Central Texans marvel almost daily at Baylor Stadium — if not its construction, then certainly its potential. But those of us who revel in Baylor University’s fortunes of late should take note of two less-publicized developments worthy of praise: the board of regents’ decision this month to not only extend Baylor President Ken Starr’s contract beyond 2015 but add to his title that of chancellor; then the board’s 10-year extension of Baylor Bears football coach Art Briles’ contract.
As Trib reader Tim Coppage so drolly remarked of Briles in the letters the other day: “This man shouldn’t have been given such a light sentence. He deserves 10 years to life!”
Our respects to regents for recognizing the rare value and influence of these men at Baylor and beyond. Since assuming the reins at Baylor in 2010, Starr has demonstrated a keen understanding of Waco and has built on efforts by regents and interim President David Garland to emerge from the so-called “Baylor bubble” (if it ever truly existed) and meaningfully collaborate with the city of Waco on everything from community volunteerism to hunger initiatives to encouraging Wacoans to take part in forums he oversees with such dynamic figures as Condoleezza Rice, T. Boone Pickens and constitutional scholar Akhil Reed Amar.
Starr has also sought to put to rest the rift that has too long marred the Baylor Nation, showing himself open to compromise, yet firm in the final analysis, as we saw in the battle that has nearly torn the Baylor Alumni Association apart. And he has taken to heart concerns that critics have about skyrocketing tuition through his successful pursuit of the $100 million President’s Scholarship Initiative to aid deserving students of modest means.
Certainly, Starr has defied the expectations of some who drew conclusions about him from his long-ago days investigating scandal in the Clinton White House. Low-key, optimistic, joyously informed, he has often shown the face of moderation. His March 17 column in our paper urging bipartisanship in immigration reform for children of undocumented workers offered a stance that only now many in Congress are considering. And the former jurist has always stressed qualifications — not party labels, not ideology — when judging the fitness of candidates for the U.S. Supreme Court.
Coach Art Briles too has brought excitement to Baylor, and not just because the Bears have distinguished themselves in recent years. Those who know Briles speak not only of his personal modesty and graciousness both in victory and defeat but his rare ability to cultivate the potential in athletes, even as he demands teamwork that melds individual talents into a winning formula. In six seasons, he has led the team’s evolution into a Big 12 and national championship contender this season.
In this warm season of thanksgiving, we can be grateful for the integrity, wisdom and energy these two bring locally — and the shrewdness of Baylor regents in capitalizing on these enviable qualities.