Baylor is pretty good at sports now.
According to my sources, Baylor has pretty solid sports teams at the moment. Especially in the 2 major college sports, football and basketball (men's and women's). The football team started the season on an impressive undefeated run making noise nationally, won its first ever Big 12 Championship, and played in its first BCS Bowl. The men's shootyhoops team had a season that included a win over eventual championship game participant Kentucky, made a run to the championship game of the Big 12 Tournament, and had a Sweet 16 run in the Tournament. The women's shootyhoops team enjoyed another successful season winning a share of the Big 12 regular season title, winning the conference tournament, and making an Elite 8 run in the big dance. When you add to that the Softball team's run to the Women's College World Series, and Big 12 championships and post season runs for both the Men's and Women's Tennis teams, something special is going on down in Waco. Especially when you consider that Baylor is not only a private university, but a Christian one too. Baylor was the only Christian university and one of only 2 private schools to make a BCS bowl this season (Stanford), one of two private Christian schools to make the men's Sweet 16 (Dayton), one of three private schools to make the Women's Elite 8 (Notre Dame and Stanford), and the only private Christian school to make the Women's College World Series. Baylor's success and rise to national prominence can be traced back to the year of the Bear in 2011-12. You know the story, every sport made postseason play, RG3 won the Heisman, Brittney Griner led us to a perfect season, etc.
But what does it all mean?
What has Baylor's rise to prominence on the national level and sports meant to the university? The most obvious manifestation of this newfound success is the brand new, beautiful, $260+ Million football stadium set to open this season, McLane Stadium (I'm still pulling for calling it The Chapel). This stadium clearly would not have been possible without RG3's Heisman season and the continued success that followed. AD Ian McCaw spoke on it in the video below.
But Baylor has benefited from national recognition in numerous other ways.
According to the university's financial statements (look at me using stuff I learned in Accounting last semester) Baylor's revenue from gifts totaled $40,860,000 on May 31, 2011 (just a few months before the Year of the Bear) and revenue from sports totaled $23,591,000. Following the Year of the Bear (financial statements from May 31, 2012) the university's revenue from gifts more than doubled to $102,287,000 while revenue from sports rose to $31,294,000. Coincidence? I think not. By May 31, 2013 sports revenue had risen to 39,235,000. A wise man once said "Mo Money, Mo Problems" but for Baylor, with all these new buildings and complexes popping up all over campus (The Chapel, New Track and Field complex, Athletes' Dining Hall, etc.) that doesn't seem to be the case.
Baylor has also benefitted from sports success academically. Baylor has moved up each year in U.S. News and World Report National University Rankings. This can probably be attributed to many things but one has to think the rise has been aided by Baylor having more national notoriety because of its sports success. Another interesting spike following the Year of the Bear was in the number of people who applied to the university. In the 2010-2011 Common Data Set, Baylor reported that 34,145 people applied for first time freshman admission. In the 2011-2012 Set that number had risen to 38,960. Although those numbers dipped to 27,828 in 2012-2013 and rose back to 29,249 in 2013-2014, it can still be seen that Baylor's sport success helped improve the way the university is viewed academically.
Speaking from personal experience, I didn't know much about Baylor prior to the Year of the Bear. I knew it was Christian, I knew parents got really excited when their kids got accepted (all that to say its prestigious), and I knew it was expensive. I had grown up loving UT because Vince Young was from my hometown and did what he did at UT. But when RG3 came around, I started paying attention to Baylor's football team because they were scoring ridiculous amounts of points and being interesting. When it came time to apply to colleges UT was still first on my list but I looked into BU, applied, got accepted, fell in love with it when I visited and have loved being a Baylor Bear ever since. I'm sure my experience with ending up at Baylor is similar to a lot of current students.
Baylor's success on the fields and courts and whatever else we play on has been analyzed heavily on this site but I think it's important to take note of how the University has benefitted from being good at sports. I often hear other students take grievance with the importance placed on sports in the country at large and specifically at BU. But when you look at how much the University has improved its monetary flexibility and academic standing as a result of better sports teams. Now whether those things should be tied to sports is a different conversation for a different fanpost but you can't deny that improved sports have improved Baylor.
Sic Em Bears.