Now that the dust has begun to settle on the Baylor football head coach change, and the search is over it is now time for fans to weigh in on Dave Aranda. The initial reactions seem to be a bit of mixed bag. Some fans were enamored by his recent success, while others have genuine concerns about what the hire means for the current momentum of the program.
I think Baylor did as well as you could expect in the situation. All fans want a “splash” or a “home run” hire, but are those very common? Thinking on it, I could count on one hand how many of those hires have been made in college football in the last decade. Michigan getting Jim Harbaugh counts as one, Urban Meyer going to Ohio State is another, and yes Texas A&M pulling Jimbo Fisher and Chip Kelly going out west are probably the most recent examples. In those four situations, the schools came away with coaches who had big time name recognition, proven high level success at other places, and respect from virtually everyone. But for everyone else the majority of the time, it’s much of the same. Colleges either get the up and coming G5 level coach, or go out to snag a coordinator from a successful blue blood team. And sometimes it works out for schools and sometimes it doesn’t. The last go around Baylor went with the G5 level coach, and hopefully the Bears can have the same success going with the other method.
Of course, it’s natural for Baylor fans to want a coach with strong ties to the area or school. After all, four straight years where there has been speculation about the head coach position will do that to a fanbase. However, just because coach Aranda is not from Texas does not mean that he won’t settle in for a while and be here for the long haul. Gary Patterson, Mike Leach, Mack Brown and others have shown that Texas schools can thrive with a variety of coaches. The reality is that as long as Baylor remains committed to quality athletics it will be an attractive option to perspective coaches.
Coach Aranda needs to hit the ground running hard at Baylor. I don’t see him getting the “year 0” treatment that Matt Rhule received. Because of the timing, 2017 was always going to be a rough year, and the fans (for the most part) were patient, and deservedly so. The seniors on that team were with their 3rd coach in three years, and everyone recognized that Matt Rhule, as a coach should not be judged after just one year at Baylor. As we are all aware of, coach Rhule was able to answer the challenges of his tenure, but I still say he was in a “no lose situation.” Win games and his reputation soars, lose games and the media excuses it with “it’s okay Baylor was just a mess when he arrived.” Those platitudes won’t apply to coach Aranda, however. If Briles can turn around a program that played in Floyd Casey stadium that hadn’t played in a bowl game in 15 years, and Rhule can compete for a Big 12 title in just three years after an abrupt program turnover, then the pressure will certainly be on this new coaching staff as well. As of today, I don’t think many fans see the Bears as being in the upper echelon of the conference in 2020, but a bowl game should not be out of the question. Unlike the last time Baylor had a new coach, there will be no clapping for close losses or talking about rebuilding the culture.
Though they have faults like every profession, the one characteristic I love the most about coaches is their fierce competitiveness. If you’ve ever spent time around a football coach, you never have to doubt whether they are in it to win or not. Trust me, they are. And as fans we can take solace in that. Coach Aranda is itching to show he is more than a great defensive coordinator. He has a platform to elevate his own stature and Baylor University at the same time.
As a Baylor fan, I am excited to see how it all plays out. It’s going to be an exciting off-season for Baylor fans. There will be a new offense and defense to learn about, and unlike last year, there are plenty of starting positions up for grabs. At the very least it should make the coming spring game a lot more enticing.