It has come to this for the fractured football program of a fractured university ...

"Walk-on kids for us," Baylor coach Jim Grobe said recently, "would be like gold."

Twenty months ago, Baylor was winning a second consecutive Big 12 title. In December, it was polishing off a third-straight season of at least 10 wins.

It began this week's practices with 36 walk-ons on a roster of approximately 100. You don't have to be told why. The fallout from the sexual assault scandal caused a load of signees from the 2016 class to ask out of their letters of intent. Other players were kicked off the team.

The Baylor squad that heads into the third week of August has approximately 70 scholarship players, 15 below the maximum. To fill up the rest of the roster, Grobe has all but put a "vacancy" sign for any and all walk-ons.

"We really need to respect them," Grobe said. "I tell our scholarship players, 'Whenever you get a chance, put your arm around those non-scholarship guys because they're playing just because they love the game.'"

And paying a lot of money to do it. Tuition approaches $55,000 annually (room, books, board, etc.).

"The worst problem with your walk-ons at a real good school academically is a lot of kids who can pay their way to come want to be doctors and lawyers and business guys," Grobe said.

In other words, those walk-ons don't come to Baylor to necessarily give football a try.

"The first semester they have a 2.0, that's when mom and dad say, 'Wait a minute, we're paying for this education,'" Grobe added.

Baylor's acting coach desperately needs those walk-ons. Any program is more than a two-deep. It's a scout team acting as punching bag during practice. It's kickers, punters and snappers who are willing to pay their own way.

It's a bit of desperation for a Baylor team hoping to stay relevant with future uncertainty looming. This season, the Bears are capable of winning 10 again. If everything goes right, they could compete for the Big 12 title. That depth -- or lack of it -- will probably decide.

Seth Russell is probably the league's second-best quarterback. He was headed for a record-breaking season when a neck injury knocked him out seven games into 2015.

Senior tailback Shock Linwood is close to becoming Baylor's career rushing leader. Receiver KD Cannon is arguably the Big 12's best receiver after the loss of Corey Coleman.

None of it means much if Grobe can't field a solid rotation of eight or so offensive lineman. Only one starter returns, center Kyle Fuller.

"If there were 85 on scholarship, walk-ons are probably thinking to themselves, 'I'm probably not going to be able to get a scholarship this year,'" Russell said. "If I was a walk-on, my mindset would be, 'I want a scholarship. I want to push these guys.' I feel like that's what they're doing."

Based on history, Baylor should be more than competitive, at least in the short term. USC lost 30 scholarships over three seasons and was banned from consecutive postseasons by the NCAA in 2010. Since then, the Trojans won less than eight games once and have won 10 games twice.

The question is whether Baylor has the foundation to survive a downturn that hasn't hit bottom yet. The Houston Chronicle reported last week a history sexual assaults being ignored at Baylor goes back more than a decade.

The school was careful to name Grobe the "acting" coach, not the "interim." That suggests the 67-year-old former Wake Forest coach has a chance to be retained. In reality, it gives Baylor a year to sort things out before possibly hiring a permanent coach.

The NCAA hasn't decided whether to formally investigate the program. The attrition so far is more or less the reaction to a moral failing. The 2017 class has exactly two commitments. The other nine Big 12 schools are averaging 13.3 commits.

Even worse, Baylor can't tell those recruits who their coach will be. Baylor's coach (Art Briles), athletic director (Ian McCaw) and president (Kenneth Starr) all lost their jobs since the release of the Pepper Hamilton report in late May.

Take a good look. This may be the best Baylor team you see for a while.

"There is no question this is a daunting task," Grobe said. "And as I mentioned before, there is no real road map for this."