This is Big 12 Country!

Baylor Alumni in the new, incoming Big 12 regions make their local recommendations for fans planning a future road trip to cheer on the Bears

When the Big 12 Conference made a September 2021 announcement that four new member institutions would join the conference for the 2023-24 athletic year, many fans began to familiarize themselves with the schools: Brigham Young University, the University of Central Florida, the University of Cincinnati and the University of Houston.

Over the two-year stretch leading up to those schools officially joining the conference, there was a growing sense of excitement around the expansion schools. Future road trips were planned, and thoughts of what a primetime matchup might look like with the Bears began to take shape. The stage was set for new rivalries.

Adding these new Big 12 member schools also adds four unique cities to the conference footprint: Provo, Utah; Orlando, Florida; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Houston, Texas.

We caught up with alumni in each of these regions and asked them to serve as tour guides to fans planning a road trip for a football matchup or a marquee basketball game in this new era of the Big 12 Conference.

David Bishop, J.D. ’17
David Bishop, J.D. ’17

Brigham Young University

Location Provo, UT
Founding 1875
Enrollment 34,390

David Bishop, J.D. ’17, is familiar with BYU and works in the Provo/Salt Lake area. While he earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Utah (who Baylor also plays in the upcoming football season), he understands the unique nature of BYU’s place in college football. He reflects on the nearby rival as a Baylor fan would TCU or the University of Texas. This Baylor Law grad’s knowledge of the region and passion for the community offer valuable insight.

As an associate attorney in estate planning at the Salt Lake City-based York Howell law firm, Bishop’s work takes him throughout the area. He is also an outdoor enthusiast, and his love for outdoor activities plays heavily in his recommendations for Baylor Bears traveling to Utah.

Where would you recommend out-of-towners go to eat?

“One of the things that I’ve always found interesting about Utah is we have a lot of good burger places. Part of the influence comes from the number of Greek families who moved here way back in the day and several started burger restaurants. Like Crown Burger is one of them and then Apollo Burger’s another. There are all these great burger places. We do burgers with pastrami and fry sauce. Down in Utah County where Provo is located, JCW’s is particularly good.”

What’s the trademark dish that best represents your region?

“One thing we do well is dessert. Ice cream… there are a million delicious ice cream places. Places like Crumbl Cookies — that’s a Utah-based thing — and not only do we have Crumbl here, we have a billion little shops like that. “Dirty soda” is definitely a thing here. I don’t know if that’s made it to Texas. There’s one place called Swig, another one called, Sodalicious. In Utah County I would say that is “the thing.” You go and get yourself a Diet Coke mixed with raspberry and coconut cream and a lime or something. These are incredibly popular.”

Provo, Utah
Provo, Utah
What’s a great activity for families visiting the area?

“When you come to Utah, one thing you don’t want to miss is spending time in the outdoors. We have within a 15-to-20-minute drive these epic landscapes that just transport you out of the city, out of the typical. It’s such a short drive. In the Provo area, there’s tons of hikes. There’s the Timpanogos Cave — that’s a national monument. Anywhere up Provo Canyon is really pretty. The Provo River has really good fly fishing if you’re interested in that. Snowbird Ski Resorts has a tram that takes you up into the clouds. You can go up Little Cottonwood Canyon to Snowbird, take the tram up and you’re at 11,000 feet in 30 minutes. It can be scary, but it’s worth the trip.”

What should Baylor fans expect from the BYU fan base?

“I’ll try and be as nice as possible. They love BYU and they are passionate about it. BYU fans are sometimes loyal to a fault. The times they’ve managed to beat my undergraduate alma mater in a season that they shouldn’t have, I think it was those fans that pushed them to it. It’s always when the game’s in Provo, and the fans really drive the team to an unlikely victory. They are passionate, sometimes rabid fans. But a big part of what they’re going to be is very hospitable and very welcoming. In Utah, in general, it’s very warm and welcoming. The fans can be rabid if it’s not going their way, but in the city walking around, experiencing the town, everybody’s going to be great.”

What does it mean to you knowing that several times a year, Baylor fans and sports teams will be coming to your region now with the new Big 12 footprint?

“I’m thrilled. I loved attending Baylor Athletics events while we were in Waco, when time allowed. Obviously in law school you are kind of busy, but I made a point to try to go to several football games and a bunch of the basketball games every year and I’m going to continue doing that as they’re in town and I have the opportunity to go. I’m going to attend and support the best I can. So, I’m thrilled to death. I don’t have to travel all the way to Waco. A drive away rather than a flight away.”

Courtney Harle, B.S. ’18, M.B.A. ’21
Courtney Harle, B.S. ’18, M.B.A. ’21

University of Central Florida

Location Orlando, FL
Founding 1963
Enrollment 68,442

Courtney Harle, B.S. ’18, M.B.A. ’21, was the 16th member of her family to attend Baylor, but even so, it was a campus visit over the 2013 Homecoming weekend — a 71-7 win over Iowa State in the final season at Floyd Casey Stadium — that sealed the deal for her college journey in Waco. Working as the brand alliances marketing manager for Major League Soccer’s Orlando City Soccer Club and its NWSL club, Orlando Pride, Harle’s commitment to building community and supporting a mission greater than herself keeps her tied back to Baylor.

She recently joined the Alumni Regional Council and hopes to use UCF’s joining the Big 12 as a conduit to connecting with Baylor Alumni in the region and welcoming Baylor fans who will be descending on her town of Orlando more frequently throughout the year. Like her professional work, Harle’s recommendations have an emphasis on seeking the community and culture cooked into Orlando’s eclectic neighborhoods.

How would you describe the vibe of Orlando?

“Orlando is a really unique market. When most people think Orlando, they think Walt Disney World, which is incredible. But the city of Orlando is so much larger than that. Orlando drew me in because there’s pockets of neighborhoods and each has their own culture and their own kind of vibe and understanding of how it operates as part of the Orlando community. Out by the UCF campus you’ve got a little bit more family friendly, little bit more of a small-town feel. It’s an extremely welcoming city. It kind of reminds me of Waco in being in close proximity to some larger cities, but still providing a space where you could walk down the street or go to the mall or go to an attraction and see somebody that you know.”

Orlando, Florida
Where would you recommend out-of-towners go to eat?

“I always say pick a country or pick a culture and I can direct you to at least two to three places in Orlando — I’m never going to steer you wrong. I’ll actually direct you all to a neighborhood, the Mills 50 district and Colonial Drive is an incredible hub of Asian fusion restaurants. Anything from Thai to Chinese to Vietnamese. Briar Patch is a very solid brunch spot with some outdoor seating to enjoy the Florida sunshine. Then, of course, there’s Black Bean Deli, which is just incredible local Cuban food. It’s always a hard day when somebody asks what’s for lunch.”

What’s the trademark dish that best represents your region?

“We have a huge Cuban and Puerto Rican population, so the first thing that comes to mind, is going to be an incredible Cuban sandwich from one of the many locations and restaurants that make those daily. I would go Cuban sandwich, black beans and rice and some sweet plantains as my signature dish.”

What’s a great activity for families visiting the area?

“Obviously, everybody can go to the parks and have fun. But I want to give you a more local twist. A very popular one is the Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour. It’s a really unique canal boat tour through old, historic Winter Park. We have an amazing museum culture that not a lot of people really realize or know about. The Orlando Science Center and the Orlando Museum of Art are really hidden gems, along with the smaller cultural museums. Obviously, you have to soak up the Florida sunshine, so I’m partial to paddleboarding on Lake Ivanhoe.”

How often do you run into a Baylor fan around town?

“Not as often as I’d like. We’re a strong but mighty few. But when I do, I absolutely am laying on my horn, I’m throwing up a Sic ’em. It’s a big deal when I see somebody from Baylor around here. I go out of my way to say hi. It’s a great connection point because it happens less often than it would in a city in Texas. It feels like finding a familiar friend in a concert crowd. Not very frequent but, again, it’s always special and you really feel like you’ve stumbled upon an immediate friend because it is more on the rare side.

What should Baylor fans expect from the UCF fan base?

“We say we bleed green and gold, and we do, but UCF fans bleed black and gold. They’re showing out and they’re tailgating for every single sport. It doesn’t matter if it’s a basketball game, football game, soccer, tennis. Anything and everything, UCF fans are showing out for. I’ve had so, so many fun interactions with UCF fans and everybody’s really excited around here for this match up.”

What does it mean to you knowing that several times a year, Baylor fans and sports teams will be coming to your region now with the new Big 12 footprint?

“I’m really excited because I feel like Baylor fans are so passionate and the Baylor Family is so connected and really well-organized and wants to support everything that Baylor does. I’m excited for everyone to bring that energy to Orlando. I’m excited for Baylor to come in and for Baylor alumni, family and friends to join us and turn our pocket of Central Florida to green and gold, because I know that everyone will show up in great numbers. I’m excited for our Baylor alumni that live here to get the chance to be a host and tour guide and hopefully drive those connections with people who are outside of the state of Florida and really grow our Baylor alumni network and participation in events and beyond.”

Drew Trenz, B.B.A. ’05
Drew Trenz, B.B.A. ’05

University of Cincinnati

Location Cincinnati, OH
Founding 1819
Enrollment 47,914

Drew Trenz, B.B.A. ’05, grew up in Cincinnati, cheering on the Bearcats until his college career took him to Baylor. While his dad still cheers on the hometown UC teams, Trenz moved across the country for college thanks to connections formed with Baylor camp counselors he met at summer camp in high school. After graduating from Baylor and working in Dallas, he moved back to Ohio in 2019 to join with his brother to form TH3, an accounting firm working with small businesses.

Cincinnati’s invitation to the Big 12 brings two worlds together for Trenz, as his hometown college and his alma mater, Baylor, will now face off throughout the athletics calendar year.

How have you stayed connected to Baylor?

“My college roommates and I are constantly in a text thread on Baylor sports. That keeps me updated with following the team even from up here. I know there’s been a few other people who are in Cincinnati from Baylor. It’s mainly been keeping connections I made from my time there that have stayed in touch and pretty actively following Baylor sports.”

What’s the trademark dish that best represents your region?

“Skyline Chili — but Texans will have to set aside what they think of as chili. It’s more of a Greek sauce that’s poured over spaghetti and topped with cheese. That would be the number one thing to try. I brought that down to Baylor. Some people love it, some people hate it, but that’s the big Cincinnati thing. There’s a place right by UC campus that has one of the best Skylines that I grew up going to.”

What’s a great activity for families visiting the area?

“They’ve just redeveloped the whole river walk right around the Ohio River. They’ve got parks and stuff outside, big swings. There’s Alms Park, Eden Park — Cincinnati has a lot of parks. King’s Island is one of the top five visited amusement parks in the country. That’s a little further north, about 20 to 25 minutes from downtown. Cincinnati Zoo is rated number two in the country. It’s really close to UC and that’s really fun to see.”

What’s a little known thing about Cincinnati that people may not know about before they visit?

“You’ll see a lot of pig statues around, and I still don’t fully understand it, but there’s a lot of decorated pigs and they have the big Flying Pig Marathon. That goes back to when Cincinnati was the top meat packing hub in the country. So that might catch you off guard to just see all these painted pig statues around town.”

What should Baylor fans expect from the UC fan base?

“My dad went to UC, he’s a huge UC fan. I grew up rooting for Cincinnati basketball before going to Baylor. Cincinnati has a lot of people who grew up here who resettled back here, so it’s really like a hometown feel with the teams and they seem mostly friendly. I’ve been to a few UC games since coming back and it’s a fun environment. The stadium is historic and it’s right on campus.”

What does it mean to you knowing that several times a year, Baylor fans and sports teams will be coming to your region now with the new Big 12 footprint?

“I’ve been telling a lot of people how excited I am, just following Baylor. But when you move away, or live away, it feels so distant. I think there’s an energy around that. And it’s fun that Baylor people from Texas will get to experience a new city and place. It means a lot just to have these two worlds colliding, which seem so completely far apart. Cincinnati fans, like my dad, are more interested in Baylor because UC’s going to be playing them. It’s fun to watch my childhood team and my college team collide, which never really happened before.”

 Adriana Byrum, B.B.A. ’13
Adriana Byrum, B.B.A. ’13

University of Houston

Location Houston, TX
Founding 1927
Enrollment 46,700

Adriana Byrum, B.B.A. ’13, did not follow the typical path to Baylor. Born in Honduras, she was adopted into a family of long-term missionaries, who moved with her back to Texas when she was a child. Assisted by her parents who worked long hours with significant sacrifices, Byrum was able to attend Baylor, where she also met her husband, Ben, B.B.A. ’14.

Both Adriana and Ben are highly active in Baylor Alumni activities in Houston, giving back their time and efforts to support Baylor’s presence in the largest city in the state, with Adriana serving as vice president of communications for Baylor Professionals of Houston. Now living in the western side of Houston in the Energy Corridor, Adriana offers her recommendations to fans who may be making their first trip to Houston for future matchups with the Cougars — or those who are familiar with Houston and may want to find a new restaurant to try.

How often do you get to make the trip back to Waco?

“Homecoming is a big thing for us. Recently, there was an artist that I enjoyed — Jervis Campbell. He’s a Christian singer, and he was going to be playing in Houston and then in Waco at Common Grounds. I actually chose to go to Common Grounds, because we like that venue better. It was more intimate, and we knew it wouldn’t be so crowded like it was in Houston. Ben and I have returned on several occasions to run the Bearathon. It’s a big bragging right, even when you come to Houston and people are like, ‘What’s the Bearathon?’ if they see you wearing the shirt. Through that Baylor Alumni networking connection, we get emails all the time that are saying, ‘Hey, we have tickets to the game. Does anyone want to go?’ So of course, we love to go to basketball games, too.”

Where would you recommend out-of-towners go to eat?

“So, this is the hardest question by far, because Houston is known for such a huge variety. We have Indian. We have Chinatown. We have a ton of Creole and Cajun restaurants. And then obviously, the biggest thing for Houston is anything Tex-Mex. Tex-Mex is huge. There’s a ton of food trucks. But if I had to pick one restaurant, it’s going to be Ninfa’s on Navigation, because it’s the original Ninfa’s. If you want barbecue, there’s a place called Pinkerton’s. It’s a huge barbecue restaurant in the Heights. It’s really popular. You go sit on a wooden bench and you wait in line for a long time to get your food. And then there are hole in the wall places all over the city, as well.”

Houston, Texas
What’s the trademark dish that best represents your region?

“Tacos. We’ve seen a lot of creativity around tacos. We have your classic beef or chicken tacos, which fall in line with the Mexican cuisine. But then we’ve also seen some creativity around Indian tacos. There’s Velvet Taco, where they do chicken tikka masala and they put it in naan bread, but it’s folded up like a taco. You see a lot of Korean barbecue tacos. I think in Houston if you’re starting a food truck, just make something a taco, put whatever in it, and you will attract people to come to it.”

What’s a great activity for families visiting the area?

“If you’re making a full weekend and it is your first time in Houston, go to the Johnson Space Center. You have to go to NASA. You don’t come to Houston and not go to NASA. I think that’s a must if it’s your first time. If you want to see what Houston is in and around town, we have the Museum District, which offers a lot of pretty parks, the Museum of Natural Science, and then, of course, it has the McGovern Centennial Gardens.”

How often do you run into a Baylor fan around town?

“Probably weekly if I’m out and about in the city. It’s crazy. If you sit at the Starbucks at Post Oak in the Galleria area, just sit in there for a day. You’re bound to see someone come in with a Baylor hoodie, a Baylor jacket, or something.”

What does it mean to you knowing that several times a year, Baylor fans and sports teams will be coming to your region now with the new Big 12 footprint?

“I love it, because I think for the longest time Texas A&M was perceived as the big runner in Houston. But from what I’ve seen within the past five years, the Baylor network is coming together to be stronger for not only its sports, but its mission behind the University, being a Christian institution. I think that it’s really going to be amped up with more events coming into Houston. It’s going to allow more connectivity, more conversation, more networking, and more of a common goal working towards Baylor’s overall mission. I think it’s going to be phenomenal. Now, when I tell people, ‘I went to Baylor,’ everyone’s like, ‘Whoa! You went to Baylor?’ Like, it’s such a big deal. It’s really grown and it’s great to see.”

After the departure of the University of Texas and University of Oklahoma to the SEC in July 2024, the Big 12 Conference will be comprised of 12 universities — Baylor, BYU, Central Florida, Cincinnati, Houston, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas Tech and West Virginia. The additions jump the Big 12 footprint from five states and 40.2 million people, to eight states with more than 76.5 million total inhabitants.

Baylor continues to grow in national reputation and reach, and the expansion of the Big 12 Conference provides opportunities to connect with alumni and families of current and future students in new and exciting ways. That Good Old Baylor Line will grow stronger and longer as together we live the mission of Baylor University wherever we are.

For more information on how to connect with Baylor Alumni in your region, visit