WACO, Texas: After the Baylor Bears’ season opener was pushed back for the second week in a row, thousands of students came to McLane Stadium on Saturday for free food and the chance to continue the tradition of signing the tunnel where the Baylor Line forms.
The Baylor Line is a tradition before each home football game where freshmen (and seniors on Senior Day) run out onto the field moments before kickoff, forming a human tunnel to welcome the Bears onto the field.
“Running the line at the football games I think is one of the absolute best traditions in college football,” Baylor’s president, Dr. Linda Livingstone said. “We love it, our students love it, and we’re glad to have a little bit of it today.”
Without a game this week, the university invited students out to the stadium, allowing them to sign their names in the tunnel where they’ll gather before games, grab pictures on the field and watch out-of-town games on a big screen outside the stadium.
“We already knew we had a lot of students who were excited to be at the game, especially our freshmen, some of them were going to get to run the Baylor Line for the first time,” Livingstone said. “We thought ‘well, let’s go ahead and have a wonderful experience for them where they get to be on the field.'”
One of the first-year Baylor students taking in the festivities was 52-year old Robert Russell. Earlier this year, Russell’s daughter, herself a Baylor student, secretly sent in his application for him.
After a surprise acceptance, he’s taking in all the experience has to offer.
“I’ve been a Bear fan all my life and this opportunity came up, God handed it to me, and I can’t help but run with it,” Russell said. “I’m gonna take advantage of every moment out here.”
Russell plans to run the line and thinks it’s a part of not only the school’s fabric, but also that of the city.
“It’s a Baylor tradition, it’s a Waco tradition. Baylor is Waco, Waco is Baylor,” Russell said. “How can you not participate in something that important?”
Even with many of the school’s traditions being put on hold for the freshmen, Saturday’s impromptu festivities allow them a chance to leave their mark.
“It’s absolutely incredible, a lot of people are saying ‘this is still our year’ and it really is,” Baylor freshman Zoe Jeffries said. “The spirit is here, the tradition is here and we’re ready to do whatever it takes to participate in that.”
After two cancellations, the Bears are scheduled to open their season at home against the University of Kansas Sept. 26.