The 2014 Fiesta Bowl was a record-breaking affair, but not for the reason that Baylor hoped. The Central Florida Knights defeated the Baylor Bears 52-42, making the game the highest-scoring in Fiesta Bowl history. Though both teams entered the contest at 11-1, Baylor was the 17-point favorite. Too bad they never played like it.
The Knights controlled the game from the opening kickoff, after which they scored an easy touchdown in a matter of minutes. Despite forcing three interceptions (on consecutive possessions, no less), Baylor never led the entire game. It was an unceremonious end to a historically great season for the Bears.
As much as Baylor likes to tout Briles' loyalty, it wasn't that long ago that he left his alma mater, the University of Houston, for a new gig in Waco.
With a program dating back to 1899, this year was the first season in which Baylor recorded 11 wins. The Bears also won their first Big 12 Championship, reached their first BCS Bowl game and earned their highest national ranking in 60 years at No. 5.
Instead of being the exclamation point on Baylor's 2013 season, the Fiesta Bowl will be a footnote the team would like to forget. As painful as the unexpected loss was, Baylor has bigger worries ahead: rumors of Art Briles' departure for the University of Texas.
It's a sneaking suspicion that just won't quite go away. Only two months ago, Briles signed a new contract to stay in Waco through 2023. Of course, that was before Mack Brown announced his retirement.
In a pre-Fiesta Bowl game interview, Briles shrugged off the persistent rumors that he's one of two top candidates for the Texas job. "My focus is being a Baylor Bear for a long time," he said. "You can't control what other people say."
After Baylor Athletics posted that quote to Facebook, it was liked over 2,000 times and shared more than 250 times. Baylor fans are clinging to every encouraging word Briles utters, because the idea that their beloved coach would leave Jerusalem on the Brazos for greener pastures in Austin is too painful to consider.
As if the lure of the Longhorns weren't tempting enough, rumors have been swirling that Briles is being courted by the Washington Redskins to fill the vacancy of Mike Shanahan. Since Briles has admitted an interest in the NFL, his assertion that he wouldn't pursue an opportunity in the pros rings false. Interest in the NFL aside, though, a move to the Skins would also mean Briles would be reunited with Robert Griffin III, the record-breaking former Baylor QB who went on to win the Heisman under Briles' tutelage.
As much as Baylor likes to tout Briles' loyalty, it wasn't that long ago that he left the University of Houston — his alma mater — for a new, higher paying gig in Waco, taking a star recruit by the name of Robert Griffin III with him. That's not exactly the résumé of a fiercely loyal man.
Texas has said it will announce a new head coach by January 15, giving Baylor fans an uneasy start to the new year. The $260 million McLane Stadium currently being constructed on Baylor's campus will always be the house that Briles built. But if he will ever set foot in the facility as a Baylor Bear remains to be seen.