WACO, Texas -- Art Briles was on the sidelines of a Terrell High School game last month when a pack of eighth-graders spotted his Baylor shirt.
"Coach!" one shouted. "Baylor!"
"What you know about Baylor?" Briles playfully asked.
They all returned the same response: "RG III!"
Briles calls it "instant name recognition." Acknowledgment of a program quickly becoming one of college football's coolest. A program on the cutting edge of blistering offense, big points and brash uniforms. A program Briles rebuilt -- and RG III expedited -- into a Big 12 title contender, perhaps perennially.
"Our style of play, our mentality, our location, and then you throw in an icon like RG III in there," Briles said. "Then being somewhere people look at as a great place to get a great education, and, oh by the way, them suckers play some good ball. I think that's it. Throw in all those factors, and you have a chance to have a good football program."
Before Briles and his star quarterback arrived, Baylor was anything but a good football program. In fact, it was a program in shambles.
Baylor was respectable during the 21-year era of Grant Teaff in the Southwest Conference. But after Teaff retired in 1992, Baylor fell into rapid decline. After Baylor moved to the Big 12 in 1996, the Bears endured a dozen consecutive losing seasons and four coaching changes, with a miserable conference record of 11-85.
During that time, Baylor had the seventh-longest active bowl drought in the country and hadn't been bowling since the 1994 Alamo Bowl. The Bears hadn't been ranked in the AP poll since 1993. They hadn't won in Austin since 1991, and had never defeated Oklahoma.
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