"It's 9:30 PM and Baylor still sucks." - My tablet screensaver proclaimed when I first read about the events that led to the firing of Art Briles, and since then it seems that there hasn't been a week that's gone by where some new horrible detail has arisen about the various evil deeds committed by either Baylor players, the coverup by the football staff, the willful ignorance (if they are to be believed) by the Baylor administrators and the Pepper Hamilton report that no one is allowed to see. As a result, the eyes of the football world turned to Baylor for just the third time in decades (the first time being Robert Griffin's Heisman season, the second time being the 2014 TCU-BU playoff argument), united by scorn. Baylor had gone from the program people felt sorry for (or made fun of), to a program that people respected, to a program that people were jealous of (and took some satisfaction in their failures) to a program is universally reviled and that many fans think should not be playing football at all- and all in the span of about six years. And yet, for those who have always hated Baylor, our "Baylor Delenda Est" true believers... there is a feeling of sadness and loss that overrides even hate this week, and it's hard to piece together just how to feel.
Ever since the first day Art Briles put on a green hat with "BU" emblazoned across the front of it, I hated him. I knew next to nothing about him, other than that he'd done well at Houston and had now taken the job at Baylor- but that second part was enough for me to call him my enemy. Hating Baylor is a time honored tradition in my family and, with a long awaited non-conference series with the Bears on the cards, I was looking forward to TCU crushing his bear team and sending him off to the scrap heap of coaches who couldn't help Baylor become competent or escape the Big 12 basement. I reveled in the 2010 demolition of Baylor, loathed how Robert Griffin was undefendable in 2011, assumed that things would be going back to normal after the 2012 Boykin blowout in Waco, then felt the incredible rage and frustration as Baylor actually won the Big 12 in 2013 while we were simply trying to find a way off of Anderson and Burns' wild ride. Still, I hated him as I would have hated any Baylor coach- and though he certainly did have his share of scumbag moments and allowed behavior that stoked coach Patterson's ire, a hypothetical "HawkeyedBear" would likely have been defending Briles and commenting on Patterson's own sideline fire. For all of his acts, I hated him because he was the coach at Baylor and he was making them good- I don't know that I'd even be able to like Mr. Rogers or Bob Ross if they'd made Baylor good at football. And yet, when we found out exactly to what lengths Baylor was willing to go to achieve that level of success, and just what sort of a person Art Briles truly is... and it sickened me to my very core.
The best rivalries in college football tend to be ones where both the universities and the fanbases have a lot in common, with just a few little differences separating them. Michigan and Ohio State, Alabama and Auburn, Texas and Oklahoma- if you look at each from a ways off, there are far more similarities than differences between the rivals. Those little differences and proximity are what makes the hate stronger, though- if they hadn't made that one wrong choice, you might have even been able to like them, but... then they'd be us, not them.
That's TCU/Baylor for you- we're essentially the same, except we had the good fortune to get out of Waco, they had the good fortune to get out of the SWC (and into the Big 12), we had the good fortune to get good at football, they had the good fortune... to keep being in the Big 12. Also, we're the noble populate with the heroic adventurers and the glorious leader, obviously. You hate your rival, because he's you, apart from that wrong choice. You want them to suffer, you want them to lose every game, you want to crush them every time you play, all because of that key difference that makes them... well, a them. And in many ways, that's what makes the whole institutional failure at Baylor so unsettling- as much as you want to believe that your rival is the devil, you know that in many ways he could simply be parallel universe you- the one who came through the portal and looks just like you, apart from that goatee. If he does turn out to be the devil, does that mean that you have the potential to be the devil too? What would your program sacrifice in exchange for winning? While I believe that TCU does things the right way for the most part, with the handling of the drug issues standing out as a good sign and the Devonte Fields incidents standing out in contrast (he shouldn't have gotten as many chances as he did, no matter how good he's looking at Louisville right now), you apparently can't rule out that something absolutely miserable could be going on beneath the surface at any program.
You'll likely have noted that I haven't gone into detail on the Baylor case, what I feel should happen to the Baylor program as a result or really anything of real import- namely the victims and their pursuit of justice. You're right- and that's because I don't know. With the aforementioned Pepper Hamilton report, Baylor has made it quite difficult for anyone to determine the facts on just what happened. Last Saturday there were reports coming in that the Texas students were chanting "Rapists" at the Baylor players, which was later qualified to be "Rape enablers" at the coaching staff. The former seems unfair, the latter seems accurate from what we've heard, but how could we tell? Until the entire Baylor team apart from the true freshman are gone, there will be questions and suspicions about them, fair or otherwise. Until Baylor's coaching staff is dismissed, there will be questions and suspicions of them as well- and we'll likely never know who was responsible for what. This is the environment that we're in this year, as TCU returns to Waco for the first time since that abysmal and controversial 2014 "61-58" game- and yet I haven't thought about it once this week until I started writing this. It's hard to think about Baylor football moments now, because for as wonderful as beating Baylor is, that's not where the focus is, and I don't know when it will be back. That's okay, though. There are much more important things to focus on- and I hope that for all the condemnation that has been (rightfully) heaped on Baylor for this scandal, every other university in the US is taking note to make sure something like this never happens again.