Flinging Our Green and Gold Afar
What a wonderful time to be a Baylor Bear! As we cheer on our national championship-winning women’s and men’s basketball programs, celebrate another bowl game for the football team and mark another NCAA Tournament appearance for the volleyball team, we can also draw inspiration from considering the important role that intercollegiate athletics plays in building up the spirit of the Baylor Family and positioning Baylor University for continued growth.
There is no getting around the fact that college sports has become big business. It is a business, moreover, in which destabilizing social, political and legal forces often are at play. However, as a founding member of the Big 12 Conference, Baylor is committed to competing at the highest levels of intercollegiate athletics with unwavering integrity and maintaining our position as one of the most successful athletics departments in the country through proactive, confident strategic planning.
Today we find ourselves at the beginning of an exciting new era for the Big 12. As chair-elect of the Big 12 Board of Directors, I am privileged to have a role in shaping the conference’s future alongside Brett Yormark, who began his tenure as Big 12 Commissioner in August. Brett has already begun enhancing the strength of the conference in terms of the competitiveness of both our member institutions and our national brand. He is a dynamic and innovative leader with fresh ideas who has worked at the intersection of sports and entertainment, contributing to global brands in NASCAR and the NBA as well as top music performers.
During the past six months, we have solidified the Big 12 as one of the top Power 5 conferences. With a new television contract that provides for Big 12 football and basketball games to be broadcast on both ESPN and FOX — an arrangement no other major conference enjoys — we are creating more energy and bringing more attention to the Big 12 than ever before. Such bold steps reflect our commitment to charting our own path forward rather than allowing other forces to do so for us.
An increasing influence
As we seek to further nationalize the Big 12 and strengthen the performance of our own 19 intercollegiate athletics teams, Baylor also has remained strongly committed to protecting and advancing the well-being of our more than 500 student-athletes.
The student half of the term “student- athlete” is the one thing differentiating intercollegiate athletics from professional sports. Our ongoing dedication to educating and preparing these students in all aspects of their lives is reflected by a broad array of programs in academic achievement, spiritual growth and social responsibility as well as athletic success.
Another component of this commitment takes the form of making strategic additions to the facilities providing comprehensive support to our student-athletes, such as the Paul and Alejandra Foster Pavilion and the Fudge Football Development Center that are currently under construction, as well as the reconfiguration of the Simpson Athletic Center to the benefit of more student-athletes.
As a former college basketball player and the parent of a student-athlete, I am very familiar with the concerns, needs and hopes of our student-athletes both in the classroom and on the courts and fields of competition. That is why, as an extension of my leadership on the Baylor campus, I have invested in helping to shape the landscape of intercollegiate athletics on a national level. Through my service on the NCAA Constitution Committee and Division 1 Transformation Committee, and as chair of the newly reconstituted NCAA Board of Governors, I have been able to protect Baylor’s interests and those of our student-athletes by having a seat at the table where major decisions and strategic plans are being made.
As a faith-based institution, Baylor will continue to serve as a beacon of light in the world of intercollegiate athletics, showing that excellence is possible without compromising one’s integrity and bringing about positive change in our communities.
A light to the world
A strong Big 12 is good for both the city of Waco, when teams come to our hometown for conference play, and the state of Texas, which benefits economically and reputationally from maximizing the number of schools it has playing in Power 5 conferences.
Likewise, a strong intercollegiate athletics program is good for Baylor. Athletics is indelibly woven into the fabric of the overall Baylor experience, with many of our most-treasured traditions — such as Homecoming, the Baylor Line and the Immortal Ten — being rooted in a history of intercollegiate competition that dates back to 1899. In addition, prospective students often tell us the reason they decided to come to Baylor is our unique combination of a Christian environment, academic excellence, a mid-sized campus and big-time athletics.
Baylor stands as one of only four faith-based universities — and the lone Baptist- affiliated school — among the 65 institutions of higher learning that comprise the Power 5 conferences of the NCAA’s Division I Football Bowl Subdivision. Because of this, Baylor student-athletes, coaches and administrators can be a light of Christian excellence to opponents and their respective communities and fan bases. As such, Baylor’s athletics program is properly seen as a dynamic component of our overall Christian witness.
Thank you for your passion for Baylor and your support of the men and women who proudly wear the Green and Gold in competition as representatives of our University. Together, we will brighten the surrounding world. As we read in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light shine before others so that they may see your good works, and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D.
President, Baylor University