The Class of '07 & The Summer of '03Dec. 9, 2003
by Greg Davis and Douglas McNamee
Imagine that you are an 18-year-old who has just finished your senior year of high school, completing an outstanding run of success both academically and athletically. You have been deemed "one of the best" and have decided to continue your athletic career at one of the most competitive levels of collegiate competition, the Big 12 Conference. Your goal for the summer is to mentally, physically and emotionally prepare yourself for the next step. Now here's the twist: The university you have chosen has just endured a tragic series of events in one of its athletic programs. It is time to leave home and go to a place that has been scrutinized heavily by national media for the past three months. Questions, hesitation and even fear are swirling in your head as you start this new phase of your life.
This was reality for the incoming first-year student-athletes at Baylor last fall. From Sweden to California, they watched with disbelief and shock as events unfolded in Waco. As one athlete put it, "You could not have sold this storyline to a movie producer because they would have said it was just too improbable to believe." Even though not yet on campus, these students were affected by what happened here. Those of us who are part of the Baylor community know it is a safe place and the events of last summer are not indicative of what this University represents. Despite their unfamiliarity with Baylor, the new student-athletes' faith in their chosen college was surprisingly unwavering. One freshman track athlete said, "I was not going to let one incident change my entire perception of the school and why I chose to come here."
As student-athlete academic counselors, we were put in the unique position of interacting with the new arrivals and hearing their insights on the events last summer. Regardless of their sport, they all have been affected and have had to answer questions about Baylor. But the newest arrivals on campus were quick to point out that we have plenty to be proud of. "The summer's events have not affected me in any significant way. My time here has been everything that I had hoped for so far," said a first-year softball player.
Their reactions and emotions have been overwhelmingly positive in nearly all cases. They understand that the actions of certain individuals are not reflective of the University's actions as a whole. They arrived on campus with confidence and with the approval and support of their families. Many have said they feel even safer at Baylor because they know the coaches and administrators will do everything in their power to prevent anything similar from ever happening again. The biggest inconvenience that many of the new student-athletes have had to face is playful teasing from friends and peers about attending a school so much in the media spotlight. Make no mistake about it, these students are keenly aware of what happened here, but they are committed to this University and have the utmost confidence that attending Baylor is a great decision.
Author Napoleon Hill, known for his motivational principles, once stated, "Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit." Baylor University and Baylor athletics are on an upward climb. It is a mission of rebuilding an image of spirit and excellence, which still are at our core. Our college has gone through a tremendously tough time, but as with any setback, we must go on. The summer of 2003 never will be forgotten, but through faith and perseverance, something positive can be gained. This is a time to move forward as one -- a concept Baylor's newest group of student-athletes fully understands.
Davis, BA '02 (speech communications), and McNamee, BA '03 (speech communications), both are first-year graduate students in sports management and academic counselors for Student Athlete Services.