What He’s Selling, I’m Not Buying
By Paul Myerberg // Sep 13, 2011
Baylor president Ken Starr is at it again, writing in an Op-Ed piece for the Houston Chronicle that “according to our friends in the sports media, the football programs of our beloved Texas institutions are about to become exported commodities, competing in different national athletic conferences. If this proves to be true, we will be tearing something very special from the celebrated fabric of our Texas history.” Who will stop the fabric from being rendered into small, meaningless little pieces as the Big 12’s spreads from Texas to the West Coast? Hey, Starr is entitled to his opinion, and I understand fully that Baylor needs to do whatever Baylor needs to do in order to remain at least a somewhat relevant figure in college athletics. What I have a harder time swallowing are a few of Starr’s other statements, such as this:
“New ‘super-conference’ alignment presents temporal, geographic and financial realities that will make attending games – and in some cases even watching them on television – difficult.”
I’m confused as to the temporal realities that might stem from conference realignment. Would the changing conference landscape be too difficult to comprehend? Would fans rack their brains in an effort to remember which team is where, which conference is which, which division is which and fail, causing pain and anguish? Would the time difference — a 9 a.m. start, not a 11 a.m. start — be too much for a Baylor fan to accept?
You know, I’d watch my favorite team play, but darn it, I don’t watch football at 9 a.m., only at 11.
Now, about actually attending games. This is a very real concern: for an Oklahoma, for instance, what was once a non-conference trip to Oregon may now become a conference trip, and one of four annual games on the West Coast at that. Fans would need to pony up, if that’s the case, and it would indeed provide a financial burden.
Baylor and its fans have no right to argue about the financial burden of traveling to away games, not when the university can’t even sell its allotment of tickets to games as far away as College Station — 92 miles door to door. Texas A&M gives each visiting university 3,850 tickets to sell; Baylor has gobbled up 830 of them, which may be more than Idaho, which had sold 264 as of last Friday, but is nearly half the amount of the next-closest Big 12 competitor, Oklahoma State, which has sold 1,428 tickets.
So Starr and Baylor can save the line about not being to travel well, because Baylor doesn’t travel, period. And yes, I understand that Baylor “returned” more than 3,000 tickets to Texas A&M, though it’s unclear as to whether the tickets were purchased then returned or whether the university sold the remaining tickets prior to them being purchased.
Whether the tickets were bought then returned or returned prior to sale doesn’t really matter: either way, it’s an indictment of Baylor’s stance of “commitment” — the Bears are either committed to the Big 12 or they’re not, and returning tickets to a Big 12 game doesn’t smell much like commitment to me.
You want to see commitment? Check out the 10 most-attended games in Baylor football history, and check out the opponent:
1. 51,385 (Texas A&M, 10/28/06)
2. 51,218 (Texas A&M, 10/21/95)
3. 51,200 (Texas A&M, 10/26/74)
4. 50,267 (Texas, 10/19/91)
5. 50,000 (Texas, 11/5/60)
6. 49,500 (Texas A&M, 10/27/56)
7. 48,756 (Texas A&M, 10/19/85)
8. 48,500 (Texas A&M, 9/15/79)
8. 48,500 (Texas, 11/22/80)
10. 48,394 (Texas, 11/11/72)
Commitment: A&M has it, always has, and Baylor doesn’t, and hasn’t for years, if it ever was committed at all. Does A&M have commitment now? I wouldn’t say the Aggies are committed to the Big 12, because they’re not. But if any team is committed to the idea of “Texas football” it’s Texas A&M, which supports its team, win or lose, and comes to games in Texas, rain or shine. In doing so, A&M embodies entirely the idea of “Texas football” that Starr and Baylor have claimed as vital to the sport’s success.
For all the talk of football being in the “fabric of Texas history” from Baylor and Starr, I wonder why Baylor’s game at Rice last fall drew only 23,395 fans. I mean, that was a game played in Texas, featuring Texas schools, featuring players predominately from the state of Texas, in front of fans from the state of Texas. I thought it would be a sellout, based on what Starr’s selling.
And what Starr’s selling, I’m not buying.
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