WACO, TEXAS (AP) - These are heady times at Baylor.
A few months ago, quarterback Robert Griffin III became Baylor’s first Heisman Trophy winner. In March, the men’s basketball team advanced to the NCAA round of 16 for the second time in three years. Together, those two teams won 40 games and lost 11 over this year.
Fundraising efforts are going gangbusters and applications to enroll are up.
And then there are the Lady Bears, Kim Mulkey’s women’s basketball team that just went 40-0 to win the program’s second NCAA championship. Player of the year Brittany Griner led the way to an 80-61 rout Tuesday night against Notre Dame.
And all five starters are expected back next season.
Some 2,000 people turned out Wednesday at the Ferrell Center _ Baylor’s home arena, where the Lady Bears won 19 games this season and have gone 184-19 during Mulkey’s 12 years at the school _ to welcome the team back to Waco after its championship game win in Denver.
“You do not win championships with one player, two players,” Mulkey told the crowd. “You need five, six, seven, eight people heading the same direction. I told them in the locker room after the game, many hours after the game when we were still there: `Any one of you can go to another university and play 40 minutes a game and average double figures, but you would not have gotten this trophy right here.’
“And I tell you what: You better get your tickets to New Orleans. See you next year.”
Mulkey and her team made it clear from the start of the season that a national championship was their goal, and they seem to be saying the same thing for next season as well.
“I can’t even think about next year, but we’re going to be good,” she said in a news conference after the public celebration. “The expectations are there. Had we not won the national championship this year, the expectations would be there. And we’re going to embrace it. We’re going to do that very humbly, not arrogantly. We’re going to do it with a sense of appreciation for what we did this year. We like the way it feels. We want to do it again.”
Mukley received a congratulatory phone call from President Barack Obama earlier Wednesday. The President picked the Lady Bears to win the national championship before the tournament started.
Not exactly a bold pick. Baylor was No. 1 from the start of the season to the finish.
Mulkey (coach of the year) and Griner led the way to this year’s title. Griner, though she’s the star of the Baylor squad and the face of women’s college basketball right now, was quick to acknowledge that it was not a one-woman show.
“It definitely takes more than me to win a national championship. You can’t do this by yourself,” she said.
Baylor president Ken Starr called the past several months “epic,” ending with Tuesday’s win.