Legislative hearing on conference realignment
WACO, Texas (August 2, 2021) – The following update was sent to the Baylor University Family today from Baylor President Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D.
August 2, 2021
Dear Baylor Family,
The beginning of August marks the return of many of our student-athletes in preparation for their upcoming fall seasons and the fall semester. Unfortunately, the winds of conference realignment have taken the spotlight away from these incredible Baylor student-athletes, but I could not be more excited to see our football, soccer and volleyball teams fling their green and gold in just a few short weeks.
Earlier today, Vice President and Director of Athletics Mack B. Rhoades IV and I traveled to Austin to testify in front of a Select Senate Committee looking into the Future of College Sports in Texas, following the pledged departure of the University of Texas from the Big 12 Conference in 2025. We were joined by Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby, our colleagues from Texas Tech and TCU, and UT President Jay Hartzell.
My message to the Committee was three-fold:
- It is imperative that Texas maintain its nation-leading five Power 5 schools, not only for athletics purposes, but for the prestige, academic partnerships and financial benefits such status brings to our universities;
- Losing Power 5 status would have devastating financial implications for Waco, Lubbock and Fort Worth – in excess of $569.1 million in annual gross product and 7,615 jobs, according to a report from the Perryman Group – and a state institution should not be able to inflict such harm on Texas taxpayers and communities; and
- As institutions of higher education, we uphold a sacred trust with our constituents, and we must be held to a higher standard. We must compete with integrity, respect for our colleagues, and with openness and transparency.
Mr. Rhoades reinforced that any economic upside to UT’s move to the SEC will be felt outside of the state of Texas in neighboring places such as Fayetteville, Arkansas; Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and distant ones such as Columbia, South Carolina. The Big 12 calls Texas home, with the conference office based in Irving, and hosts the Big 12 Football Championship annually in Arlington at AT&T Stadium and has the DFW Metroplex in regular rotation to host the NCAA Final Four – both huge economic drivers and important points of pride for our state.
The bottom line is that a strong Big 12 Conference is good for the state of Texas. And I know our colleagues at Texas Tech and TCU feel the same way. With the commitment of Texas and the University of Oklahoma to stay in the Big 12 until 2025, that will allow the eight remaining conference members time to work strategically and thoughtfully as we chart our shared future. As such, we anticipate the “conference carousel” to slow in the days and weeks ahead.
Mr. Rhoades and I appreciated the opportunity provided by Governor Abbott last Tuesday to discuss with him the current athletic conference landscape and his willingness to assist the Big 12 and its Texas-based members as we move forward. We also send our sincerest thanks to the “Baylor delegation” – members of the Texas Legislature and other state officials who have ties to our University and have tirelessly advocated on our behalf over the past few weeks.
We understand that change and uncertainty are upon everyone involved with intercollegiate athletics. You can be assured Baylor and her leadership are proactively and aggressively engaged in best positioning the University for the future, both athletically and academically. We have a great story to tell.
While media speculation and rumors continue to run rampant – and can certainly be entertaining – we pledge to keep you, as the Baylor Family, informed as specific developments warrant. Thank you for your prayers and ongoing support of our great University.
Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D.
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 19,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 90 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.