1972 - 78  Bears
(Authentic Reproduction)




In seeking a new coach to head the program for 1972, Grant Teaff was not the first choice of the Baylor board. New Mexico’s head coach Rudy Feldman had agreed to take the Baylor job but twenty minutes after the announcement, had a change of heart and returned to New Mexico. In 1968, before the hiring of Beall, Teaff had applied for the Baylor opening but instead took the head job at Angelo State College when viewing the split among Baylor partisans and noting that Bridgers still had a great deal of support. Teaff had been the captain of his Snyder, Texas High School team, the squad at San Angelo Junior College, and again at McMurray College in the Texas Conference. An All Conference linebacker and offensive tackle, Teaff had strong leadership skills and entered the coaching profession after his college graduation. From a high school head coaching position, he returned to McMurray as an assistant and then took over the head coaching position as one of the youngest college mentors in the country. Interestingly, the prediction among his peers in his high school yearbook was that Teaff “will be a head football coach, in the Southwest Conference” and specifically at the University Of Texas. He did quite well as the head football and track coach at McMurray and then took the plunge into a higher level when McMurray eliminated all athletic scholarships. As a Texas Tech assistant, he earned a reputation for always standing up for his players. His normally reserved demeanor, reflecting his position as a Baptist Deacon, would change if he believed one of the players he recruited or was at the position he coached was being treated unfairly. When another assistant, one who had been the boxing champion of the U.S. Navy treated one of the Tech players in what Teaff considered to be an inconsiderate manner, he called the coach out and was already on his feet and walking towards the door before the other’s invitation to “take it outside” was fully articulated. Having survived a crash, fire, and then the explosion of a charter airplane flight in 1963 in Shreveport, Teaff was perhaps quite a bit tougher than the typical church Deacon. Needless to mention, his players loved him and his attitude. With the promise of an upgrade that would bring Baylor’s lagging athletic facilities and physical plant up to the standards of other SWC schools, Teaff accepted the Baylor head coaching job on December 23, 1971. With little talent other than LB Ed Taylor, All SWC DB Tommy Stewart, and All American defensive end Roger Goree, Teaff tacked together a 5-6 season that earned him the SWC Coach Of The Year Award. Goree was recognized as the best defensive player in the conference, played eight years of professional football in the Canadian Football League, and then gave decades of service to Baylor as a coach and administrator, remaining one of the most popular on-campus figures. Despite the 1003 passing yards of soph QB Neal Jeffrey and the rushing of JC All American transfer Gary Lacy, the offense faded late in the season but for once, there was hope for better days in Waco. Like many new coaches, Teaff introduced a uniform change. The Baylor helmet returned to its traditional old gold color and was trimmed with a one-inch dark “Baylor green” center stripe that was flanked by one-quarter-inch white stripes. The new appearance was completed with an interlocking dark green BU logo, each letter outlined in white, that was placed on both sides of the helmet.   


With absolutely no depth on either side of the ball, Teaff was hoping that the excitement resulting from the improved ’72 season would carry over into a few victories in ‘73 but the result was a more realistic 2-9. The 42-14 opening day loss to Oklahoma took it out of the Bears both physically and emotionally. However, close observation indicated that the team continued to play hard throughout the season, led by All SWC WR Charles Dancer and JC transfer RB Steve Beaird who set a new school record with 176 rush yards against SMU. QB Neal Jeffrey again led the charge with total offense yardage of 1908 but the defense was too porous. LB Derrel Luce and DB/Rover Tommy Turnipseede were outstanding but needed more help.




The 1974 season, what came to be called “The Miracle On The Brazos”, had the Baylor alumni breaking out the letter sweaters that had been hidden or left in mothballs for decades. Proud and loud after winning the Southwest Conference Championship, they could look to the October 5th and November 9th games as turning points in this historic season. Trailing Florida State by 17-0 in Tallahassee on the former date, the Bears were forced to sit in their dressing room for an extended period at halftime as Seminole alumnus Burt Reynolds regaled the crowd about his latest movie, part of which was filmed at Florida State. Angered, Baylor roared back to win 21-17 and they realized that they could in fact, play well in adverse conditions. Trailing highly ranked Texas on November 9 while playing at home, the Bears again found themselves on the wrong side of a 24-7 halftime score but determinedly came back to win 34-24 in what famed football writer Dave Campbell called “the most memorable thirty minutes in Baylor football history.”  Other than the October 26th, 20-0 whitewash by Texas A&M, the offense was high-powered and there were no other conference losses in this historic 8-4 season. With the Southwest Conference title always the goal, Baylor had broken a half-century lockout and actually stood proudly in the Cotton Bowl representing the SWC against Penn State. Even the 41-20 loss did not diminish the accomplishment of National Coach Of The Year Grant Teaff. His little known staff included offensive coordinator Bill Yung who later became head coach at West Texas A&M and UTEP and Corky Nelson, who had coached Earl Campbell and Tyler H.S. to an undefeated and state championship season before joining Teaff’s crew. Nelson became the head coach at North Texas State. Former Baylor players Bill Hicks and long-time pro QB Cotton Davidson were also prominent tutors.


The list of All Conference performers was lengthy as high-level, consistent play was the order of the day. QB Neal Jeffrey made it with the Chargers for the ’75 season while Southwest Conference Player Of The Year Steve Beaird, became the Bears’ first 1000 yard rusher. As the winner of the SWC Sportsmanship Award perhaps it is no surprise that Jeffrey became an associate pastor of his church and is recognized as one of the nation’s leading Christian speakers, described as “a man’s man, and God’s man.” Center Aubrey Schulz gained All America honors leading Beaird and became a successful high school coach. LB Derrel Luce too was All American as well as All Conference and was with the Colts from 1975 through ’78, playing another two seasons with the Vikings and Lions before becoming an attorney. DB Tommy Turnipseede, DE Philip Kent who also became a church pastor, and NG Leslie Benson joined the conference honor roll as did freshman DB Ronald Burns. Most members of this historic squad did well following their graduation from Baylor and remain the most heralded Bears team in the modern era. A distinctive addition to the 1974 Baylor helmets was a sticker worn on the right rear portion of the shell commemorating the 60 year anniversary of the Southwest Conference.  




Not the household name that other Baylor stars such as Mike Singletary might be in the minds of rabid football fans, Steve Beaird does however hold a special place in Baylor football history. As the school’s first 1000 yard rusher, he was instrumental in “The Miracle On The Brazos” year of 1974. Described as running like “a Texas State Fair bumper car” the 5’7”, 195 pound back was called “Buffalo” by his teammates who recognized his incredible lower body strength. A Blinn (TX) Junior College transfer, Beaird’s two-time All Conference and JC All American performance propelled him to a spot in the Junior College Football Hall Of Fame but he languished on the bench at Baylor behind senior halfback Gary Lacy in 1973. Finally given an opportunity against SMU Beaird gained a Baylor record 176 yards. The Angleton High School star had always been able to utilize his 4.5/40 yard speed to advantage but recently developed weight room power and the willingness of 1974’s new offensive coordinator Bill Yung to allow what the newspapers called “the stumpy stampeder” to shoulder the rushing load, resulted in a Southwest Conference leading 1104 yards, and a new school record of sixteen touchdowns. He was the sparkplug and rallying point for the squad, an inspiration due to his short stature. After battling Oklahoma, legendary Sooner coach Barry Switzer credited Beaird for his rushing success by humorously noting that his team “had not practiced tackling midgets the week before.” Beaird was named the 1974 SWC Offensive Player Of The Year and an Honorable Mention All American. Drafted by the NFL Cardinals, he instead signed with the CFL Winnipeg Blue Bombers and played in the CFL All Star game in 1976. Beaird later became successful in the foundation drilling business.h the senior-led championship squad making history in 1974, everyone expected graduation losses to lead to a fall off in ’75 and the Bears did indeed fall off to a 3-6-2 record. The ties however were against Auburn and Michigan and there was enough talent to look forward to the future. Once again Baylor’s offense featured a 1000 rusher as TB Cleveland Franklin, Steve Beaird’s back-up in ’74, was the bulwark in gaining a new school record 1112 yards. QB Mark Jackson put together 1406 yards in total offense so it was obvious that the line, featuring center Gary Gregory and All American tackle Mike Hughes was effective. The inconsistent defense was led by DT Leslie Benson who was with Edmonton in the CFL the following season, and All Conference choice Ron Burns who was terrific as the rover. The 7-3-1 mark of 1976 was excellent by recent Baylor standards, the best record, other than the ’74 championship year, since Bridgers’ 1963 season. At season’s end, some publications noted the Bears as “being the best team in the nation that didn’t go to a bowl game.” The improved defense was led by NG Gary Don Johnson who received some Second Team All American votes and linebacker Tim Black who spent 1977 with the Cardinals.  DB Mike Nelms who passed through Baylor as well as Tarrant County (TX) JC and Sam Houston State had a five year career with the Redskins and another three in the Canadian Football League. RB Cleveland Franklin gave way as “the main man” to 5’8” Gary Blair who scooted for 857 yards. Franklin however hung in for a good NFL career that spanned 1977 through ’82 with the Eagles and Colts. QB Mark Jackson played well and was active in the CFL before going into the financial services field. 220 pound wingback Greg Hawthorne was huge for a man who could run 40 yards in 4.5 seconds and did a lot of damage behind guard Jon Kramer. Losing fine NG Gary Don Johnson to a knee injury in the opener of ‘77 set the scene for a 5-6 season. Young LB Mike Singletary was perhaps the most reliable defender for the remainder of the year. Wingback Hawthorne moved his 220 pounds to FB with fine results and 670 rushing yards. 250 pound TE Ronnie Lee was an outstanding blocker as was four year starter at guard, Jon Kramer.

Coach Teaff did not yet have his Bears stabilized as the defense was usually a problem in 1978 which concluded with a 3-8 mark. It may be hard to imagine any defense posing a problem for their own coach when the sophomore middle linebacker makes an unbelievable 232 tackles, thirty-four in one game alone, as Mike Singletary did but at times, he was the only defender making tackles. Injuries added to the problem and produced openings for players like tailback Walter Abercrombie who was pressed into service for the final six games of the season and gained a whopping 660 yards, a record 207 in his very first appearance which was against highly ranked A&M. He was honored as the SWC Freshman Of the Year. Frank Pollard added 509 and big Greg Hawthorne played RB and tight end as the Steelers number one draft pick and stayed with them from ’79 through 1983, was with the Patriots from ’84 to 1986, and spent one last season with the Colts in 1987 before retiring. Ronnie Lee was a devastating tight end at 250 pounds and played that position early in his fourteen year career with the Miami Dolphins before moving his weight up to 265 pounds and moving to the interior of the offensive line.  Punter Luke Prestridge had a six season career in the NFL with the Broncos and Patriots.

If interested in any of these Baylor helmets please click on the photos below.