The University of Oklahoma and The University of Texas at Austin are making a big move towards moving to the Southeastern Conference, saying they do not plan on renewing agreements with the Big 12.
In a joint statement, the two universities said:
"The University of Texas at Austin and The University of Oklahoma notified the Big 12 Athletic Conference today that they will not be renewing their grants of media rights following expiration in 2025. Providing notice to the Big 12 at this point is important in advance of the expiration of the conference’s current media rights agreement. The universities intend to honor their existing grant of rights agreements. However, both universities will continue to monitor the rapidly evolving collegiate athletics landscape as they consider how best to position their athletics programs for the future."
With the official announcement that UT and OU will be leaving the Big 12, many Baylor fans are asking what this means for the Baylor Bears.
“When I first heard of that I was shocked,” said Baylor student Kristin Gibbel.
“It was kind of disappointing honestly, I like the Big 12 conference as it is," said Wyatt Fogel another Baylor Bear.
This unexpected announcement has students and fans speculating what's to come.
Gibbel said, "I am interested to see if Baylor goes to other conferences, or makes their own.”
In a joint statement, Baylor President Linda A. Livingstone and Mack B. Rhoades, IV the Vice President and Director of Intercollegiate Athletics, said in part:
"...We understand the significance and urgency of this matter, as our conference membership impacts not only Baylor, but also the Waco community, the state of Texas and beyond. Conference affiliation has the power to greatly enhance our institution’s academic and athletic national standing and visibility while also expanding academic and research opportunities available to faculty, students and our communities. For our state, it is critical to our economy and Texas’ overall reputation to maintain five “Power Five” institutions, reinforcing the Lone Star State’s athletic preeminence.
Rest assured, we, along with the Board of Regents, members of the Baylor delegation in the Texas Legislature and other Baylor leaders, are actively engaged in conversations with our Big 12 colleagues and others to ensure our University is in the strongest position possible now and into the future."
That contract is set to end in 2025, but some folks are already looking at the economic impact this move could have on Baylor and the City of Waco.
“If we aren't playing them anymore, that's going to be a lot of visitors that just won't be here anymore," said Fogle. "Those games bring thousands of people to the city and it's great exposure for Baylor Athletics and the university."
Local economists along with the president of the Perryman Group, Ray Perryman, said they are still taking a look at the numbers but there are some things that will undoubtedly happen.
"If you have reduced television revenue, that's money that actually goes into the budgets of the university that can get spent in supporting University programs, and that has a multiplier effect throughout the city," said Perryman.
Reduced revenue, he said, will have an impact on tourism. From there a laundry list of other issues can arise.
“It's been shown over and over again that schools that were better in the major athletic conferences, and playing at the highest levels, were better with student recruitment, faculty recruitment, even research dollars, that type of thing, alumni engagement, and alumni donation," Perryman said. " The immediate effects would be some loss in revenue to the university, and then some loss in the money that spreads out to the community as a result of that ... and the tourism impact."
Perryman is still analyzing data and hopes to have more information within the coming days, leaving some Baylor fans hopeful for the future.
“I hope it worked out for the better, I'm worried that it won't, but I think it will," said Gibbel.
Mayor Meek said in a statement that he is committed to working with state leaders and Baylor to ensure that they are able to "...preserve the positive economic and unique cultural impact Baylor has on the City of Waco."
Meek has also reached out to Governor Abbott asking for 'careful attention' to this matter, considering the $386 million Baylor athletics brings to the City of Waco alone.