To say that the Baylor Bears have battled or fought their way to national prominence is somewhat of a gross understatement. Really, the only appropriate descriptor for the university’s rise comes from its ferocious mascot. That’s right; this Big 12 school has clawed its way to the top.
Prior to 2012, Baylor was arguably best known for its exploits in tennis and men’s track & field, as the former captured the school’s first team national championship in 2004, while the latter has claimed nearly two dozen NCAA titles in the 4x400 meter relay. However, the emergence of centerBrittney Griner of the Lady Bears basketball team changed the conversation considerably. A three-time consensus All-American and two-time winner of the Naismith Trophy, Wooden Award and AP Player of the Year, Griner carried the school to an NCAA championship in 2012 before embarking on a successful career in the WNBA. The exploits of the incredible Griner garnered headlines across the country, much as the feats of a certain Baylor quarterback did just a year before.
Robert Griffin III made a splash in college football during the 2010 season when he threw for 3,501 yards and eight touchdowns. He followed that performance up with a 2011 campaign that saw him explode for 4,293 yards and 37 touchdowns. For his efforts, RG3 became the first Bear to win the Heisman Trophy. The following April, he was the second overall selection in the 2012 NFL Draft. While Griffin III may be the biggest star to come out of Waco, that isn’t to suggest that the Baylor pigskin program has been hurting for highlights.
Before joining the Big 12 in 1996, the Bears won the Southwest Conference on seven separate occasions. Of all the players to don the Green and Gold during this time, linebacker Mike Singletarystands out as the most accomplished. The only Baylor alum elected to both the College and Pro Football Hall of Fame, Singletary was a two-time All-American for the Bears and was recognized as the Southwest Conference Defensive Player of the Decade for the ‘80s.
Since 1970, the football program has been led onto the field by the Baylor Line, a collection of first-year students who don electric gold jerseys and energize the crowd. Their name is inspired by a line from the school song, and appropriately, these diehards are rewarded with some of the best seats in all of McLane Stadium. Placed directly behind the visitor’s bench, the students curl their hands to mimic bear claws and cheer feverishly for their team to “sic” the opposition.
With thrilling postseason performances in recent years, the Baylor men’s basketball team seems to be ushering in a new era of success. Elite Eight appearances in both 2010 and 2012 have made the Bears one of the more talked-about programs in the country. After witnessing the squad qualify for the NCAA Tournament once again in 2015, fans in Waco see an undoubtedly bright future.