First Things. Green and Gold faithful of all stripes and persuasions may feel a sense of relief as allegations of moral and ethical misconduct have for at least a half dozen years swirled in and through the University’s Athletic Department. From a June 9 ESPN report: “[A Houston jury found] Baylor University and three former football players not responsible for alleged sexual assault charges . . .“ (Emphasis added). The same source now reports on August 11 that “the University’s handling of sexual assault allegations made against students. Including football players, didn’t violate NCAA rules.” (Emphasis added). Yet it is no time for complacency. The NCAA did place Baylor on four years’ probation, to which certain (yet unspecified) recruiting restrictions will apply. Both the committee and a former Baylor president characterized the school’s approach throughout as “a colossal operational failure.” Post-season prohibitions have not been imposed, nor have any athletic scholarships been restricted or revoked. The sad fact remains that this Baptist Institution was shaken to its core. The episode led to the firing of Head Coach Art Briles — whose teams turned in several Top 25 National Rankings and Bowl Appearances — Athletic Director Ian McCaw and University President Ken Starr.
Back to The Field. “Kicked-off” as it was in 1898, Baylor football has over time harvested a fair share of success. Numbered among the achievements are nine Conference Titles, a Heisman Trophy Award (Quarterback Robert Griffin III, 2011 — now an ESPN broadcast analyst/commentator), and sixteen Consensus All-Americans — among the more prominent being future NFL Hall of Fame star Linebacker Mike Singletary and, of course, Griffin. Beginning in 2014, the Golden Bears named McLane Stadium their home, a 55,000-capacity sparkler that remains the largest ever construction site in Waco. It was enabled by a generous donation from Drayton McLane, Jr., whose personal yardage was racked up in the grocery distribution trade.
The Upcoming Season. On-field improvements from the recent past are to be hoped. Dealt an essentially impossible hand, first-year Head Coach Dave Aranda and staff struggled to a 2-7 slate in 2020 — their only season together. Prepping for the 2021 opener on the road against a not especially strong Texas State San Marcos team will focus on 1) Quarterback — the departure of a veteran starter leaves the position for the taking in the hands of Junior Gary Bohanon and Sophomore Jacob Zeno. Each has shown promise in the past, and at this writing, the process evolves; 2) Junior Wide Out R.J. Sneed, who a year ago hauled in 17 yards per catch en route to five touchdowns; 3) Linebacker Terrel Bernard — slowed by injuries late last year, he is an Academic All-American who led this side of the ball in 2019 with 112 stops; 4) and who is hard to overlook, 6’4 350-pound interior Defensive Lineman Siaki Ika, a transfer from Aranda’s former LSU station. A twelve-game schedule featuring home dates with West Virginia (Oct. 9), Texas Longhorns (Oct. 30), and Oklahoma (Nov. 13) is a challenge. Better, I feel confident that we can all agree to determine its outcome on fields, rather than hearing rooms.