Republished with permission from the Waco Tribune-Herald.
The constant assault on the Big 12 is beyond my comprehension. I am a Texas Tech grad, both of my children graduated from Rice University and my oldest grandson is a freshman at Texas A&M. Nevertheless, as a native Wacoan I support my hometown team, Baylor University. Texas football is special and we cherish the opportunity to see all our teams play both at home and away.
The Big 12 Conference provides that opportunity for Central Texans.
The fact of the matter is it would be both a financial and time-consuming burden to travel to the east or west coast to see away games. The hardship on student-athletes -- not just football players but basketball and those who participate in other sports -- would be significant. Football may be king, but college athletics is about so much more. Think about basketball attendance by fans and students navigating coast to coast in lieu of a few hours' drive. The same applies for baseball, softball and all the other exciting sporting events we now enjoy attending.
The longstanding rivalries and traditions of Texas football are generations in the making and should remain intact. Our friends in Aggieland may feel beyond the point of return, but they should not destroy the Big 12 if they indeed exit. Before I am challenged, the situation is not the same as last summer when two northern area teams left the conference. Texas A&M needs to be patient as Baylor and the other universities of the conference work to protect their legal standing and sizable investment in the league.
Expansion of the Big 12 should be a high priority, but that cannot happen if members of the conference do not honor their contractual obligations to Fox Sports and to each other. As I am writing this, there are six teams from the Big 12 in the top 25 ranking. This is the same number as the mighty SEC. The Big 12 has an automatic berth in the Bowl Championship Series. So why would anyone want greener football fields?
Another important consideration for all residents of Central Texas is the economic repercussions that could occur if the Big 12 Conference implodes. We witnessed last Friday night in Waco not only an outstanding game but thousands of visitors, most of whom live and go to school conveniently just 90 miles away. These visitors pumped important dollars into our local economy.
A recent study by nationally known economist Ray Perryman of the Perryman Group states Texas is likely to experience sizable economic losses if Texas A&M leaves the Big 12, particularly if subsequent realignment leads to dissolution of the conference. Perryman estimates these effects range from $217.2 million to $589.5 million in output (gross product) each year and between 3,050 and 8,329 jobs.
Perryman goes on to say that the presence of four schools in a premier conference is important to Texas' ability to capitalize on the potential economic stimulus of college athletics.
If Texas A&M feels it is to their advantage to leave the state for another conference, so be it. But I for one support the efforts of the leaders of Baylor to protect the best interests of the university and, by so doing, protect the interests of Waco and Central Texas.
A graduate of Texas Tech University, longtime civic leader Jim Bush started Bush Building Corporation in 1974, becoming the third generation since 1910 to carry on the family tradition of "building" Waco. He is the mayor of Waco.