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Second Chance in Big 12: OK, So Now What?
5:30 P.M., TUESDAY, June 29, 2010

More than 20 years have passed since a good friend of mine went through a near-death experience, coming so close that he actually saw a light at the end of a long tunnel.

And when he was miraculously saved and brought back to life, he knew that God still had some special things in store for him. So ever since then, he has tried to make the most of his second chance and committed more than ever to doing everything that God has set before him.

Friends and neighbors, that is what we at Baylor and in Waco, Central Texas and the state as a whole have been given - a miraculous second chance.

A little more than two weeks ago, the Big 12 Conference was dead and buried, gone the way of the Southwest Conference, Gulf Coast Conference and the Little Five.

But when the University of Texas and its four traveling partners (Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State) turned down other offers and opted to stick together as a revamped 10-team league, we were able to come back from that light at the end of a long tunnel and back to life.

"We've been thrown a life line," said Baylor football coach Art Briles. "Now we need to grab hold of it and understand how fortunate we are to be saved."

Like my friend, we have to make the most of a second chance that seemed like such a long shot just a couple weeks ago.

According to a study done by the Perryman Group, the potential breakup of the Big 12 Conference and the other three Texas schools from the league going their own way would have meant a nearly $200 million hit to Waco's economy and the loss of 1,677 jobs.

So what can we do to be in a healthier position if and when this kind of situation arises again? And my guess is that it will.

Understanding that football is definitely the cash cow that's critical to any collegiate athletic program, attendance at the Case HAS to improve. Hopes and expectations for the football team are higher than they've been in a very long time, but we can't wait until the Bears become a national power. The ultimatum is that we HAVE to start showing up now.

While Baylor experienced one of the largest attendance increases in the nation last year - improving by more than 2,000 fans per game - the average of 36,306 was still last in the Big 12 from here to yonder. Iowa State was next at 46,242.

With more than 140,000 Baylor alums out there and an overall population of 250,000 in McLennan County alone, there's no reason why we can't fill up a 50,000-seat stadium every week. I know it does, but honestly it shouldn't matter whether it's Sam Houston State or Texas on the other side.

Let's don't wait until it's too late. Since we've been given this second chance, let's make the most of the opportunity. Buy season tickets, invite friends and fill the Case. This is more than just a Baylor thing. As the Perryman Group study shows, this is critically important for Waco and Central Texas as well.

All we ask is that you do your part.

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