On one end, you have Reunion Tower and the hustle and bustle of the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex, and on the other end is a brand new stadium where the Baylor Bears will play their home football games starting in the fall of this year. As of recently, the perception of the Baylor Bears football team has been, for lack of better words, not great. The same could be said about Waco, Texas, and the same could really be said about the drive from Dallas to Waco.
The common perception of the past was that Baylor was a team that was lucky to get six wins and make an appearance in a bowl game. And, as a program, that was OK. That was the goal. For Baylor then, that is what they thought was attainable, and that is what the team fought to accomplish. A team or individual does not get better until they begin to push the envelope, to want something more, something more than average or even above average, something great.
The drive begins to get interesting again as you get to Hillsboro and knows that Baylor is not much further. You look upon what used to be great outlet shopping in Hillsboro that has turned to, well, less than great shopping. It is hard to maintain something at a high level. As the old cliché goes, if it were easy, everyone would do it. But, that just is not the case and nor is it the case in rebuilding something that once was into something that did not seem fathomable.
A new stadium did not seem fathomable. A new stadium of that magnitude that has such a "wow" factor in artist’s renderings and in person passing by to get to Baylor University just was not something a lot of Baylor fans thought possible. But it is under construction and will house Baylor football for many years forward starting in roughly seven months.
The Bears are coming off of a really rough game that took place last week that was certainly not the outcome they expected. Why? Because they expected to win. Baylor expected to beat a top fifteen team at a neutral site in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. This is no longer a team that is OK with Texas Bowl invites. It pushes for more. It pushes for Big 12 Championships. It is pushing for a national championship. Does that seem a bit out there for a team not too far removed from being one of the worst in the Big 12? Sure, but you cannot blame the Bears for their mindset. If you want to be the best, you have to surround yourself with the best, think you are the best, and believe that you will surpass any challenge that stands before you as a competitor. That is Baylor’s mindset nowadays. Recent NFL draft enrollee Lache Seastrunk even said that the team had great swag. They believe in each other and they believe in what is being built throughout the program in order to get them winning bigger and better trophies.
If one manages not to stop at West for kolachies, they begin to approach what some are calling ‘The Jewel of the Brazos’. With each passing hill and valley in the road you think to yourself, "Will I see it over this hill? Or the next? It has to be soon. I’ll definitely see it around this curve." You may catch a glimpse here or there, but not quite the full thing. You keep thinking you are right there, but more hills and more turns and more construction await you. Until at last, there it is. Smacking you in the face with all of its glory is what is to be known as McLane Stadium. It is beautiful, a sight to be seen. It is hard to believe that that is where many a Baylor fan will be spending their Saturday afternoons watching the green and gold fight for victory for years to come.
There were a lot of twists and turns, and ups and downs in the Baylor season this past year. So much so that you just have to stop and look and acknowledge the season that was. Sure, a lot of people will think what could have been, but there is a good chance that those people are not the same ones looking at how far Baylor has come. Baylor is chasing something once thought unattainable not just by outsiders, but from those who bleed green and gold. A national championship. A Baylor football season is no longer measured in success by whether or not the team squeaks out six victories and gets to a bowl game, but rather by whether or not they can compete for a Big 12 Championship and a chance to hoist that crystal ball that Florida State won Monday night.
As a football program, Baylor is not going to get there all at once. There are certain things that have to be done, and certain changes that have to be applied. For a team on the cusp of greatness it just seems like with one move here, or a quick switch here, that they will reach their goals. OK that did not work, now do one thing here and make the change there, but the prize still looms over the horizon. One sought after prize has the Baylor Bear’s name on it, and that is the 2013 Big 12 Championship and that can never be taken away from them as a team. Was it a goal of theirs to achieve? Yes. Was it the end all of goals? No, but it is a start, a building block on the way to taking this team to the next level.
As a football team, Baylor has moved past the nothingness they used to be. They are no longer an afterthought in a conversation reserved for the usual powerhouses that dominate ESPN highlights. They have moved on from settling for just a six-win season and deeming such a season as an accomplishment. They have moved to a team that is constantly going to be a threat in the Big 12 Conference. They have moved on to having talks about them playing for a National Championship. They will be moving on to a beautiful, brand new stadium just off of Interstate-35. The impossible seems possible for Baylor, and the improbable has become probable.