It's been said that a football program is the front porch of a university, a glimpse into what the culture and vibe of a school is all about. College football is a multi-billion dollar arms race and everyone wants to make sure that their front porch is bigger and better than that of their biggest rival. If you're anything like me, you circle the calendar for the first Saturday in the fall, when the front porch has been polished off for a new season and might even have include some new furniture.
On May 26, 2016, one year ago today, Baylor's front porch ignited in a fiery inferno for all the world to see.
It's hard to put into words just what that day was like but if you are a regular reader of this blog, I'm sure you remember exactly where you were and what you were doing when the news broke that the Pepper Hamilton summary of findings were being released and that major changes were coming to university leadership, including the firing of Art Briles as head football coach. I know that I sat dumbfounded at my office cubicle, frozen in my own thoughts. I wasn't sure whether to be shocked, saddened, pissed off, or all of the above. Sexual assault has long been an issue on college campuses across the country, but now I was watching as the school that means so much to me and that I invest a lot of time and energy into was becoming the national face of the issue.
It was patently clear that fundamental changes needed to be made at Baylor, not just within the football program, but within the university as a whole. As I wrote in an article on May 26 a year ago, Baylor University has a unique Christian mission and we should be held to a higher standard as a result. It was obvious at the time that this was going to be a long and painful process. Time was needed to allow victims to come forward and tell their stories about what happened and how they had been treated. Each revelation seemed to draw sharper criticism aimed at university leadership than the last, much of it well deserved.
And that still continues to this day. We know a lot more now about what actually went down than we did a year ago, but there's still so much that we don't know. Last week a new Title IX lawsuit was filed and two ESPN writers announced a book that would chronicle the entire saga. At times it feels like a story that will never die down. But the key is that we learn from the mistakes of our past, and I feel like there has certainly been noticeable progress in that regard. There's a new football coach in town that appears to put a premium on young men that will represent Baylor in an honorable fashion, regardless of how many touchdowns they score. In less than a week, Baylor's first female president in the university's 172 year history will take office. And most importantly, the infrastructure and foundation has been laid for each of the 105 recommendations from the Pepper Hamilton findings to be implemented.
There are brighter days ahead for Baylor University. I hope that the lessons learned can make a positive impact not only on our university, but on college campuses throughout the country. Heck, I'm even excited about the coming football season (99 days until kickoff by the way). And this season, that has nothing to do with the number of games we might win. I'm just pumped that I believe we will be putting a product on the field that will make us proud to be Baylor Bears. If we win? That's just icing on the cake.
Sic 'em today. Sic 'em tomorrow. Sic 'em always.