When Art Briles took the podium today in Day 2 of the Big 12 Media Days, he did so flanked by what can only be described as a college football sensation: the newest iteration of Baylor's chrome gold helmet. When he left the podium, even the brightness of the shiniest helmet in the country couldn't eclipse the lovefest being thrown in the audience and on twitter for his own down-to-earth, folksy, relentlessly-positive personality.
From the outset, Briles made the general tenor of his time in front of the media known; he believes his team is more talented, more ready, and more capable of actually doing something than ever before. He wasn't going to apologize for his program's rise from irrelevancy, nor was he going to downplay it as some sort of pretense. Actually, he abandoned pretense altogether, eschewing meaningless coachspeak or ridiculous self-deprecation (about the program, anyway) in favor of giving his actual opinion. To a crowd of reporters and observers used to parsing words and piercing obfuscation from coaches schooled like politicians in how to say something without saying anything, Art Briles gave unvarnished truth, as seen by Art Briles. And it's fairly evident that they adored him for it.
By now, nobody should be surprised; Art Briles has created in Waco a program that knows exactly what it wants to do (play as fast as absolutely possible) and spares nothing to try to do it. He has instilled in his players an attitude that they can play with anyone, anywhere and at any time. He's sold an ideal of what Baylor could be, located as it is in the best football ground in the country, with the ability to provide an excellent education in a Christian environment, then pursued that ideal through dedication second to none. Most of all, he's instilled confidence. Rather than walk back his star RB's comments about winning the Heisman, Briles once again celebrated them, saying he hopes all of his players feel exactly the same way. Rather than temper expectations for an untested QB following in the footsteps of a Heisman-winning #2 overall pick and the passer who broke that guy's records for total offense last season, Briles confidently stated that he expects nothing less than for Bryce Petty to see what those two did and do even more. In reference to impact players, he brought up the fact that Baylor brought in the fastest recruit in the country (Kyle Fulks), the strongest (Andrew Billings), and possibly the most-talented (Robbie Rhodes). Briles' confidence in his players isn't unbridled so much as it is incapable of being snared in the first place. He truly believes in his program, his players, his conference (as evidenced by his praise of the Big 12's depth and offensive reputation and his refusal to kowtow to the suggested dominance of the SEC), and his state. From what I've seen, all reciprocate.
There are a lot of people, within the Baylor community and without, beholden to our program's past. They believe it should be our place to stand quietly to the side, happy to be at the Big Boy Table in a BCS conference, speaking only when spoken to. They see Realignment as simply our latest reprieve, and a temporary one, at that. Art Briles obviously doesn't agree that we should be appreciative of our place and unassuming of anything more, and he's not willing to accept that "You're Baylor" has to be pejorative. Instead, he's built in Waco a program that doesn't and shouldn't have to answer for the mistakes of the past, with a Heisman winner lighting up the NFL, a brand-new stadium going up on the banks of the Brazos, momentum in recruiting, and a legitimacy that comes from proving all those who told you your program would slip back into the muck when your savior left completely wrong. To him, "You're Baylor" means you're exciting, you're relevant, and you're constantly moving forward. He's built a brand out of a punchline, and he's going to keep building.