Message to Baylor Nation

November 11, 2011
Dear Baylor Nation,

What a wonderful Homecoming we experienced last weekend, as thousands of Baylor alumni once again returned to their beloved alma mater - in the immortal words of Samuel Palmer Brooks - to "renew former associations and friendships, and catch the Baylor spirit again." We could not have asked for a more glorious weekend on Baylor's beautiful campus as members of the Baylor family moved from the celebration of one tradition to the next.

Anchored by a powerful Wednesday night worship service, weekend events included a spirited pep rally and bonfire, the spectacular Broadway-style student performances at Pigskin Review, the presentation of the Baylor Meritorious Achievement Awards to 12 extraordinary men and women who love and support Baylor, the inspiring songs of faith and praise at Singspiration, the spectacle of the nation's oldest and largest collegiate homecoming parade, and of course, the Bears' thrilling win over the Missouri Tigers. Heading into this weekend's game at Kansas, head coach Art Briles, Heisman Trophy candidate Robert Griffin III and his immensely talented teammates are on the cusp of becoming bowl eligible for the second consecutive year. Baylor Nation, continue to rise up in support of our Bears whose performance has warranted national attention throughout the season.

Also during Homecoming, our Board of Regents considered a number of exciting possibilities as the University continues to develop the strategic plan that will shape our future. As a result of action taken by the board, we now look forward to significant construction on the Baylor campus over the course of the next two years. Included are a new residence community, significant renovation of one of our academic facilities and further development of the Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative (BRIC). If you didn't have a chance to read the details associated with these projects, you can read them in the press release that was issued following the regents meeting.

Because of the strong interest expressed during the strategic planning process, our athletic department last week shared a conceptual drawing of a possible future home for Baylor Bear football: an on-campus, riverfront football stadium. We can all envision the possibilities a new stadium would provide our university and our athletic program, but we are a long way from breaking ground on such a facility. Realizing this vision will require generous support from Baylor Nation, our next steps in this process will be to conduct a feasibility study to provide information that will inform the stadium's possible development. Part of that effort will include a survey which is now under way. We invite you to stay up-to-date on our progress by visiting the Baylor Nation websites.

We also want to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to our alumni and friends for the manner in which you enthusiastically supported the University during the recent turmoil associated with possible changes to the Big 12 Conference. From the beginning, Baylor has been clear and consistent in its message. We have emphatically supported the Big 12 and said that we want to see it prosper well into the future. We are so pleased - as we know you are, too - that this situation has come to a successful conclusion. The Big 12 Conference is strong, stable and here to stay. Your actions, in public expressions of support for Baylor, as well as the words of encouragement which you provided in the form of phone calls, letters and e-mails, inspired us as we labored daily to preserve and protect Baylor's best interests.

We also extend our deepest appreciation to Baylor's Faculty Senate, Staff Council and Student Government for being outspoken in their support and working actively to ensure Baylor's continued position within a strong Big 12 Conference.

During our most challenging days, we retained our convictions and our optimism as we fought to secure the future of the conference, which now provides equal revenue sharing to the benefit of all Big 12 institutions. We spoke out forcefully on behalf of cherished Texas football traditions. While Texas A&M has decided that its interests may be better served elsewhere, we are delighted to be welcoming TCU - with whom Baylor shares a historic 107-year-old football tradition - to the outstanding universities that represent the Big 12 Conference. With the addition of TCU, we retain meaningful football rivalries within our state while recognizing the needs of our student-athletes, their families, and our fans.

As we all have witnessed over the past few months, the college athletics landscape is shifting dramatically and we now confront a new reality in terms of conference alignment. We will continue ongoing conversations with the NCAA and with university leaders elsewhere to ensure the preservation of great traditions and the best experiences for our student-athletes. But we must also adapt to changes that are outside of our control as we seek to do what is best for Baylor. Part of that requires that we increase the footprint of the Big 12 Conference to accommodate those who wish to join us. And so, last month, the Big 12 presidents and chancellors extended an invitation to West Virginia University to join the Big 12. Our invitation was immediately and enthusiastically accepted by WVU President Dr. James P. Clements. West Virginia is a quality academic institution with a strong and proud athletic tradition. I am pleased to welcome the Mountaineers to the Big 12. Baylor already has a recent history of playing West Virginia in women's basketball and in volleyball, and our men's basketball team will play the Mountaineers in December during a tournament in Las Vegas.

So we give thanks that the Big 12 has been preserved and strengthened for the future. Conference stability is good for our student-athletes and their families, it's good for our fans, and it's good for Baylor and our fellow Big 12 institutions. I am immensely proud of the work done by our university administration, including Director of Athletics Ian McCaw, and grateful to our Board of Regents for their tireless efforts to safeguard the Big 12 and ensure Baylor's future as a powerful presence in college athletics, consistently fielding championship-caliber teams.

Let us close by once again extending thanks to our devoted Baylor Nation for your active and faithful support as we worked together to successfully resolve the Big 12 situation. During this seminal moment in Baylor's athletic history, you stood with us in the face of tremendous challenges and, by God's grace, we have prevailed.

We wish each of you a Happy Thanksgiving season filled with the bounty of the goodness of our Lord. Indeed, he has been good to us and he has been good to Baylor University.

Thank you Baylor Nation!

Ken Starr
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