Baylor University

Crossroads: Big 12 Exploring Options to Replace Texas A&M

Sept. 2, 2011

Reproduced with permission from today's edition of Jerry Hill's Baylor Bear Insider Report.

By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Insider

So now that Texas A&M has made it official, notifying the Big 12 Conference on Wednesday that it will leave the league and apply for membership in another conference starting with the 2012-13 school year, what's next for Baylor University and the Big 12?

While Baylor President Ken Starr and Director of Athletics Ian McCaw both expressed disappointment in Texas A&M leaving the conference, they are also excited about the future of the league and possible expansion opportunities.

"We begin this next chapter focused on what is certain to be a bright future," Starr said in his prepared statement. "We know that the Big 12 is an exciting and attractive conference for many reasons, including the quality of our academic programs, the strength of our athletic teams, the support of our loyal fans and the depth of our vibrant traditions. The Big 12 Conference remains strong and united."

One of the traditions that's apparently coming to a close, though, is the historic "Brazos River Rivalry" between the Bears and Aggies. With the campuses separated by just 90 miles, Baylor and A&M have met on football field 107 times since 1899 and have been linked together in the same conference since becoming charter members of the old Southwest Conference in 1914.

"Baylor University and Texas A&M have enjoyed a spirited football rivalry since 1899," Starr said. "We have made clear that we consider such rivalries worthy of protection, and so we are disappointed that the Aggies have decided to leave the Big 12. We continue to have immense respect for (Texas A&M President R. Bowen Loftin) and wish A&M well, knowing the remaining Big 12 institutions are united in a vision for an athletic conference that will remain one of the strongest and most competitive in the nation."

With Baylor football's non-conference schedules filled up at least through 2019, McCaw said, "We're disappointed that a 108-year football rivalry is going to be ending at least for the foreseeable future."

"We won't be playing (A&M) in football in the short-term after this year's game," McCaw said. "And then as far as the other sports, we'll look at that on a case-by-case basis and discuss that with our coaches."

Although all roads have pointed to this since earlier this summer, when Loftin made it clear that A&M was looking to get out, McCaw said he continued to hold out hope until Wednesday's announcement.

"As I've looked at this from every angle, I've continued to struggle to come up with a rationale of why you leave the Big 12 at this point," he said. "We have a great conference, and certainly A&M's athletic programs have strived in the Big 12 over the last several years. So I continued to hope that there would be some reasoning that would lead them to decide to stay in the Big 12. Unfortunately, that doesn't appear to be the case."

With Nebraska and Colorado leaving for the Big Ten and Pac-12, respectively, at the end of the 2010-11 school year, the 16-year-old Big 12 Conference would be trimmed to nine by the end of this academic year.

But Big 12 Board of Directors Chairman and University of Missouri President Brady Deaton will chair a committee that will explore expansion options that could add between one and three schools by next year.

"The chancellors and presidents of the Big 12 are committed to keeping our conference competitively and academically strong," Deaton said Wednesday in a prepared statement. "We have a process in place that enables us to move aggressively regarding the possible expansion of the conference and to assure our members and student-athletes that we will take advantage of the most productive opportunities in the best interests of all."

Among the list of potential targets that have floated through the rumor mills the past few days are former Southwest Conference members Arkansas, Houston, SMU and TCU, along with Notre Dame, BYU, Air Force, Louisville and Pittsburgh.

"We'll have an opportunity to provide feedback to (President Deaton) and the leadership of the conference as we explore our options moving forward," McCaw said. "I think we're well positioned to expand. I regret we're in the circumstances that we're in, but I think we're well positioned to add some quality institutions, whether it's one or maybe three, in the near future."

Asked if he would like to see the Big 12 expand into any particular areas, McCaw said:

"We always look for quality athletic programs, strong academic institutions. And I think there's a number that will have some interest in the Big 12 and the Big 12 will certainly be interested in."

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