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.
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