On the heels of a 3-9 (2-7) season that saw 5 double-digit conference losses, a program-record 7 home losses (in 8 tries), and the continuation of a trend that saw last season end with 4 straight losses, Baylor has apparently decided that enough was not enough, and Dave Aranda will return as head football coach for the 2024 season. From Pete Thamel:
Sources: Baylor’s Dave Aranda will return to coach the Bears in 2024. He’s 9-16 since winning the Big 12 title, Sugar Bowl and Baylor’s first-ever 12-win season in 2021. Aranda’s return will come with significant changes on and off the field, as there’s expected to be staff…— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) November 26, 2023
This outcome was as predictable as it is disappointing. Rather than recognize that the problem starts at the top, Baylor has decided to focus on “significant changes on and off the field,” including “staff changes and an uptick in Baylor’s NIL involvement.” This outcome was so predictable, in fact, that I’ve spent the last hour or so running prompts through ChatGPT for the exact scenario where we retain Aranda, fire the offensive coordinator and perhaps others, and run it back next year. I’ve done the same for potential releases from Baylor itself about the news. The results have been eerie, to say the least. I’ve posted some on the ODB Discord.
Before I go any further, I want to make something clear: I adore Dave Aranda the Person. His outlook on life and playing football seems incredibly genuine and genuinely incredible. He is the kind of man I would want coaching my son, and I believe him when he says that he cares for the person over the player. Baylor has never had a coach that I wanted to be successful more, with the possible exception of Scott Drew. Baylor has definitely never had a football coach that I wanted to be successful more. Over the past few weeks, when I read some version of “Baylor doesn’t want to fire Dave Aranda because he’s such a good guy,” I empathized; I didn’t want us to have to fire Dave Aranda, either. He’s such a good guy.
All that being said, retaining Dave Aranda and merely shifting responsibility for what has happened here over the last two years to other people is indefensible. How can we say on the one hand—as Aranda himself did last night—that the results he has achieved are unacceptable, and it starts with him, but then fire other people for whom he is responsible? How can you look at a season that ended with Baylor ranked 98th in overall SP+—our lowest ranking since 2003—and 105th in defensive SP+—the lowest since 1999—and decide to run this back? And if I’m right that the promised staff changes will come mostly on the offensive side, how can that be justified when that side was 79th in SP+ and the defense—Aranda’s supposed specialty—was so much worse? And how can you use institutional actions you were already doing, anyway—like prioritizing NIL investment—as a justification for this step? It makes no sense and is extremely disheartening.
The reality is that this decision is penny wise in that you don’t have to pay the buyout but pound foolish in what it means to your fanbase, donors, and the support on which you are relying as we transition into the New Big 12. It is a band-aid that provides short-term stability but lacks the will to make hard choices. Moreover, by refusing to heed the voices demanding change, Baylor risks delaying the inevitable. The decision to retain Aranda, without significant and tangible improvements, sets a tone that seems destined to culminate in another disappointing season next year, after which we will have the exact same conversations in a worse position. This is not a prophecy; it’s a foreseeable consequence of maintaining the status quo without implementing substantive changes.
I hate that we are where we are right now, and I wish things were different. But as we stand here today in the face of this announcement, I struggle to think how reshuffling the deck chairs on this ship stops it from sinking. I hope I’m wrong.