Baylor hangs on as political wheels turn

Baylor understands its fight: Save the Big 12 or face an uncertain future.

As high-level strategy meetings were underway in Austin on Thursday between Texas and Texas A&M -- as well as with Baylor and Texas Tech -- Texas lawmakers were weighing in, some urging government leaders to hold immediate hearings in the Texas Legislature on the future of the Big 12 and its impact on Texas.

ESPN Dallas obtained a copy of an e-mail sent by Baylor president Ken Starr to faculty, staff and students of the university Thursday night. The following is the text of the e-mail:

A message from Baylor President Ken Starr:

You have no doubt heard today that the University of Colorado at Boulder has accepted an invitation to join the Pac-10 Conference. While we are disappointed to learn of this news, it is important to realize that the situation is still very fluid, and any realignment is likely to take years to complete. In any event, the Big 12 will be competing for at least another two years. You should also know that Baylor is continuing to seek as much unity as possible among the members of our conference and to fight for cohesiveness among the Texas universities of the Big 12.

You may also be aware that there have been calls today from public officials to hold hearings in the Texas Legislature that will permit public comment on changes in the composition of the Big 12 conference. Because of the powerful impact that realignment of the conference could have on the Texas economy, including the communities that host the universities of the Big 12, lawmakers are calling for a thoughtful and careful analysis of any proposed change to the Big 12. These elected officials believe changes to the conference as we know it would have profound economic implications for the citizens of Texas and potentially damage historic rivalries that are more than a century old.

Central Texas Congressman Chet Edwards released a letter today urging state government leaders to hold immediate hearings in the Texas Legislature on the future of the Big 12 and its impact on Texas.

Edwards commented: “It is important that all the citizens of Texas have a right to have their voices heard on the future of the Big 12 before, not after, all the decisions have been made. These decisions are too important to be decided solely by a small handful of people behind closed doors without public input from the citizens of our great state. The Texas Legislature has a responsibility to our taxpayers to review the impact of any conference realignment on our state’s economy and historic relationships between our state’s universities and their respective communities.”

You can read Congressman Edwards’ letter in its entirety here.

Writing in the Austin American-Statesman today, State Rep. Jim Dunnam, who represents District 57 in the Texas House, also weighed in on a lack of public input with respect to any immediate changes in the composition of the Big 12.

In his guest column – “Decisions affecting the Big 12 should be made in public” – Rep. Dunnam wrote, “If it is truly best for our public universities to leave and be the Gulf of Mexico division of the Pacific Conference, so be it. But first let's get the rationale and all of the options out there on the table. Let Texans have a voice and understand the choices. The destiny of institutions we and our forefathers built deserves no less.”

Click here to read Rep. Dunnam’s essay in its entirety:

We have continued to call attention to the economic impact on our state of the four Texas universities of the Big 12, and the importance of these schools remaining together as a cohesive group. The significance of retaining the four Texas university collective of the Big 12 is reflected today in an economic impact study released by The Perryman Group. “The presence of four schools in a premier conference is important to Texas’ ability to capitalize on the potential economic stimulus of college athletics,” the report states. Read the full results of the Perryman study here.

We also appreciate our local chambers of commerce and mayors – who have spoken publicly about how the Big 12 is good for our area and our state – as well as all those in the Baylor family who are taking decisive action to make sure the best interests of Baylor, Central Texas and the great State of Texas are represented and preserved as this process continues.

I urge you to visit the Baylor Nation website for more information about the discussions related to the Big 12 and to learn what you can do to support our university, our conference and our state.

Ken Starr

Baylor President