Third and Long for ID

Every university has people that work on university P.R., recruitment of new students, and alumni donations. They especially worry about the “image” of the university. Often, sports can have a disproportionate impact on that image. When I was at tiny little Valparaiso our basketball team made it to the NCAA playoffs, and via a miracle shot by Bryce Drew (son of the coach) we made it to the Sweet 16. I think student applications quadrupled the next year.

The sports program of Baylor has had some very bad public scandals in recent history. Fortunately, it looks like they are on the mend (I note with interest that Baylor hired Valpo’s basketball coach a few years back), and this is all for the good, both for the school and its beleagured PR people. But I have to say that this article by sports writer J.V. Holland about the Baylor football team and its upcoming game vs. the Washington State Cougars might leave something to be desired from a P.R. standpoint. Check out the opening paragraphs of this football story:

Baylor aiming for Intelligent Design on field

By J.V. HOLLAND Correspondent Posted Sep 12, 2006

TO THE CHAGRIN OF BAYLOR football fans, once steeped in the steady success of Grant Teaff during his Hall of Fame coaching career that concluded in 1992, their East-Central Texas school is now better known for its controversial role in the dubious effort to move the study of creationism, typically limited to philosophy and religion classes, into the arena of science.

Once upon a time, the name Baylor conjured images of a giant slayer in the Southwest Conference. In the late 70s and early 80s, Bears All-American Mike Singletary, tenacious on the field and a scholar off it, was the exemplar of all that was good about college football.

Nowadays you mention Baylor and you’re more likely to get a blank stare or a reference to Charles Darwin rolling over in his grave.

Indeed, on the gridiron, the Bears of the last decade could have used a heavy infusion of intelligent design. They’ve gone 10 straight seasons without a winning record. Last year’s 5-6 showing marked the first time in eight campaigns they won more than three games.

In the halls of academia, however, Baylor has been a regular in the headlines.

I can hear the groans in the PR office from here. The story continues:

It started with the school’s creation of an Intelligent Design research center in 1999 and ended with what has been described as a pitched battle between moderate and fundamentalist Christians for the soul of the university. In the process, wrote a national magazine, “one university president fell, the theory of Intelligent Design was wedged into the curriculum and then railroaded out, the faculty went to the mat to defend its academic freedom policy, alumni groups splintered, and headlines screamed blow-by-blow accounts.”

Now, let’s talk about the other team, the Cougars. Can we continue the ID connection? Why yes, we can!

Ironically, Baylor’s public relations woes and internal identity crisis can be traced to the city where the Bears will be playing Washington State’s Cougars this Saturday: Seattle.

The notion of refashioning creationism into “intelligent design,” and then pushing it as legitimate science rather than philosophy or faith, was hatched at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute. And Baylor came to Seattle to find a director for its now-defunct Intelligent Design research center.

Will we talk about football at some point? Watch this transition, it’s a masterpiece:

When it comes to evolution, though, Baylor head coach Guy Morriss is hell bent on transmutating the Bears back into winners. The former Philadelphia Eagles standout and Kentucky head coach has by all accounts got Baylor back on the road to respectability. Last year, his third in Waco, the Bears started 3-0 and later won their first-ever Big 12 road game, at Iowa State, since joining the conference in 1996. The season before, the Bears pulled a huge upset when they knocked off former Southwest Conference rival Texas A&M.

Baylor is 1-1 this season. They trounced Division I-AA Northwestern State of Louisiana 47-10 on Saturday and fell to No. 22-ranked TCU 17-7 the week before. The TCU game offered a couple of interesting twists. Baylor held the Horned Frogs scoreless in the first half — the first time they’d done that to a Division I-A opponent since 2000. And, they lost the game — the first time under Morriss that the Bears held an opponent to less than 20 points and failed to win.

The undisputed leaders of the Bears are quarterback Shawn Bell and cornerback C.J. Wilson. Bell, named to the 2006 Manning Award Watch List., is a fifth-year senior and already Baylor’s all-time leader in completion percentage (.599), touchdown-to-interception ratio (2.71) and interception percentage (.013). He also ranks in the top 10 in a slew of other categories. Wilson is a Thorpe Award and All-America candidate. He recorded 45 tackles as a junior to rank seventh on the squad. He recorded a team-high five interceptions and had five pass breakups.

As for Washington State, Coach Morriss is concerned with ball control.

“Well I talked to (offensive coordinator) Lee [Hays] who was up here last night watching their stuff,” Morriss said Sunday. “Our offense is going to have to play this week. We’re going to have to help our defense out like they’ve helped us out in the last two. They have a very good offense. Hopefully, we can move the ball and take advantage of opportunities so we can put some points up.”

Kick off is set for 2 pm at Qwest Field. Oddsmakers have installed the Cougars as 13 1/2-point favorites.

Injury Update Out Indefinitely – Zach Enyeart (8/23 knee sprain), Joe Eppele (9/7 shoulder surgery), Scott Friberg (8/22 hip/right knee sprain), Arkelon Hall (8/12 fibula fracture), Ansley Jean-Jacques (9/9 thumb surgery), Grady Maxwell (8/11 knee surgery), Matt Mullennix (9/6 ACL surgery), Andy Roof (8/11 thumb surgery), Jason Stripling (shoulder surgery recovery). No Practice – Faevae’i Ahmu (8/29 partial stress fracture, foot), Markus Dawes (9/2 high ankle sprain) Limited – Don Turner (9/2 hip contusion), Michael Willis (9/2 shoulder sprain), DeMaundray Woolridge (9/2 thigh bruise)

X-rays on Cody Boyd’s injured hand were negative, Washington State SID said Tuesday afternoon. The senior tight end, who hurt his hand in Washington State’s 56-10 win over Idaho Saturday, is expected to practice Tuesday.

Unfortunately there is no snappy one-liner at the end, but I’m sure the PT denizens can come up with a few…