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Now that 2013 is actually upon us, I decided to take a look back at the top moments from the year that was in 2012. This list is confined to January 1 through December 31, so the 2011 football season is out, despite how awesome it was.
Back in June of 2011, I made a post highlighting the Top 11 Baylor Highlights of the Year of the Bear. This post is going to be very similar except focusing on the calendar year 2012, which was extremely successful for basically all of Baylor's athletic programs. This is my individual list, so I hope nobody gets offended, and I've found videos where I could to accompany the individual moments. If you think I missed something, let me know in the comments and we can crowdsource the list a bit to make it perfect. Also, feel free to add your own list below if you disagree with my rankings.
#10 -- Baylor Men's Basketball beats Kentucky at Rupp Arena to end the Wildcats' home winning streak. This season may not be shaping up how many expected just yet, but the Bears showed their immense potential for arguably the first time this season in a win over the defending national champions.
#9 -- Art Briles signs extension to remain Head Coach at Baylor University. Considering the rumors both preceding and following this extension-- Briles was tied to everywhere from Arkansas to Auburn to, most vigorously, Texas Tech, the fact that Baylor managed to keep Briles in Waco for the foreseeable future to continue the momentum of the program he has built in his five years here is easily one of the best occurrences of the 2012 calendar year. Big schools with impressive histories came after him and he stayed. Just like I said he would.
#8 -- Baylor Baseball wins the 2012 Big 12 Championship. After recording 18-straight conference wins and 24-straight overall, a conference and NCAA record, respectively, the Bears took home the 2012 Big 12 Championship in fine style. The NCAA Tournament wouldn't turn out like the Bears hoped, but the regular season remains one of the most impressive in Baylor Baseball history.
#7 -- Baylor Men's Basketball's run to the Elite 8 through South Dakota State, Colorado, and Xavier. Baylor's second visit to the Elite 8 in three years may have ended in familiar fashion against the eventual champion, but for two weeks, the Bears made one of the greatest runs in school history to recoup what was largely seen as a disappointing season overall.
#6 -- Robert Griffin III is drafted #2 overall by the Washington Redskins. After the Redskins threw the kitchen sink into a trade with the St. Louis Rams to acquire the #2 pick, their choice of RGIII was a foregone conclusion. Even they, who obviously loved RGIII almost as much as Baylor fans, couldn't have expected things to work out so well, but they have. He's been simply amazing in his rookie season, culminating in a victory Sunday night over the Dallas Cowboys to give the Redskins their first NFC East Championship since 1999. A Baylor graduate has the most popular jersey in the NFL, is the odds-on favorite to be the new "face" of football, and owns our nation's capital. I may hate the Redskins but only a fool would deny how well things have worked out for both Griffin and Baylor.
#5 -- Baylor Football obliterates #1 and previously-undefeated Kansas State in Waco. With Baylor's season on the ropes at 3-4, the Bears responded by reeling of five wins in their next six games, including a victory on national television over the #1-ranked Kansas State Wildcats, led by the Heisman favorite in Collin Klein. Though the win ultimately assured that Johnny Manziel would win the 2012 Heisman Trophy, it also catapulted the Bears back into the national picture in college football and gave Baylor what we thought at the time was the signature win in an otherwise lost season. The fact that things turned out better than we expected doesn't take away from the magnitude of this win.
#4 -- Baylor University officially announces construction of Baylor Stadium on the banks of the Brazos River. I don't have to tell you again how important I think the Stadium (I have an entire hub dedicated to it) will be for our football program. Suffice to say that calling it a "game-changer" is an understatement. When schools came a-courtin' for Art Briles, the Stadium-- his stadium-- is probably the biggest thing that kept him here. Giving Baylor Football a state-of-the-art home on-campus is something that needed to happen to continue the momentum we've built over the past few years and will help level the playing field in the state of Texas.
#3 -- Baylor sets the new single-season NCAA record for victories with win #124 by Baylor Baseball over Kansas State in the Big 12 Tournament. Like I said in the Year of the Bear post, this wasn't the biggest win of the year for Baylor or a game that stands on its own, but it stands well for the 123 other wins helping Baylor to set a record unlikely to be broken any time soon.
#2 -- Baylor Women's Basketball wins 40 games and the second NCAA Championship in program history. This was #2 on the original list I did in June and it's #2 now. Baylor's second national championship under Kim Mulkey came at the end of a perfect, undefeated season unlike any in NCAA basketball-- men's or women's-- history before it. 40 wins set a new standard for excellence in basketball deserving of inclusion on this list even if the Lady Bears won't match it again in Brittney Griner's last year in Waco.
#1 -- Baylor dominates UCLA 49-26* in the 2012 Holiday Bowl. Call it recency bias inflating the significance of one bowl win if you want to, but I'm using this game against the UCLA Bruins as a stand-in for the turnaround in the last six games of this season and how far Baylor came over the course of one year. Like I said in the post-game thread that night, Baylor ended the 2012 season as a team nobody in the country wanted to play, about as high a compliment as any one team can possibly receive. Does anyone doubt that if given another chance against the five teams that beat us this season, we wouldn't win at least 2, possibly 3 of those games? I don't. Hopefully Baylor is rewarded appropriately in the post-season polls.