Houston's Briles Next In Line To Try To Fix Baylor Football

Thursday, November 29th 2007, 7:32 am
By: News On 6

WACO, Texas (AP) - Art Briles entered the room flashing Baylor's customary bear claw sign to cheering supporters, gave them a ``Sic 'Em Bears'' yell and started talking about winning games, and championships.

Still, Briles knows it's going to take a lot more than talk to revive a Baylor program that has had 12 straight losing seasons, all since the Big 12 was formed.

``What we are going to do is bring Baylor back. ... We are going to get bowl-eligible, we are going to win the (Big 12) South, we're going to win the Big 12 championship,'' Briles said. ``Lip service is easy, but we do have a plan. And we have a mission.''

Briles was hired Wednesday by Baylor, which is hoping he can have the same kind of success he had reviving Houston the past five seasons.

The Cougars (8-4) are preparing for their fourth bowl game since Briles arrived, and won the Conference USA title last season. Houston had only two winning records in the 12 years before that, including 0-11 two seasons before Briles got there.

Briles replaces Guy Morriss, who was fired November 18th after five seasons with an 18-40 record and a 7-33 Big 12 mark. Morriss' firing came the day after the Bears (3-9) lost their 12th straight Big 12 game, 45-14 to Oklahoma State.

Briles got a seven-year contract that will pay him up to $1.8 million per season, including all incentives. Briles, who turns 52 Monday, had four years left on his Houston contract with a base salary of $900,000 annually.

``Art Briles embodies all the characteristics that I was seeking,'' athletic director Ian McCaw said.

Plus, Briles is a Texas native who won four Texas high school championships in 12 seasons at Stephenville. He also spent three years as a Texas Tech assistant before taking the Houston job.

``The Texas connection is essential,'' former Bears coach Grant Teaff said after Briles' introduction. ``Art is basically Texas-grown, and he also has a great gift for handling situations. He's very astute and he's a person that is very, very good recruiting. Texas high school coaches really respect him.''

Baylor's 12 consecutive losing seasons have come under four coaches since Teaff left in 1992 after 128 victories and eight bowl appearances in 21 seasons.

The Bears are the only Big 12 team without a bowl appearance since the conference's inception in 1996. Only two teams from Bowl Championship Series conferences have gone longer without a bowl, but Indiana (7-5) is expected to play its first postseason game in 14 years. Vanderbilt (5-7) lost its season finale to miss making its first bowl in 25 years.

``Once you've crossed a couple of bridges, at whatever university or whatever level, there's always one or two more out there to cross,'' Briles said. ``And it's sure fun to walk on that path that a lot of people haven't walked on.''

After meeting with his players at Houston, and telling them that he wouldn't be coaching them in their hometown Texas Bowl on Dec. 28, Briles met the Baylor players before being formally introduced.

``The thing I liked most hearing was that it's not a five-year plan, it's not a seven-year plan, it's a 5-minute plan,'' safety Jordan Lake said. ``We want to win now, and it starts now.''

Briles was 34-28 in five seasons at Houston with only one losing season.

Before going to Houston, where he was a four-year letterman as a receiver and played in the 1976 Cotton Bowl, Briles spent three seasons as running backs coach at Texas Tech. His previous head coaching job had been at Stephenville, where he was 136-29-2 in 12 seasons and twice won back-to-back titles.

While Morriss didn't have any winning seasons, he had some positive accomplishments at Baylor. That included the first Big 12 road victory, in 2005 at Iowa State, and in 2006 when the Bears won three Big 12 games in the same season for the first time.

Briles was on Baylor's short list, along with Houston Nutt, who resigned at Arkansas on Monday and became Mississippi's new coach Tuesday.

The leading candidate initially was Mike Singletary, the assistant head coach for the San Francisco 49ers. But the Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker and Baylor icon took his name out of consideration after a lengthy meeting with McCaw last week in California.

``That doesn't matter. I might not have been my wife's No. 1 choice. All I know she has put up with me 29 years, fixin' to be 30,'' Briles said. ``Mike, he's the man, so that made sense. But I'm glad it turned out the way it did.''