Over the last three or four seasons, Baylor head coach Art Briles has made the Bears’ football program relevant again. Former running back Walter Abercrombie played the last time Baylor was a formidable football opponent, over three decades ago.
Abercrombie is one of nine former athletes from the old Southwest Conference who were elected recently to that conference’s Hall of Fame. In 1996, four schools from the former Southwest Conference combined with the Big Eight Conference to form the new Big 12 Conference.
The 54-year-old Abercrombie was a star running back at Baylor from 1978-1981 and still holds the school record for rushing yards (3,665), rushing attempts (732) and games with 100 or more yards running the football (19). He was named SWC Freshman of the Year his first season at Baylor and was a two-time consensus All-Conference selection.
Abercrombie played his high school football right there in Baylor’s backyard in Waco, Texas. He played on two bowl teams and was a member of the 1980 Southwest Conference championship team.
The former Baylor running back was the 12 player taken overall in the first round of the 1982 NFL draft, selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Abercrombie played eight of his nine NFL seasons with the Steelers.
“I know the Southwest Conference no longer exists,” Abercrombie saidin a press release posted on the Baylor athletic website. “But at the same time, this is a huge honor because of the great players that participated in the Southwest Conference. You just go to the history of the Southwest Conference, and there have been some outstanding players that have (come) through there. And to be included among some of the best it’s a real thrill.”
Abercrombie is the third Baylor athlete to be inducted since the Southwest Conference Hall of Honor was reinitiated and renamed the SWC Hall of Fame a year ago. He was inducted into the Baylor Hall of Fame in 1992.
The other former SWC student athletes to be honored in the 2014 class are Nolan Richardson of Arkansas, Otis Birdsong of Houston, Harold Solomon of Rice, George McMillion of SMU, Jill Terkel of Texas, Mark Johnson of Texas A&M, James Cash from TCU and Andre Tillman of Texas Tech.
Richardson was a longtime basketball coach at Arkansas, and Birdsong and Cash played basketball at Houston and TCU, respectively. Solomon coached Tennis at Rice, McMillion was a former swimming coach at SMU, and Terkel was a championship swimmer at Texas. Johnson was a successful baseball coach at Texas A&M, and Tillman played football at Texas Tech.
All nine honorees will be formally inducted in October.