Before Art Briles arrived in Waco, Texas, the Baylor Bears football program had no identity—other than being the Big 12 Conference doormat.
In just five years, Briles gave the Bears an identity and turned them into the favorite to win the conference. As a result, he could have a shot at heading up the Texas Longhorns, one of the premier jobs in college football.
But is that that really the best option for Briles? Given all the work he has put in to make Baylor what it is today, maybe it isn't.
BU was there as a founding Big 12 member back in 1996 but didn't have a single winning season in the conference until Briles came to town. Through four head coaches and 12 seasons on the wrong side of .500, the Bears laid down, allowing the 'Horns and the rest of the league to wipe their feet as they passed by.
Then the fifth head coach came and took just two seasons to bring BU to a 7-6 record in 2010—its first winning season since 1995. Now, the Bears have Big 12 and national title aspirations, sitting at No. 5 in the BCS rankings.
It isn't just a coincidence that the Bears are on a tremendous upswing now. Briles has been the driving force behind the remarkable turnaround.
So it's no surprise that his name is mentioned for the head coach opening at the richest athletic department in the country, Texas. It took a little while, but everyone is starting to come around and see that Briles is a truly phenomenal coach and that he could take the Longhorns back to the pinnacle of the sport.
But would Austin and UT be the right fit for the humble and unassuming Briles?
I don’t know about the people hiring at Texas. They’re kinda blue-bloods down there. Art Briles might be too country for them, but I’m gonna tell ya, he’s the perfect fit for those high-school coaches in Texas.
Talk about recruiting. He’s one of them. High school coaches would love to help him at Texas. He’d make them like an Alabama.
In theory, that would make Briles like Nick Saban.
Looking at what Briles has done in Waco, it definitely makes sense that figures like Switzer are taking notice. Just four years ago, the Bears were a Big 12 afterthought—now, they're thinking crystal football.
Briles would certainly be a great pull for Texas. His explosive offense would bring excitement back to the Longhorn program and make fans quickly forget about their recent struggles. Given what he has done at Baylor thus far, he could have UT up and running toward national title contention in no time.
But Baylor's quick rise also stands as the reason why Briles might not want to leave Waco—why he might want to wait and see how his work can really play out.
Baylor has quickly become one of the hottest programs in college football. BU has the explosive offense, the cool uniforms and chrome helmets. The Bears also boast a recent Heisman Trophy winner, Robert Griffin III, who is one of the biggest stars in the sport right now.
While they might not have the money or the tradition of the 'Horns, they're building something of their own. That process is including an impressive new stadium, set to open next season.
The new Baylor Stadium won't have the 100,000-seat capacity of Texas' Darrell K. Royal - Texas Memorial Stadium, but bigger isn't always better—even in Texas and especially for someone like Briles.
Briles, who joined BU from Houston, isn't the type of coach that needs to play off of state-of-the-art facilities, rings and shiny things. So far, the down-to-earth approach has been serving Briles well. It helped to attract Griffin and is still working today.
BU brought in a recruiting class right on par with Big 12 powers Texas and Oklahoma in 2013 and is challenging UT for the No. 1 class in the conference for 2014, according to the 247Sports composite rankings.
Baylor's top recruit for this class is composite 5-star receiver K.D. Cannon. Recently, Cannon explained to ESPN's Jeremy Crabtree why he committed to Briles and Baylor over an enormous list of offers from Texas, OU, Texas A&M and others.
"He's kind of like a second father to me because he's not afraid to tell you how it is," Cannon told Crabtree. "He's not one of those coaches that fills you up with rah-rah recruiting stuff."
Briles knows how to play to his own strengths as well as the strengths of his program. And it just so happens that those aptitudes match up perfectly.
Robby Clark, who coached Baylor starting quarterback Bryce Petty at Midlothian High School, noticed immediately the change in culture brought by Briles, per Crabtree:
You could tell right away there was an instant state of competitiveness that came to Baylor that wasn't there before. Recruiting kids was fixing to get competitive for them instead of just, 'Well, we'll take whoever A&M and Texas don't want.' They're going to get in those same houses and win. They've done it. They started doing it early. They're winning more now than they ever have.
With Baylor winning in the wide open Big 12, Briles really has no reason to leave. The formula between his style and the culture in Waco has proven to be a perfect mix.
Briles has managed to keep BU above .500 despite starting three quarterbacks in three years. Next year, he'll likely benefit from the return of Petty under center. Petty, just a junior, is nearing 3,000 passing yards this season with 21 touchdowns and just one interception. If he chooses to return for his senior season, the sky is the limit once again for the explosive Bear offense.
And with his system in place, Briles could just keep Baylor right at the top of the Big 12 without having to live up to the unrealistic expectations of the UT fan base, which expects its team to be in the national title picture every year.
While Texas would be a dream job for most coaches, it isn't necessarily the right job for Briles.
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