New Baylor president Ken Starr said Monday that he is
"cautiously optimistic" and hopeful that the Big 12 will remain
fully intact though he realizes there is an unsettled situation
with growing talk of potential conference expansions.
Starr, who took over as president of the Big 12's only private
school last week, wouldn't speculate on what might happen, but said
that his school's Board of Regents was "working tirelessly" to
make Baylor's case known and keep the league together.
"Baylor emphatically supports the Big 12. We remain hopeful
that the Big 12 will remain intact and continue to be one of the
nation's foremost conferences," Starr said during a conference
call Monday from the Waco, Texas, campus. "Our energy is devoted
entirely to keep the Big 12 together."
There have been reports that the Pac-10 could invite up to six
Big 12 schools to create a 16-team megaconference, and that Baylor
might or might not be included with Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech
if that happens. Nebraska and Missouri could be interested in
joining the Big Ten.
In any scenario, whether staying in the Big 12 or ending up
elsewhere, Starr emphasized that he wants Baylor to remain with
Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech.
"The current situation is extremely fluid," Starr said. "What
we firmly believe is that the Big 12 should stick together and the
Lone Star State schools of the Big 12 should stick together. That's
what's in best interest of Baylor, of Texas and our own community
here in Waco."
Starr said the strong associations and rivalries between the
four Big 12 schools in Texas produce income and jobs and helps each
of those universities in student recruitment.
The conference call followed a guest column Starr wrote for the
Waco Tribune-Herald on Monday in which he called potential Big 12
realignment a "historic threat" to Baylor.
Kansas chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little on Monday urged
Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman to remain in the Big 12. She
said she also planned to call Missouri chancellor Brady J. Deaton
with the same message.
Meanwhile, the presidents of the Mountain West Conference
decided Monday not to pursue expansion of the nine-team league at
this time. Commissioner Craig Thompson said the decision to hold
off on expansion is tied to the shake-ups and shifting landscape in
some of the nation's bigger conferences. That includes the Big 12.
After four days of Big 12 meetings last week in Kansas City,
commissioner Dan Beebe has said a "process" was put in place by
Big 12 presidents to ensure the long-term viability of a conference
that has greatly increased revenue for its members.
Starr said he has talked to other conference presidents and they
are all remaining in close contact.
"The prospects for the Big 12 are very bright as far as
enhancing revenue," Starr said. "There is a very, very strong
attraction to maintaining the Big 12, which is doing extremely well
and has a promise of doing better in the future."
Starr began his duties as Baylor's president four months after
the university announced his hiring. Starr had been Pepperdine
University's law school dean since 2004, but he is best known as
the former independent prosecutor whose investigation of the
Clinton White House, land deals and the Monica Lewinsky scandal led
to Clinton's impeachment.