Column: could Baylor’s national title encourage university to recognize error of its past ways?

Photo Credit: Kevin Dietsch/UPI

The name Baylor University as it relates to women is on everyone’s lips now for all the right reasons.

On Sunday April 7th from Tampa, Florida, its women’s basketball team – coached by a woman in Kim Mulkey – became Baylor’s biggest ambassadors as the team fought through adversity to prevail over Notre Dame and bring a third national title to Waco.

That adversity came in the form of a gruesome injury to Lauren Cox, one of Baylor’s signature players and a possible draftee (if healthy) in next year’s WNBA Draft.

Baylor is getting positive praise over the next few days because of the athletic accomplishments of its women’s basketball team. Not its football (which is treated like a religion in Texas) team or its men’s basketball team, but its women’s basketball team. It is a women’s basketball team that has experienced great success under Mulkey since she took over the program.

While Baylor’s national title-winning basketball team is a huge accomplishment for the university, one cannot help but put this in the context of when Baylor University, just a few short years ago, was on everyone’s lips for all the wrong reasons.

The rape scandal involving its football team that embroiled the university and made the name Baylor a dirty word brought countless levels of shame to the university and made parents throughout Texas and the country second-guess if they really wanted to send their children to Waco for college.

The scandal appeared to be a case where Baylor, a Christian university, was not as concerned about the health and safety of the women members of its student body as it was about all of the money it was making off football and men’s basketball.

The collective side-eyes that may have taken many faces when they found out that Baylor had made the Women’s Final Four may have mirrored many of those that took place when Michigan State had made the Men’s Final Four. Of course, Michigan State is another university that got itself in another damning scandal with the Larry Nassar-USA Gymnastics case.

The difference, though, is that entering their respective Final Fours, Michigan State was represented by its men’s basketball team. Not only that, but the Spartans were eliminated by another Texas-based team in Texas Tech and will not be winning a national championship this year.

Baylor was represented by its women’s basketball team, a team that we can now say was the best team in women’s college basketball from the opening tipoff of the first game to when the rained down at Amalie Arena in Tampa.

Not only that, but what Baylor fought through in its national championship-deciding contest with Notre Dame was a microcosm of what women have to go through just to make ends meet in society. The injury to Cox was an unfortunate incident and one that appeared to mentally shake the Bears (side note – it is 2019… “Lady” Bears is not really needed much anymore unless the men’s basketball team agrees to go by “Gentleman” Bears).

But Baylor, led by Kalani Brown and Chloe Jackson – the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four – fought through the adversity, anguish, pain, drama, and heartbreak and did right by not only the Baylor athletic program, but by Baylor University and Waco, Texas as a whole.

One has to wonder how this is being received by some of the powers that be that have such undue influence at Baylor as Waco is nestled in a state where everything stops on Saturdays for the pigskin. Some tweets have even hinted that despite the national title, classes still resumed the following Monday at Baylor.

The message that one would think would be sent to the powers that be at Baylor would be this – doing right by women, as Mulkey and her women’s basketball team did right by the university, has positive effects. Not doing right by women, as was seen during the midst of the rape scandal that turned Baylor into the filthiest word in athletics has negative effects.

And it is not just the women of the basketball team that Baylor should think about when they reflect on this bright moment for the university and the city of Waco, Texas. It should be every woman on the Baylor campus that graduates from there to go out into the world and do great things outside of academics.

Congratulations are certainly in order for the basketball team – they earned every single bit of this championship and it is worthy of a celebration/parade through the Baylor campus and the streets of Waco. The larger message should be to athletics brass, university administrators, and Baylor boosters who only think football when deciding to give top dollar to Bears athletics.

Doing right by women ensures your university is seen as a shining beacon instead of a curse word and a punchline.

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