Every conference has one. A smaller, private, more academically focused school, that inevitably becomes the beat up little brother to some of the traditional powerhouses in the conference.While they may remain competitive in the Olympic sports, and tend to even out conference graduation rates, in Football these schools are regarded as pencil necked doormats to their larger brethren.In the SEC you have Vanderbilt.Northwestern in the Big Ten, Duke in the ACC, and, until their recent smashmouth revival, Stanford in the Pac 10.In the Big 12 that school is Baylor.
This year, however, things have been different. We’ve seen and uprising of sorts from Baylor this year. As recently as two weeks ago they were leading the Big 12 South Conference, staked a claim on a top 25 ranking, and had slapped around Texas (in the Longhorns own backyard) for their first victory against the Burnt Orange in over 13 years. While they don’t traditionally enjoy the same reputation as some of the big state schools, it’s still Big 12 Football in Texas, and I wanted to make the quick 90 mile trip down to Waco to see what all the fuss was about. In town this weekend was one of Baylor’s longest rivals in Texas A&M, with the “Battle of the Brazos” series dating back to 1899. The Brazos, for you geographically challenged readers, refers to the 90 mile stretch of the Brazos River that separates Waco from College Station.
After getting the hookup on a ticket from one of my favorite Aggie Alums Allison, I barely found my seat before noticing a yellow commotion forming in the tunnel on the opposite end of Floyd Casey Stadium.I was about to be introduced to the unique tradition known as the “Baylor Line”.
After attending “Line Camp” training in the fall, Baylor Freshman are issued a yellow t-shirt and form the backbone of the spirit squad that leads the players onto the field known as the Baylor Line. Prior to the game, these freshman are corralled in the far tunnel and then unleashed, storming across the field like a pack of yellow clad hyenas. They then form the “line” a human gauntlet through which the Baylor Football team runs onto the field. Following the opening ceremonies, the Baylor Line is then herded into their designated spot in the stands, where they serve as the heart of Baylor Bears spirit. While completely new to me, I think the Baylor line is a fantastic tradition for both students and players alike. It’s a phenomenal example of indoctrinating students into the tradition of their program and making them an integral part of the Football experience with their fellow student athletes.
The game turned out to be a tale of two halves. In the first half Baylor came out roaring, propped up by a surprisingly energetic and loud stadium. Led by phenom dual threat quarterback Robert Griffin, who reeled off a seminal 71 yard touchdown run, the Bears were sitting pretty at halftime with a 30-21 lead. The second half, however, was a different story. The enigmatic Aggies finally came alive, continuously feeding the ball to their workhorse Junior running back Cyrus Gray. Gray would explode in the second half, lumbering for three of his four touchdowns on the day alone. The Aggie defense, plagued by the big play in the first half, stiffened up, holding Baylor scoreless in the second frame. All told, it was a formidable comeback for the Aggies, who walked away with a 42-30 victory and their fourth straight win.
At the end of the day, Baylor was a pleasantly surprising gameday experience. While it certainly doesn’t garner the same reputation as the bigger Texas schools, it’s still a program rich in tradition and bursting with pride. The Baylor Line is an especially excellent tradition, and I wish more schools would involve their students on gameday to this extent. If you’re looking to watch some Big 12 quality football, and don’t feel like the hassle of driving all the way to Austin or College Station, Waco is a mere 90 miles from Dallas and a Baylor game would be well worth the visit.
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