“Hello. My name is Terry Mattingly, and I’m a Baylor University football fan.”
Well, I’m glad that I got that off my chest. I am a graduate of Baylor University and I graduated so long ago that I remember when they were really bad, then became amazingly good and won a Southwest Conference (may it rest in peace) title or two. This was before Baylor became the tiny sheep in the flock of wolves called the Big 12.
So I know that there are religious stories out there right now that are much more important than the downward spiral of the Baylor football program. But, as a former Baylor Lariat sports editor (in the wake of the Miracle on the Brazos, no less), I wanted to mention a very strange and interesting story that ran the other day in The Dallas Morning News.
As I have mentioned before, NFL Hall of Famer Mike Singletary is my all-time favorite Baylor football player. To no one’s surprise, the great linebacker and coach quickly became a candidate for the head-coaching job at Baylor, which tends to come open every three or four years.
But what surprised people was that Singletary — often mentioned as a future NFL coach — quickly dropped off, or jumped off, the Baylor short list. That all went down last week during the Thanksgiving lull. The Dallas report noted:
Mike Singletary is not going to Baylor.
Singletary said he and Baylor athletic director Ian McCaw talked again Wednesday, and he told McCaw that he’s no longer interested in the school’s head football coaching vacancy.
“What happened was we got to a point in the conversation where it just wasn’t going to work,” Singletary said Thursday. “Ian will explain it, but the more we talked about it, the more I knew — and I think he knew — it wasn’t going to work.”
Now, almost everything that happens at Baylor — especially in the era after the great Southern Baptist Civil War of the early 1980s — has some kind of religious subtext. I do not know if that is the case here.
That’s my point. I would like to know. Because there is one hint in this Dallas Morning News story that there may have been tensions other than those linked to the almost impossible goal of tiny-market Baylor competing at the national level on the playing field. Pay close attention:
Singletary, a three-time All-American at Baylor and a school icon, was considered by many the one guy who could ignite the program. He’s been an assistant coach in the NFL since 2003, but he has no college coaching experience. That fact alone divided the Baylor administration on whether Singletary was the right choice, according to university sources.
Singletary still loves Baylor, he said. When asked what it’s going to take to make Baylor competitive again, he paused before answering.
“Ian and (executive assistant AD Todd Patulsk) have to find the guy that believes in the culture,” Singletary said. “It’s not about X’s and O’s or being a guru. It’s a guy that’s in the mold of Coach [Grant] Teaff, someone who can be an example of dedication and hard work. They have to find that guy.”
The key here is the meaning of the phrase “believes in the culture.” I assume Singletary refers to the culture of Baylor, as a Christian university. Singletary’s legendary coach, Grant Teaff, was also highly identified as a Christian spokesman and leader. This became controversial at Baylor and affected Teaff’s work there.
Did this divide at Baylor affect the Singletary talks? Singletary is, himself, a very controversial conservative African-American, very outspoken on issues of culture, faith, family and morality. The question I was left with: Was there a chance that Singletary might not fit in at Baylor these days? Would he have been “too hot” for the culture in today’s Waco? Would his presence have caused division?
I wonder if The Dallas Morning News considered asking some faith-based questions. I, for one, am curious.