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Finally, Good Times for Baylor

From Associated Press

If ever a college sports program needed a shining light, it was Baylor University. The further the Bears go in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament, the brighter things look in Waco, Texas.

Consider all the tragedy, trouble and tumult Baylor sports has been through: Miserable football teams. The men’s basketball tragedy two summers ago when a player was killed, allegedly by a teammate, leading to an investigation that uncovered yet another scandal.

While there has been some healing for the world’s largest Baptist university since then, nothing has provided the boost created by the women’s team making the NCAA Final Four.

“This has taken us one step further beyond the tragedy,” Athletic Director Ian McCaw said Wednesday.

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Adds Grant Teaff, Baylor’s football coach during the program’s heyday: “This is a catalyst that can pull people strongly together again in support of something extremely positive.... Athletics are the window through which the world looks at your university. Right now, the view is pretty good.”

The Bears (31-3) go into Sunday night’s game against Louisiana State with an 18-game winning streak. They’ve earned their first Big 12 Conference regular season and tournament titles -- five years after Coach Kim Mulkey-Robertson took over a program coming off a seven-win season and one that had never been to the NCAA tournament.

“It helps magnify the other success programs have had,” men’s basketball Coach Scott Drew said. “It’s a platform to talk about other success as well. As we all know, people watch TV and read newspapers. The more positive publicity people see, the better.”

Drew was hired after the death of player Patrick Dennehy, who had been missing for six weeks before his body was found in a field a few miles from campus in July 2003.

Former player Carlton Dotson goes on trial for the slaying this summer.

Mulkey-Robertson insists that she addressed her team about the men’s tragedy only once. She challenged the Bears to give Baylor fans something to rally around.

“It’s not like we got motivated by it, or used it as motivation in the locker room,” she said. “I just felt like we needed to take the focus off the tragedy as best we could and win basketball games.”

The Bears went 26-9 last season and made it to the NCAA round of 16 for the first time.

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