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OT win may help Baylor's future

Nov. 2, 2004

By MATT RICHARDS, sports writer

It's been a magical couple of days for sporting fans on Baylor's campus. Two of the longest droughts pertinent to the BU fan-base fell in dramatic fashion.

Just a look at the array of memorabilia on campus shows the major following the Boston Red Sox. After coming back from a 3-0 deficit against the New York Yankees, the Boston euphoria reached its pinnacle last Wednesday when the team captured its first World Series in 86 years.

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Robert Shaw | Lariat staff
Senior running back Anthony Krieg ran for 48 yards with a 15-yard gain. Krieg and the Bears upset the No. 16 Aggies 35-34 in OT Saturday.
Maybe the Baylor football team caught a portion of that enthusiasm and channeled it toward a 35-34 overtime victory over the Texas A&M University Aggies.

The win was the first for the Bears against the Aggies in 19 years -- dating back to 1985. The last time the Bears beat Texas A&M, Ronald Reagan was president, Mikhail Gorbachev was chief of Soviet Union, Baylor finished No. 17 in the national polls, I was in diapers and most of the freshman class hadn't even been born.

Needless to say, it'd been a while. But, as Red Sox and Baylor fans would both agree, better late than never.

Nobody thought the Bears had even an outside shot this weekend. This was the prediction on ESPN.com on Friday evening: "Even if the Aggies look ahead towards Oklahoma's visit in two weeks, there's no way they lose to Baylor."

After a 73-10 routing last season, why not?

I'm sure most of the team saw this weekend as little more than a tuneup for their last two games against the University of Oklahoma and The University of Texas.

Unfortunately for Aggie fans, the negligence of their team will cost them a run for the Big 12 South title and probably a Cotton Bowl birth. Had the Aggies captured a win against the Bears, the stage would have been set for a redemptive match up at home against the Sooners in two weeks.

Now, that game will bear little weight on the overall standings of the Big 12. The Big 12 South is back to a two-horse race between Texas and Oklahoma.

For Baylor, few things can be immediately garnered from this victory except for countless pieces of goalpost for its fans. Had the Bears captured non-conference victories earlier in the year, the game might have had bowl ramifications, lending Baylor players and fans to ponder the what-ifs.

But the victory does have long-term ramifications. It will definitely help Baylor in recruiting throughout Texas. Shaky players who have already made verbal commitments are almost assured signs in February, while undecided recruits may be persuaded to rethink Baylor.

It pumps renewed life into Baylor football's fan base. The fan base has been slowly diminishing to almost extinction during the past 10 years after eight consecutive losing seasons. If the Bears capitalize on this victory by effectively marketing the team, they could recapture some fans lost over time.

Finally, it gives head Coach Guy Morriss job security for the remainder of his contract. I know that Baylor's athletic administration has always said they were in for the long-haul, but the reality is that the heat was going to be on if the Bears went winless in the Big 12. This win gives Morriss and his staff extra time to nurture the team.

Even with this momentum-building win, the future still remains murky for the Bears.

Consider that the program was in a similar situation in 1997 after a 23-21 upset of Texas at home. Many believed then the Bears were on the way up. The hype following the victory was all for not, as the Bears went on to lose the remainder of that season's games. Since the upset, the Bears are a combined 3-40 in conference play.

Be wary of thinking this win will be the victory that turns the program around. But if the Bears can take advantage of this opportunity through recruiting and marketing, it could lead to victories down the road, which may turn the program around.