plus, to me.”

Briles appreciates the love but said he was not about to become complacent. That’s why he sets such high goals and pushes his players to reach them. He also gets a little help from the diminishing number of critics out there who claim Baylor was a merely flash in the pan and say the Bears cannot sustain this type of success.

“I think there’s still doubters out there and that’s fine,” Briles said. “That’s understandable. That’s what drives us as coaches, as players and as a program. That’s motivation for us and that’s how we’ll use it.”


ahpersecoachingexperience 9 years, 4 months ago

Not buying it bc they almost lost to turner gill

Larry Smith 9 years, 4 months ago

But they beat CW by 4 touchdowns, so I'm not sure of your point.

Brad Farha 9 years, 4 months ago

I was at that game. The wind was brutal for the first 3 quarters, and it largely negated RG3's passing game. Sure he could run, but we could game plan for just the run. Once the wind started to die down at the beginning of the 4th quarter, everything changed.

Displayhawk 9 years, 4 months ago

The axe dulls with each succeeding cut!

Jeff Coffman 9 years, 4 months ago

Call me when they actually have gone to a BCS bowl game let alone win one. Nice way to look at a 3 year dip. Back up five and you have a whole different picture.

Randy Bombardier 9 years, 4 months ago

They'll get busted one of these days for recruiting violations. Mark my words.

Robert Brown 9 years, 4 months ago

It certainly helps to bring RG3 with him to Baylor as opposed to Dayne Crist. Briles came from U of Houston and RG3 orginally committed there and came with Briles to Baylor. Briles is an excellent offensive coach whose schemes work perfectly in college while Weis is trying to install more of pro set which requires more talent.

Briles is a legendary Texas high school coach and has great connections with the Texas high schools. Baylor is more attractive now that they are competitive to players from Dallas, Houston or San Antonio because Waco is only a few hours drive any of those places.

Whether Weis will be able to recruit good high school athletes remains to be seen.

The Baylor game in 2010 was the game that made me realize how far KU had slipped. Baylor was quicker and stronger and ran KU all over the field. This was essentially with Magino's players. There was a noticeable talent gap. That team beat us 55-7 but was only 4-4 in conference play.

Darin Bradley 9 years, 4 months ago

Baylor is still riding the RG3 wave. Honestly I see them leveling off much like Auburn has after Cam Newton's departure. Briles would be wise to temper expectations. The true test will come when they slip back under 500. A couple years of winning doesn't make tradition.

I guess it comes down to what you call "contending". Maybe Matt's man crush on their running back got the best of him when adding the title :)

Kman_blue 9 years, 4 months ago

So, Baylor finishing 6th, 3rd, and 5th in the Big 12 over the past 3 seasons is considered contending for a conference championship or even a national championship?? OK, maybe RG3's senior campaign was contending for a conference championship, but even then they weren't remotely contending for a national championship.

No doubt they're no longer a bottom feeder in the Big 12 right now, but let's not carried away here either and start saying it's "closer to the norm" for them to be contending for championships. Possibly contending for 1 conference championship with the greatest player in your school's history leading the way at QB is not "the norm". No slight against Baylor, but they're not up to Oklahoma or even Texas levels yet IMO.

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