Thursday, December 12, 2002

Morriss pledges commitment to winning at Baylor



The Associated Press

WACO, Texas - Former Kentucky football coach Guy Morriss is back in the state of Texas and promising big things for Baylor, even though the Bears are one of the worst teams in the Big 12 Conference.

"I believe we can win here," Morriss said at a Wednesday news conference attended by about 250 Baylor fans and school officials. "We're going to put some accountability and pride back in this program, and we're going to start this afternoon."

Morriss resigned from Kentucky after two seasons to return to his home state for his biggest challenge yet - turn the woeful Bears into winners.

In four years under fired coach Kevin Steele, Baylor was 9-36 - 1-31 in the Big 12. The 51-year-old Morriss, from Colorado City, Texas, won't look back and will take a get-tough approach to turn around the Bears' fortunes.

"It's going to take some time to fix and I think they understand that," said Morriss, who went 9-14 at Kentucky, including a 7-5 record this season. "But I don't see any reason we can't be winners here and be a competitive football team immediately."

The Wildcats were ineligible for a bowl this season because of NCAA sanctions.

Morriss got his biggest applause when he put on a Baylor cap, thrust his fists in the air and proclaimed: "It's good to be back in the Lone Star, I'll tell you that!"

Morriss took over at Kentucky when Hal Mumme resigned in February 2001 amid internal and NCAA investigations. It was his first head coaching job.

"We wanted an experienced head coach, someone who had experience with turning things around," said Baylor President Robert Sloan Jr. "He is already unifying the Baylor family."

Baylor is the Big 12's only private institution and school officials refused to disclose contract terms. Morriss' base salary at Kentucky was $400,000, and Kentucky officials said Baylor outbid them.

The Bears haven't been competitive in the Big 12 since the league's inaugural season in 1996. Steele was fired Nov. 3 but finished the season.

Before him, Dave Roberts coached the Bears to consecutive 2-9 seasons in 1997-98. Chuck Reedy went 23-22 from '93-'96, including Baylor's last winning season, a 7-4 mark in 1995.

Drayton McLane Jr., chairman of the Houston Astros and a Baylor regent who served on the search committee to find Morriss, said the school wants to see improvement on the field. Steele's four teams never really looked better one year to the next.

"We want to see each year you're making progress," McLane said. "He made great progress in two years (at Kentucky)."

Morriss said he doesn't care about Baylor's recent history, just the future.

"The past is the past," he said. "There's nothing we can do about it."

Morriss said he would meet with Baylor players for the first time Wednesday afternoon. Quarterback Aaron Karas was at the news conference and liked what he heard.

"He's a tough guy, and that's what we need around here," Karas said.

Morriss played guard at TCU from 1969-72, earning All-Southwest Conference honors his senior season.

He then played 15 NFL seasons for the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots, appearing in two Super Bowls.

A key to winning will be recruiting Texas high school players. Morriss said he'll go after the same players as Texas, Oklahoma and Texas A&M.

"I got a hard head (and) I like butting heads. I did that in the NFL for 15 years," Morriss said. "If you want to land the big guys, you've got to go head-to-head with the big guys. We're going to outhustle and outwork them."

Morriss will bring most of his Kentucky assistants with him, several of whom also have ties to Texas.

"There's a lot of good players in the state of Texas," he said. "Surely we can find 20 or 25 who want to come to Baylor."



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