Op-Ed by Baylor President Ken Starr Regarding the Big 12

June 7, 2010
News Photo 4895Baylor University President Ken Starr

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A guest column penned by Baylor University President Ken Starr regarding Baylor and the future of the Big 12 is running in several Texas newspapers, including the Waco Tribune-Herald and The Dallas Morning News. Below is the text of Judge Starr's op-ed.

On my first day as President of Baylor University I wrote to members of the Baylor family expressing my great enthusiasm to be joining our esteemed university, my deep respect for its illustrious tradition, my abiding commitment to our important mission and my sincere vow to help advance the goals of the University in the months and years ahead.

Only a few short hours later, I would be marshalling all that enthusiasm and working to counter a significant and historic threat to the University. Our opposition has come in the form of a possible realignment of the Big 12 conference and, with it, the separation of Baylor from its fellow Texas universities in the Big 12.

Not surprisingly, our level of activity in recent days has been very high. Ian McCaw, our athletics director, and I, along with members of my executive staff and university regents, have been working hard to represent and protect Baylor's best interests as well as those of Central Texas. I can tell you that at this time we are guardedly optimistic about the way the process is unfolding.

Let me make our perspective clear: Baylor emphatically supports the Big 12. We are proud of our role in the conference and we want to see it prosper. In particular, we appreciate our fellow Texas institutions in the Big 12 and the special rivalries that entertain and energize our alumni. We remain hopeful that the Big 12 will remain intact and continue to be one of the nation's foremost athletic conferences.

A strong athletic presence is not just good for Baylor. It's good for Texas and it's also good for Waco.

Exposure through television and other media helps promote our university, shining a light on both our athletic and academic quality, and further strengthening our national reputation. For Texas a strong quartet of athletic programs such as the University of Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Baylor produces income and jobs and helps with student recruitment, both by keeping students in our state and by bringing others into our rolls. And, of course, there's the great pride that we feel as Texans when our programs dominate the athletic landscape as they did during the recent basketball season.

In Waco, a strong athletic program at Baylor competing in a powerhouse conference brings positive recognition to central Texas, creates and supports employment opportunities, and infuses money into the economy as we host visiting alumni and other guests who stay in area hotels and eat at restaurants nearby. A study completed by Baylor economics professor, Dr. Thomas M. Kelly, concluded that Baylor Athletics had a $155.6 million impact on the greater Waco economy during the 2008 calendar year. A similar study done more recently would document an even greater financial impact. If Baylor remains in the Big 12, or otherwise aligned with its fellow Texas institutions in the Big 12, the future economic impact on our community will be significant. On the other hand, any change that disrupts our current athletic affiliations in Texas would most certainly have negative financial consequences, to Baylor and to Central Texas.

The situation is extremely fluid right now. It is our understanding that the Pac-10 Conference may be preparing to invite six Big 12 members to join a proposed 16-team megaconference, Recent news reports have indicated that Baylor's stock is rising and that it could be included among the teams invited to form a new conference. What we do know is this: the Lone Star state schools of the Big 12 should stick together. That's what's in the best interests of Baylor, of Texas and of our own community, here in Waco.

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