For more than a century, the Baylor Bears football program toiled in mediocrity. Started in 1896, the then-nameless program began as an independent, beating up on random cupcakes that likely no longer exist as universities, let alone football programs. In its fledgling years, the Baylor squad touted a 3-0 record in 1900 and actually enjoyed a modicum of "success" against regional powerhouses Toby's Business College, Austin College, and St. Edward's University until it joined the Southwest Conference in 1914.
The inception of the SWC signaled the end of competitive football in Waco for the next 100 years. The university purported to win conference championships in 1915, 1922, 1924, 1974, 1980 and 1994. However, the 1915 title was rescinded for cheating, nobody was alive to remember the 22 and 24 seasons, 1974 and 1980 were obviously flukes, and the 1994 "championship" was actually a 5-way tie for second place, with the real champion, Texas A&M, ineligible due to sanctions. Then, following the 1995 season, Baylor helped usher in the death of the SWC by fleeing with college football overlords Texas and Texas A&M to help form the Big XII conference. Faced with powerful new conference rivals like Kansas, Iowa State and Missouri, the Bears were thrust deeper into their pit of incompetence.
Obviously, being associated with a third-rate football program is no fun for anyone involved, or their bank accounts. Fans, embarrassed by losses to non-BCS programs like SMU and TCU, fled Floyd Casey Stadium in droves. Those who stayed hung their heads and hid their faces in shame. Revenue streams dried up. The Baylor football program was in trouble. Deep trouble.
Then, in 2004, the Baylor Athletic Department decided it had no choice but to implement drastic measures to help keep its troubled football program afloat. Enacted as part of the Bears' effort to combat awful football attendance, poor on-field play and decreasing relevance, the department implemented the Terrible Athletics Reclusion Protocol, known more commonly as the TARP.
The idea behind the TARP was to strengthen the overall appearance and reputation of the Baylor football program buy purchasing and removing sub-prime and decaying assets from the overall market, thus increasing the mean value of the remaining assets. At first, the program was authorized for only a small section of assets in the south end zone. By the end of 2004, the TARP covered approximately 10% of all Baylor-related economic holdings.
The TARP's success has been nebulous at best. Other than an announced crowd of 51,385 for a 2006 game against "rival" Texas A&M, the TARP has remained in place to hide unsightly empty seats and cover embarrassingly poor viewership in the south end zone. Even throughout what appeared to be an economic boon in the fall of 2011, the TARP was needed to bolster appearances and hide stadium blemishes. Fans failed to return to seats. Boosters, fearful that the TARP hides more than just empty seats, peanut wrappers and hundreds of copies of 50 Shades of Gray confiscated from rebellious Baylor undergrads, refuse to continue investing in such an uncertain institution. Permanent economic recovery from the dark realities of TARP coverage look grim.
For an initiative designed as a temporary fix for a struggling Baylor football economy, the TARP looks to be a permanent fixture, even against highly-ranked opponents whose presence actually sells out stadiums with even larger capacities. Surely, the continued presence of the TARP will dissuade potential recruiting investors into casting their lots elsewhere, where surging conference affiliations and high scoring offenses actually result in inflated asset values and higher decibel levels. Perhaps the infusion of a new, on-campus economic revitalization stadium will help ease troubled times in Waco. But if that type of stimulus fails to relieve the Bears of their need for TARP assistance, and experts predict that it surely will fail, then we will know that the Baylor athletic economy is doomed for inevitable and irreparable collapse. At that point, no TARP in the world will be big enough to cover the grave of the deceased Bears football program.
[Baylor facts and history via.]