Once Tragic, the Baylor Bears Have Come Full Circle

A Sports Scribe, Basketball — By on March 22, 2012 at 7:00 am

For the first time in ages, this pro snob has been keeping up with March Madness. Maybe it’s been joining the TSFJ team, catching the tail-ends of the upsets of Missouri and Duke, seeing Georgetown predictably fold, finally getting caught up in the legend of #Draymond Green, or a combination of it all.

Despite not filling out a bracket in a decade, the collection of remaining teams in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is a curious one. Kentucky/Indiana has history written all over it. The battle of Ohio between Ohio State and Cincinnati. The chance that the Tar Heels and the Wolfpack may play each other for a Final Four berth. Plenty of intrigue, sure, but the one that stood out to me…

Baylor versus Xavier.

This isn’t the same Baylor program that brought shame to college sports long before we’ve became immune to shame in college sports. Coach Scott Drew and future pro Perry Jones III are leaders of this team, but it’s the school’s resolve that have made us stand up and take notice.

Not long after we witnessed some fantastic games during the 2003 edition of Madness – Syracuse’s Carmelo Anthony and Marquette’s Dwayne Wade scintillated the masses before entering a historic NBA Draft – did the worst scandal imaginable (at that time) become the lasting image of college basketball that year.

The Patrick Dennehey tragedy and the Dave Bliss scandal underscored so much of what ailed college sports, and then some. While harrowing reports of broken programs have become commonplace, especially in the last two years, what happened here was so shocking, so disgusting, and so maddening that it was virtually impossible to see this as a strictly sports offense.

Fast forward almost a decade, and we are witnessing an almost unheralded rebirth of an athletic program. Robert Griffin III won the Heisman, and will likely be the number two overall pick by Washington in the upcoming NFL Draft. With offensive growth to match her defensive prowess, Brittney Griner is not only the leader of the overwhelming favorites in the ladies’ bracket, but she is also the future of women’s basketball. Other teams, such as its baseball squad, have made significant postseason runs in their sports.

Yet, these young men are on a slightly different plane compared to their fellow student-athletes, knowing that it was their team that was at the epicenter nine years ago. We don’t know how much the Dennehey tragedy is on the minds of the players. As any grave situation with such wide public scale, it’s hard to not be reminded of what happened day-by-day, and likely during this run, practice-after-practice. However, compared to their higher-profile counterparts like Kentucky, Syracuse or UNC – programs with several pro prospects that are using March to prepare for June – these kids know that playing for their school takes on quite a different meaning.

Playing for Baylor this weekend is about telling the world that a tragic past may no longer shape their bright future.

J. Clinkscales

Jason is the co-host of The Exchange on BlogTalkRadio with Sumit Dasgupta (@skd_thExchange) and spent seven seasons as the New York Beacon's beat writer for the New York Giants. Also a vastly undersized PF.

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  • A redemption story at its best, no doubt.

  • When this all went down, I don’t think I had ever been more disgusted by the actions of a coach at any level. And even though all the BS that major college programs provide us (including the Penn State/Jerry Sandusky saga) bring similar emotions, what Bliss did (and of course, Dotson) still makes my blood boil. Reprehensible doesn’t describe it.

    To see the entire school rise above it is nothing short of amazing. It’s the reason why no matter how I feel about college basketball as a whole, I’ll always be drawn to the game in some way for moments like this.

    You can think of all the tragedies that have befallen schools in recent years – from the VaTech massacre to Eve Carson (UNC) to the plane crash that killed the OK State women’s bball coach & assistant, and others – and see how sports are used as some sort of symbol for recovery. Even if that’s too simplisitc, it’s a sign, right?

    • As the homie CJ has put it best, Baylor kinda does run the state of Texas right now….incredible.

      • Who’d’ve thunk it?

        I remember the track team always being a force, as CJ mentioned. Baseball being pretty good. Yet, I honestly didn’t think much about anything else. These kids have changed the game, sort of speak.

        Aren’t they building a new football stadium?

  • Joe Simmons says:

    When that coach let all that junk go down at Baylor it was a travesty. Now the University runs the longhorn state. They have come full circle. Good post man. Nice feel good story here.

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