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December 13, 2012

Catching up with Drayton McLane

Drayton McLane looks at the evolving landscape of college athletics and feels even more energized about Baylor's current position and even more importantly, its future.

In the summer of 2011, Texas A&M's and Missouri's move to the SEC led to the Big 12's instability and pushed it on the brink of dissolution.

But a lot has changed in 17 months. Baylor has the $250 million Baylor Stadium under construction readying to open in 2014 and the Big 12 is in a solvent financial position.

"It's not even close,'' the lead donor of Baylor Stadium said Thursday from his offices in Temple. "The success football has had for the last three years has made Baylor one of the elite teams in the nation. I think you see conferences wanting to be affiliated with strong scholastic private schools like Baylor. Baylor is a bright star.''

McLane also pointed to Stanford of the PAC 12 and Northwestern of the Big 10 as other examples. McLane has watched the recent realignment changes including Maryland and Rutgers moving to the Big 10 and Louisville moving the ACC.

While he didn't identify any individual university, McLane said that he could see more schools along East Coast making moves. As for the Big 12, the conference continues to monitor events.

"I don't know of anything immediate,'' McLane said. "Most likely, the Big 12 will add, but that's not for sure.''

Baylor's ambitious 45,000-seat football stadium project continues at a rapid pace. McLane pointed out how quickly the university's board of regents moved. The board examined the idea before Thanksgiving, 2011.

Fast forward 13 months later and the project has been using the architecture firm Populous, awarded the contract to Austin-based Austin Commercial and Flintco, sold all six founders suites and nine midfield suites and raised in excess of $150 million. McLane said the balance of the funding should be completed in three years and that the university would offset the difference. Funding is not an issue, McLane said.

"It's like when people get excited about buying a new car,'' McLane said. "They see it and when they get to the showroom and get in, they want to buy it. This is something we're all going to be very proud of.''

Of course, the stadium is arguably one of the primary reasons why head football coach Art Briles remains in Waco. Briles has guided the football program to three consecutive bowl game appearances - a first in school history. Baylor will meet UCLA in the Holiday Bowl Dec. 27, which McLane plans to attend.

While Briles' name had been linked to the openings at Arkansas, Tennessee, Auburn and Texas Tech, Baylor demonstrated its commitment to him by announcing a contract extension last week. Baylor makes it a practice not to disclose terms of a contract; however, it is believed that it is more than the $2.2 million than what USA Today reported in November.

"In any business or government, the community rallies around its leader. Art is the leader,'' McLane said. "What he wanted to see happen was a brand new stadium. That's a reality. Art sees the commitment. Baylor will have more financial resources thanks to the new [Big 12] television contract and the stadium.''


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