Yesterday morning at about 10 o’clock, my phone started blowing up. I was out of the room-in the shower at the time, so when I came back…I thought someone must have died.
And in a way, they did.
You see, I am an obnoxious, proud graduate of Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t wear my class ring on my right hand. It is a reminder of a great accomplishment in the early part of my life, and also is a tribute to the hard work my parents put in to pay for my education.
I also love my Baylor teams…especially football.
When I was in school, our record was 25-19-1. Nothing there to light the world on fire, but nothing embarrassing either.
Soon after I graduated, our Hall of Fame coach, Grant Teaff, retired and ushered in a period of Baylor football that was so awful, I could not even bring myself to look up the record this morning.
However, we emerged from the darkness into prominence with the hiring of offensive guru, Art Briles and a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, Robert Griffin III.
We started winning…BIG.
We were nationally ranked.
ESPN was a regular on campus with “College Gameday.”
We went to major bowl games.
Then…an horrific rape scandal rocked the program. Gone was Briles. Gone was the Athletic Director. Gone was the School President.
They HAD to go.
It is the only time in my entire life I’ve been embarrassed to be associated with Baylor University. As a man of integrity, who thought of his school as one of integrity, I was ashamed. Everyone knows how much I love golf. I was SO proud of my Baylor golf bag.
I put it in the attic in the garage.
The football program fell into an abyss that was worse than ever before, and honestly…I didn’t know if we’d emerge from it.
Enter, Matt Rhule. He was a young coach with a sterling reputation and had just turned Temple University from a team that had a goose egg in the win column to one that had double-digit victories in just a couple of years. He was also COMPLETELY different in philosophy from Art Briles (really, he had to be).
Could he work his magic again at Baylor? I wasn’t sold. Hopeful, but not sold.
YES! In three years we went from a team that won a single game, to a team playing on New Year’s Night in the Sugar Bowl.
Which takes us back to all the messages on my phone. All of my college friends were, and wanted to know if I was, PO’ed about The Carolina Panthers hiring our coach away. All of my Charlotte friends wanted to know if I was excited to see if Rhule could do his thing on the professional level.
The answer(s)…yes, and yes.
Of course I want to see the Panthers succeed. Being here when we were winning and going to the Super Bowl…how exciting was that?! Who wouldn’t want to see those days return?
However, the Baylor Bear in me is crushed. I wasn’t an initial believer in Rhule and what he was doing.
He won me over.
He made me a believer.
He made me proud to be a Baylor Bear again.
He also did what seemingly all coaches do when they achieve a certain level of success, he left. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame ANYONE for taking a guaranteed contract worth $60 million over 7 years. That’s generational wealth. His family’s future is secure.
That being said, I think of all the alums like me who can’t fathom another dark period in Baylor football. I think of all who contribute big $$$ to the university who now may hold on to the purse strings taking a “wait and see” approach. I also think of the student athletes he coaches, er…coached and recruited. I remember being a young man and not having the understanding I do now. I would feel abandoned and betrayed.
So, forgive me Panthers’ fans, but when it comes to our new coach, part of me is excited, part of me is completely deflated.
I just can’t decide which is a larger part right now.