Art Briles summed up his charge as Baylor's head coach and the state of the school's football program -- and, truly, its athletics department as a whole -- quite nicely in his opening statement at Big 12 media days on Tuesday.
“It's been a phenomenal year for Baylor athletics,” Briles said. “In general, I think our national brand is probably as good as it's ever been on a national level. I'm just thankful and happy to be a part of it. What we have to do now is maintain it, and that's where my inspiration, passion, and drive certainly is going to come from.”
Briles has a tough act to follow after last year's memorable 10-3 campaign that saw Robert Griffin III win the Heisman Trophy and ultimately lead the Bears to a 67-56 win over Washington in the Alamo Bowl.
But if his comments in Dallas were any indication, the loss of RGIII to the NFL won't serve as any excuse for poor performance this season.
“Our guys are going to be more experienced. They made plays at critical times in games to help us win, and they've been in the system a year longer,” Briles said. “So, yeah, we expect to be better. We expect to be better on offense, too. You think we're going to walk out there and think we're going to be worse either side of the ball? We expect to be a better football team this year than we were a year ago.”
The long term prospects for the Baylor program were immensely improved when the university's Board of Regents voted unanimously last week to move forward with plans to construct a new $250 million stadium.
Briles did nothing to mask his enthusiasm for the project and what it ultimately will mean for the football program and Baylor as a university.
“I'm not kidding you: it's going to change the whole image of Baylor from now on, the next 50 years,” Briles said. “There's 42 million people that drive down I-35 beginning 2014 that are going to see this beautiful stadium, which is going to be one of the most beautiful stadiums in the United States of America, on the Brazos River, and they're going to look over and say, ‘Okay, those people at Baylor are doing it right.' It's going to be unmatched in beauty.
“And what it's going to do for us from an image standpoint, recruiting standpoint, both academically and athletically for people that want to get into Baylor University...I'm not smart enough to articulate how much difference it's going to make for our university.”
Several reporters in Dallas tweeted they felt Briles was “the winner” of Big 12 media days for drawing some laughs and providing some stellar quotes for scribes to work with.
The Baylor coach saved some of his best lines for last, when asked if he was looking forward to facing TCU in a Big 12 game this season after the two squads' dramatic season-opener, which BU won 50-48.
“To us there's no difference between conference and nonconference,” Briles said. “I mean, every time you step on the field there's somebody trying to take a piece of your life away. So it doesn't matter if you're playing Stephen F. Austin or the University of Oklahoma. You better go out there and play well, or you're not going to come out with a smile on your face.”
For more up-to-the-minute news and analysis from Big 12 bloggers C.J. Moore and Patrick Southern, follow @CBSSportsBig12.