TX-17: Congressman Chet Edwards' Role in Defending Baylor, Keeping Big 12 Together

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Texas Congressman Chet Edwards played a key role in helping keep the Big 12 together. An Associated Press story from last week – “Pac-10 commissioner has no animosity toward Texas” – the Pac 10 Commissioner credited strong political pressure, which Congressman Edwards was out in front of early, to a key reason as to why the Big 12 didn't split up:

[Pac 10 Commissioner Larry] Scott said he believes the expansion to 16 teams with Texas leading the way failed for three reasons.

“Number One, I think there was a tsunami of Texas political pressure from Texas A&M and Baylor,” he said.

Baylor President Ken Starr agreed. (It kills me to have to write that.) From Sunday's story in the Waco Tribune-Herald, After Big 12 ordeal, Baylor and Waco community leaders see value of 'all hands on deck':

“What we saw clearly during the past two weeks was the impact of swift and strong leadership on the part of our elected officials when the focus of the discussion becomes what is best for our community,” Starr told the Tribune-Herald on Thursday.

Congressman Edwards, for his part, played a strong role. At the request of Baylor leaders, Edwards called publicly for Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst and Speaker of the House Joe Straus to hold hearings on the Big 12. The political pressure, quite clearly, worked well. Edwards released the following statement in a press release (read the full release below):

“I am proud to have worked with Baylor and Waco leaders to stop the breakup of the Big 12, and for Bill Flores to criticize me for that effort shows he is badly out of touch with our district.  It is disappointing to think that someone who wants to represent Baylor and the Waco area would have abandoned us on a critical issue that will affect Baylor and our community's economy for decades to come.”

Edwards' opponent, Bill Flores, thought nobody should get involved. He told KBTX that:

“The last thing you want is a candidate for federal office or an existing federal office holder getting involved in college athletics.  That's not in the constitution, just to be quite frank.”

Jeez, Bill — is there anything you want to do, other than apologize to BP?

Previously on BOR:

Edwards Says He is Proud of His Involvement in Big 12 Fight

Flores Criticizes Edwards' Efforts

WACO — Congressman Chet Edwards said today that he is proud of his active involvement in keeping Baylor in the Big 12 and that Bill Flores' criticism shows he is out of touch with our district.

Edwards said, “I am proud to have worked with Baylor and Waco leaders to stop the breakup of the Big 12, and for Bill Flores to criticize me for that effort shows he is badly out of touch with our district.  It is disappointing to think that someone who wants to represent Baylor and the Waco area would have abandoned us on a critical issue that will affect Baylor and our community's economy for decades to come.”

At the request of Baylor and Waco community leaders, Edwards played an active role in trying to prevent the breakup of the Big 12, which could have left Baylor outside of a major conference and caused the area millions of dollars in economic losses, according to economist Ray Perryman.

During the fight Edwards publicly called on Lt. Governor David Dewhurst and Texas Speaker Joe Straus to hold immediate public hearings on the Big 12, saying, “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.”  Edwards also worked closely with Baylor Regent Buddy Jones, former regent Drayton McLane, Baylor alumnus and former Governor Mark White and Baylor officials to rally opposition to the Big 12 breakup. 

Edwards' statements that Texas political pressure could stop the PAC 10's raid on the Big 12 was verified by PAC 10 Commissioner Larry Scott, who recently said, “No. 1, I think there was a tsunami of Texas political pressure from Texas A&M and Baylor.”

And in an article from the Waco Tribune-Herald on Sunday, Baylor President Ken Starr praised the efforts of local politicians and business leaders including Congressman Edwards, saying:

 “What we saw clearly during the past two weeks was the impact of swift and strong leadership on the part of our elected officials when the focus of the discussion becomes what is best for our community”

 In an interview with KBTX TV in College Station on June 15th, when asked about the Big 12 controversy, Bill Flores said, “the last thing you want is a candidate for federal office or an existing federal office holder getting involved in college athletics.  That's not in the constitution, just to be quite frank.”  And in a press release on June 16th Flores criticized Edwards for spending time “sending out press releases on college football.”

Edwards commented, “This fight was about protecting jobs, economic growth and long standing traditions not just for Baylor and A&M, but for the Waco area, the Brazos Valley and the state of Texas.  I was elected to fight for our district, not to sit on my hands during a crucial battle as Mr. Flores would have done.”

In an editorial about lessons learned from the Big 12 controversy, the Waco Tribune Herald said the matter “impacts our entire state and its economy.”

If Baylor had been left out of the conference, it would have had a serious economic impact on McLennan County and our district. According to local economist Ray Perryman, Waco would have lost 1,677 jobs. 

Edwards commented, “I believe 1,677 jobs and the future of Baylor and A&M and the communities where they are located are absolutely worth fighting for.”

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About Author

Phillip Martin

Currently the Research and Policy Director for Progress Texas and the Texas Research Institute, Phillip Martin writes occasional long-form pieces for BOR that promote focused analysis and insight into Texas politics. Born and raised in Austin, Phillip started working in politics in 2003 and started writing on BOR in the summer of 2005. Phillip has worked for the Texas Democratic Trust, the Texas Legislative Study Group, and now the Progress Texas family. He is a lifelong Houston Astros fan, a loyal Longhorn, and loves swimming at Barton Springs Pool.

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