Origins and Evolution. Born in late 18th Century Kentucky, Robert Emmett Bledsoe (R.E.B) Baylor forged a distinguished academic and professional career over his 80 years. He would in due course serve the State of Texas both as Ordained Minister and Associate Justice of the State Supreme Court. Both as a donor and a spiritual advisor, he was instrumental in the 1845 establishment of a Christian University. And although he never served the school in any official capacity, the trustees of The Texas Baptist Education Society voted to name the school in his honor. Roughly four decades later the main campus was moved to Waco, which is today a 90-minute drive South from Dallas along I-35 across the Texas prairie. Its present campus occupies 1,000 manicured acres, serving the varied aspirations of its 14,108 students through a diversity of programs — Business, Education, Engineering, Language Arts, and Physical Sciences are listed among 125 programs, and the University may rightly boast that upwards of 90% of classes are taught by a full-time professor. Prominent architectural features include Ferrell Center, housing the Paul J. Meyer arena, a 10,284-seating capacity jewel serving as The Bears home floor for both volleyball and basketball teams. The remainder of this article is devoted to those pursuits — ladies first.
History. Wearing their signature green and gold uniforms, competing at the NCAA Division I level in the Big 12 Conference and dating from their 1982 inaugural, the Lady Bears own an impressive record. It features regular participation in the Championship Tournament “Sweet 16,” producing three (3) National Championships (2005, 2012, 2019) all under Coach Kim Mulkey. The 2012 squad is especially noteworthy for its unblemished 40-0 full-season record and its 19-point margin of victory over Notre Dame in the National Title Game, which serves as a fair proxy to the Lady Bear’s overall dominance throughout the campaign. The two most recent WNBA drafts have witnessed selections of no fewer than five Lady Bear Alumnae, including First Round and taken number three overall Lauren Cox. Following 21 seasons at the Baylor helm, but over a somewhat bumpy ride through a Covid interrupted 2020-21 Season, Naismith Hall of Famer Mulkey left Baylor to assume head coaching duties at Louisiana State University.
The Present: Thus, Baylor enters its 2021-22 campaign by initially welcoming 46-year-old Nicki Collen as the head coach. Much respected for his prior duties with WBNA teams, Collen seemed to hit all the right notes at her introductory press conference, including what doubtless for some is of major importance — her commitment to religious faith. The transition road may be smoothly paved by the return of four starters and ten players from last year, a group spearheaded by Big 12 Player of the Year NaLyssa Smith. The composition and ratings of incoming recruits are yet in the process, but it does seem likely that Lady Bear faithful may anticipate another season of excellence, likely energized by the arrival of 6’4” Bentonville, Arkansas standout Maryam Dauda. She and her teammates will carry a prestigious history with them when taking the floor in November.