June 23, 2005
In Waco, where Baptists outnumber bluebonnets, Wednesday evening is "church night." But on one Wednesday night in April, some 7,000 people had gathered instead at Baylor's Ferrell Center to greet the Lady Bears basketball team upon its return from Indianapolis.
That's not to say that there wasn't a whole lotta praise and adoration.
The gold-domed building shook with cheers as Baylor and Waco welcomed home the newly crowned NCAA champions after Baylor beat Michigan State 84-62 in the finals.
"Last year, Coach Mulkey-Robertson challenged her team to be the shining light for Baylor University," said Athletic Director Ian McCaw at the rally. "I don't think that light has ever shone brighter than it did last night in Indianapolis."
McCaw added that administrations build championship programs. He applauded the support of Baylor's Board of Regents and "the particular support we received from President Robert Sloan," prompting a standing ovation.
Sloan said he could not think of a more emotional moment for him at Baylor than when the Lady Bears were met by the thunderous applause of their fans on this night. "We thank you for your athleticism, for your integrity, for your class, and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts because we know you love Baylor," he said to the team.
Coach Kim Mulkey-Robertson stood several moments before a foot-stomping, hand-clapping, roaring crowd allowed her to speak. She turned to the team members behind her on stage and said, "You look at this bunch here, and what they have done this year is absolutely unbelievable. They won a national championship. But it's more than that," she said. "It's a Baylor national championship!"
She said that during the tournament, reporters asked her repeatedly about the men's basketball program tragedy two years earlier at Baylor. After the championship game, she said she'd had enough. "I said, 'No more. No more. That's old news.' There's a lot of good at Baylor University, and it starts with the student-athletes and the coaches who are here."
When concluding her remarks, Mulkey-Robertson hoisted the NCAA trophy into the air, handed it to President Sloan and said, "Dr. Robert Sloan, this one's for you!"
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