Change can be really hard, but sometimes it absolutely must happen. Baylor University knows that better than anybody. Change is not easy. 2016 is the season of change for the Baylor Bears. Recently a lot of things have changed in Waco and still, more changes are likely to come.
Since 2010 Baylor has been completely different. The little school in Waco used to be a nobody, in terms of football prominence. They were just a Big 12 doormat. Then Art Briles and “RG3” happened. Briles brought a winning culture and Robert Griffin brought excitement. It turned Baylor from perennial loser into a competitive, exciting offense. That exciting offense started recruiting high level talent -- thanks to Heisman trophy-winner Robert Griffin -- and eventually became a Big 12 Champion, twice.
Then it all came crumbling down. In the biggest off-season scandal since Penn State, Baylor had to fire its head football coach and University President. Now calls for a full release of the facts discovered by the Pepper Hamilton law firm – the company the administration hired to investigate Baylor’s Title IX practices – is being demanded by conference affiliates and media members alike. The story that will surely surround Baylor, until all of the civil and criminal lawsuits are settled, is just getting started. So how is Jim Grobe, the new (temporary?) head coach, supposed to focus on football?
This season will truly be a test of the program’s determination. While there are questions whether or not they need to playing football at all this fall, few things would be more shocking than seeing the team overcome all the distractions. The Bears have lost depth and talent to the draft and players leaving the program amid this new turmoil. They have also lost one of the more accomplished coaches in their programs history, though Briles only arrived in 2010, he had already won as many conference titles as any coach in Baylor history. Briles is arguably the best coach in Baylor’s history and now he’s gone; expectations are as muddled as ever.
Lucky for Baylor, the Bears have plenty of time to adjust to their new head coach. They will likely be favored in every game until an October, 29 trip to the University of Texas. Other than Oklahoma State, there is little reason to believe they will head to Austin with a loss, but that is when the rubber will truly hit road. They will play six straight games against the best the Big 12 has to offer without rest or the depth of regular recruiting class. While Jim Grobe’s main focus is keeping this team focused on football and out of trouble, he knows winning games is a must to keep the boosters happy.
With that in mind, I think Baylor and their fans would be pleased with an 8-4 season. There are just too many questions about this team on and off the field; to expect them to win at the level Briles has over the past few years. If Grobe just keep them out of national headlines that should be considered a huge success. Then he can hand this program off to whomever the administration truly wants and it can be someone else’s problem. No matter what, the focus of this season will be about that report and no amount of winning can change that, nor should it.