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Perfect Fit
November 25, 2008
By Wendell Barnhouse
Big 12 Correspondent

In his current job, Grant Teaff is considered the "coaches' coach." As executive director of the American Football Coaches Association for the past 15 years, Teaff is in charge of an organization with over 10,000 members.

Teaff (pronounced: Taff) has a history of coaching. In his 21 seasons as Baylor's coach, Teaff compiled a 128-105-6 record. Those two-plus decades marked the zenith for a private school program that has been a perpetual underdog.

The five coaches who have followed him at Baylor have averaged less than four victories a season. The six coaches who preceded Teaff averaged less than five victories a season. Teaff averaged less than five victories a season but the Bears won two Southwest Conference championships and played in eight bowl games.

That more than qualifies Teaff as Baylor's Big 12 Conference legend. He will be honored along with the other 11 Legends the weekend of the Dr. Pepper Football Championship game in Kansas City.

"In my transition to the AFCA job I haven't noticed any difference other than I don't have to listen to an 18-year-old recruit tell me he's going to another school because he likes the color of their jerseys," said Teaff, who served as Baylor's athletic director for one year and also did college football television analysis after retiring from coaching. "I felt like I could make a difference."

Teaff, during his time at Baylor, had been heavily involved in national issues ranging from gender equity to a college playoff to the Bowl Championship Series. He has helped provide the AFCA with a unified voice when it comes to NCAA legislation.

Teaff was surprised when he got the phone call telling him he had been selected as Baylor's Big 12 Legend.

"I sort of jokingly said they had made a mistake, that I had never coached in the Big 12," he said. "They told me if it hadn't been for me, Baylor never would have made it into the Big 12."

Texas Monthly magazine had a cover picture in the early '70s that showed a football team being buried. The implication was that the uniform represented a Baylor program that had drawn its last competitive breath.

"The talk at that time was that Baylor was not long for the Southwest Conference," said Dave Campbell, the long-time sports editor at the Waco Tribune-Herald and the founder of Texas Football magazine. "Few people thought Baylor could compete in the SWC. That conference was dominated by Texas and Arkansas."

Teaff took over a team that had gone 3-28 the previous three seasons. The thought of winning a conference championship - the school's last title had come in 1924 - was farfetched.

"We had much better facilities at Angelo State," Teaff said. "They didn't have an athletic budget. They didn't have a weight room. They had one Universal gym (weight system). One. There was no grass on the football field. They were paying their assistants $8,500 each and the head coach's salary was $25,000."

So when the Bears won the 1974 SWC title the season became known as the "Miracle On The Brazos."

"It sounds corny but in all honesty my brain didn't and doesn't work in terms of failure," Teaff said. "I came up through small schools in West Texas. I believed it wasn't about the facilities. It was all about the individual, their commitment, belief and willingness to work.

"I always used to say, 'It is what it is.' We will win."

Teaff's positive thinking was evident before he fulfilled a life-long dream and became an SWC head coach.

As a first-year assistant coach at Texas Tech in 1967, Teaff was surprised when the Red Raiders staff said the team couldn't beat Texas. Hearing his young assistant speak confidently, coach J.T. King sent Teaff to scout Texas. Teaff returned and then told a Red Raider Club meeting that Texas Tech could beat Texas.

"The place went crazy," Teaff said. "J.T. asked me why I said that. I told him I thought we could win. He said, 'Better if we tell 'em that after we win.'"

Teaff was right. Texas Tech won at Texas, 19-13, in 1967, ending an eight-game losing streak to the Longhorns.

"Grant was a great motivator, a very good recruiter, he put together a really good staff with contacts throughout the state of Texas," Campbell said. "There are a lot of great people who have come through Baylor, but he's the guy when you're talking about a legend."

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