About 3,000 watch game at Ferrell Center

Updated: April 6, 2005, 2:39 AM ET
Associated Press

WACO, Texas -- Before 1995, dancing was forbidden on the campus of the world's largest Baptist university, founded 160 years ago.

Students seemed to be making up for lost time Tuesday night after the Baylor women's basketball team won its first NCAA national title, soundly defeating Michigan State 84-62 in Indianapolis.

As music blared into the damp night, hundreds of students danced in the street and on the student center lawn, while others cheered and popped firecrackers. Some drove by hanging out their windows and honking their horns.

"It's amazing. We're the champions!" shrieked Loris Brooks, 22, a senior sociology major from Houston.

Students were careful, however, not to shake their hips inside the student union, the only place at Baylor where dancing is still banned -- in accordance with the wishes of the building's donor.

Several fans sipped soft drinks, as alcohol is strictly prohibited on campus. Many said they didn't expect the celebration to get out of hand.

"There won't be any unseemly behavior. You'll just see a lot of happy students," said Mark Long, who teaches Middle Eastern studies at Baylor.

Earlier, about 3,000 fans gathered in Baylor's Ferrell Center, the Lady Bears' home court, watching a 15-by-20-foot screen airing the game.

"Not to be here tonight was unimaginable," said Lana Waden, 52, who works in Baylor's admissions office. "It's incredible. You get the feeling we're at the game, and they can feel our cheering and encouragement."

With two minutes left in the game, the celebratory frenzy began and didn't stop as Baylor sealed the victory.

"This is unbelievable. It's indescribable," said Bill Chaves, one of Baylor's associate athletic directors.

This year the Lady Bears (32-3) earned their first Big 12 regular-season and tournament titles -- just five years after coach Kim Mulkey-Robertson took over a program that had finished a seven-win season and had never been to the NCAA Tournament.

Many at the Ferrell Center on Tuesday wore gold and green T-shirts that read "Got Mulk?" -- referring to the coach.

"I want to see them make history tonight," said Andrew Bowles, 12, of nearby Robinson, who wore a bright yellow fright wig.

A victory celebration was planned after the team returned Wednesday afternoon at Baylor, which has about 14,000 students.

"I think this is definitely encouraging to the school, especially coming back from the tragedy and turmoil," said Patty Woo, 22, a graduate student from San Antonio.

Two years ago, Baylor basketball player Patrick Dennehy was shot to death, and a teammate was charged. The murder trial of former player Carlton Dotson is set for June.

After Dennehy's death, revelations surfaced about serious NCAA violations, including improper tuition payments to some players. Coach Dave Bliss and athletic director Tom Stanton resigned.

The school also levied stiff sanctions on itself. The men's team was last in the Big 12 this season.

"That was a surreal chapter, but that book is closed," Chaves said after the Lady Bears' victory. "I think at this stage of the game, you're seeing what the true Baylor is all about. Today's pretty bright."

Other bright spots are the school's baseball, softball and women's tennis teams, all nationally ranked this spring.

The men's tennis team won the school's first NCAA championship last spring. Last summer, Baylor track stars Jeremy Wariner and Darold Williams won gold medals at the Olympics.


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press