I do not know what it is about 1st year Baylor coaches, but none of them have had it easy. More than that, I would argue that recent history shows that none have had a normal transition. A normal coaching transition, which happens in college football fairly regularly, typically requires the new coach to move the program forward, either by building on his predecessor’s success or by returning the program to a level that it was previously accustomed. However, Baylor coaches have been tasked to do much more than that.
Art Briles not only had to take over arguably the worst program in all of college football, but he also had to reinvigorate a fanbase. After a brief “sign of life” during the 05 & 06 seasons, the Bears were coming off a dismal 2007 campaign. Baylor had not made a bowl game in over a decade and at least half the fanbase seemed disinterested in the product, as evidence by the crowds. It wasn’t enough for Briles to move the program forward (Guy Morris did that) he had to totally transform it. Most coaches don’t have to think about that in year one. Similarly, Matt Rhule had his own obstacles in his 1st year. He had to deal with a fractured fanbase, a barren recruiting class, and an NCAA cloud hanging over him. Neither coach Briles or Rhule could put their sole focus on coaching Baylor football.
Now, it’s Dave Aranda’s turn to overcome obstacles. For a while it looked like things would be relatively normal, but of course that all changed within the last month. A literal pandemic is preventing coach Aranda and his new staff from getting acclimated with the state, recruiting in person, and using spring ball to develop a young defense.
The good news? Both coach Briles and Rhule were able to overcome their 1st year challenges. Coach Briles was able to generate excitement in his 1st year and eventually did transform the Bears on the field. And coach Rhule united a fanbase and the perceived bleak outlook on his 1st recruiting class ended up producing guys like Charlie Brewer, James Lynch, and Terel Bernard.
The outlook has never been rosy for 1st year Baylor coaches and this time around it’s no different. Fortunately, there are reasons to think positively. Baylor has been able to land a few recruits during this period and fans can take solace that we have a National Championship defensive coordinator ready to start building the Baylor defense back to the competitive level we expect.