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The Power of Sports

By Todd Copeland, Editor of The Baylor Line

Yesterday was the first day of the signing period for NCAA sports. Across the nation, student-athletes signed National Letters of Intent that opened the doors of achievement for them and gave collegiate sports programs hope for the future.

As usual, at Baylor and elsewhere, football drew most of the attention. But Baylor also had signees in soccer, golf, volleyball, and track. And as I read in the newspaper about the young men and women who will be coming to Baylor next year to lend their talents to our teams, I was reminded of the special role that athletics plays in a university’s life—and the role that it has played in my involvement with Baylor.

My first knowledge of Baylor came by way of Baylor football, when I was a kid and my father would take me and my brother to games. We would sit in the end zone and try to catch the extra-point kicks. A few years later, I sold soft drinks at Baylor games, traveling up and down the stands yelling out “Cold drinks” and earning some pocket money.

Flash forward to the end of my high school days, and I was weighing Baylor against other universities in Texas as to where I’d go to college. A big part of my decision was based on athletics. I was a modestly successful distance runner—not good enough to be offered a scholarship (no signing day excitement for me), but good enough to be invited to walk on and give running a shot.

I had met Baylor’s head track coach, Clyde Hart, and he was encouraging. I had also gotten to know Baylor distance running alumni Bill Adams and Todd Harbour (now Baylor’s head track coach), and their friendship was a strong Baylor influence. In the end, I chose Baylor, and I can say without a doubt that having the opportunity to walk on to the cross country team was what led me to that decision. Once again, sports was a central connection between Baylor and me.

While I was at Baylor, sports continued to be a big part of my life as a student. My participation as a member of the cross country and track teams during my freshman year (a knee problem stopped my running after that) was a fundamental part of my Baylor experience. (That’s me, to the right, after the SWC Cross Country Championship in Waco in 1986). So too were the many football and basketball games I attended with my roommates and friends. To me, Baylor’s athletics program greatly enhanced the overall student life experience. I am sure that continues today. In fact, I know it does, because I usually sit with my sons in the student section at football games, and I can see the same engagement in students’ faces as I had so many years ago.

Speaking of my sons, another role that a college’s sports teams play is to link up generations of families into a long chain of support and fellowship. Just as I once went to games with my father and grandfather — both of them Baylor fans, even though they weren’t Baylor grads — now I take my three sons to football, baseball, and basketball games and, of course, to cross country and track meets. Like me, their earliest memories of Baylor involve cheering for the Green and Gold.  And, like me, maybe one day they will have the wonderful opportunity of getting a Baylor education.

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