It's a good thing Chip and Joanna Gaines live in Waco, Texas, because both the city and Baylor University are fixer-uppers, desperately in need of change. Waco ranks number 96 in our Top 100 College Football Towns Countdown.
To celebrate 100 days until the start of the college football season, HERO Sports is counting down the Top 100 FBS College Football Towns in America. Each day, starting May 17 and ending Aug. 24, a new city will be revealed. We will analyze the city, the program, the good and bad of the city as well as the bottom line. If you got a problem, @me on Twitter.
96. Waco, Texas – Baylor
[credit]Baylor football is trying to rebuild after one of the worst scandals in college football history. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)[/credit]
After struggling through 14 years without a winning season, 2010 marked a turnaround for Mike Singletary's alma mater. Robert Griffin, III would bring the Bears back from the basement of the Big 12 to a national title contender by his senior year–or Heisman Trophy-winning year.
The momentum would continue under former head coach Art Briles. From 2013-15, the Bears lost just 7 games, going 32-7 during that stretch. It seemed as though Baylor had found its footing in the collegiate football landscape.
Then it all exploded into dust. In what one Texas House representative called "[possibly] the largest scandal ever in U.S. collegiate athletics," Briles, athletic director Ian McCaw and school president Ken Starr were all removed. On 60 Minutes, former Title IX coordinator Patty Crawford, who oversaw all sex assault investigations from 2014 to 2016, said "hundreds" of women came forward with stories of rape, stalking, harassment or assault. Reportedly, 31 football players committed at least 52 rapes.
When awful circumstances like this arise, football becomes secondary. The Bears finished 1-11 last season, their worst season in almost 50 years.
Two hours to the north of Austin, 90 minutes south of Dallas, Waco is the middle child of central Texas. Unfortunately the city's image is tied to another horrific event. In 1993, 74 people died in the blaze after an FBI standoff with a cult named The Branch Davidians went south.
This event became known as the Waco siege. Waco has tried to rid itself of that branding ever since. Waco is home to Dr. Pepper and the Waco Mammoth National Monument, a 100-plus-acre stretch of wooded parkland along the Bosque River.
Chip and Joanna Gaines are cuter than a baby's first giggle. The two have started an empire and stayed local, increasing the city's popularity almost singlehandedly.
Prior to 2015, when the second season of Fixer Upper aired, Waco hosted few more than 25,000 visitors in any given month. Now, more than 100,000 come and pay respects to the king and queen of HGTV. Downtown is flourishing and the city is alive with a renewed sense of optimism.
Besides the "Waco Seige" and the sexual assaults at Baylor, there was something much more innocent but shocking nonetheless happening at Baylor. Up until 1996, dancing was not allowed on the campus at Baylor. While it's unclear on whether or not Kevin Bacon was involved in the end of prohibition, I could only assume that the forbiddance of dance was somewhat related to poor tourist numbers and poor play on the football field.
Baylor Football's recent scandal is a black mark on a city that is trying to establish itself as a tourist destination. The football is bad and the environment surrounding is toxic. If it weren't for Joanna and Chip, why would anyone show up?