It will be a historic day in Morgantown on Saturday as West Virginia football hosts its first Big 12 football game against the Baylor Bears.
With that in mind, it is time to get to know a little more about WVU’s opponent this weekend.
Baylor University is a private Christian university and is one of the oldest universities in Texas. It is a Baptist University and was established by the Texas Baptist Education Society in 1845. It remains deeply committed to the Christian faith and its Baptist roots today.
The famous Texas war hero Sam Houston gave the first $5,000 donation to start the university. In 1854, Houston was baptized by the Rev. Rufus Burleson, a future Baylor President, in the Brazos River.
The university is the alma mater of many Baptist pastors around Texas and the southern part of the country. The Bears first African-American football player, a running back named John Westbrook, was the son of a Baptist pastor, and the younger Westbrook himself was an ordained minister during his playing career with the Bears.
Westbrook became the first African American to play varsity football in the Southwest Conference on Sept. 10, 1966 in a nationally televised game against Floyd Little, Larry Csonka and Syracuse.
There are other ties to ministry at Baylor. The athletic staff has a full time Director of Sports Ministry for its athletes. One of Baylor’s all time great players, Neal Jeffrey, the quarterback of the 1974 Cotton Bowl team, is an associate pastor at one of the largest churches in the country, Prestonwood Baptist in Dallas.
Billy Graham’s grandson, Jonathan Lotz, is a Baylor grad. Lotz’s father, Danny, was a member of North Carolina’s 1957 national championship basketball team. His mother is well known women’s evangelist and author, Anne Graham Lotz.
Yes, this is a unique univeristy and football program that welcomes WVU to the Big 12 this weekend. The head football coach, Art Briles, has done an incredible job in Waco as it has not always been easy to win at Baylor.
For years, the head coach at Baylor was a Texas coaching legend, Grant Teaff. Teaff coached Baylor for 21 seasons from 1972-1992 and had a record of 170-151. His teams did win two Southwest Conference titles and went to 8 bowl games. That is not exactly a glittering record, but Teaff, a well known Christian speaker around the country, was the perfect coaching fit at Baylor. Teaff now serves as the President of the American Football Coaches Association. To give you some perspective, in the five years, prior to Teaffs arrival, Baylor was 7-43-1 in football.
As you know, a Baylor player, Robert Griffin III, won the Heisman Trophy last year. But, this is not a football factory that comes to Morgantown this weekend. It is a football program that has always prided itself on impacting their players lives spiritually as much as they have winning football games.