IRVING, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – Even before UTAustin and the University of Oklahoma announced they’ll both leave the Big 12 Conference in 2025, Texas lawmakers representing other universities in the conference, announced bills that would require approval from Texas lawmakers.
The bills, HB 298 and SB 76, call for a majority of lawmakers to approve a resolution before state universities could switch athletic conferences.
One school, TCU, is in Democratic State Senator Beverly Powell’s district.
The Fort Worth lawmaker is a co-author of the Senate bill. “The University of Texas leaving the Big 12 conference will leave a hole that will be really difficult for us to fill.”
State Representative Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock and State Senator Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, authored the bills for their chambers, but were unavailable for comment Monday.
Both UT and OU said in a statement that they intend to honor their existing agreements. “However, both universities will continue to monitor the rapidly evolving collegiate athletics landscape as they consider how best to position their athletics programs for the future.”
The universities didn’t announce which conference they are moving to, but it’s been widely reported they’re interested in the Southeastern Conference (SEC).
Texas A&M plays in the SEC.
For its part, the Big 12 released its own statement by Commissioner Bob Bowlsby saying the other eight teams in the conference are disappointed but that, “We recognize that intercollegiate athletics is experiencing rapid change and will most likely look much different in 2025 than it does currently.”
Senator Powell said Monday that lawmakers fund billions of dollars for higher education statewide and should be able to weigh-in on this issue. “It’s important that we maintain vibrancy across the state, for our universities, and this is more than just about sports and about football. This is about the equal economic equity for all of the institutions in the state of Texas.”
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick weighed in on Twitter and scheduled a hearing on such matters in August.
With the announcement by UT today, & possible SEC invitation this week, I asked @SenJaneNelson to chair a new Select Committee on the Future of College Sports in Texas, to study the athletic & economic impact to TX schools & communities by UT’s exit. Hearing will be 8/2 #txlege
— Dan Patrick (@DanPatrick) July 26, 2021
Labor law attorney Rogge Dunn of Dallas said Monday “It’s a state institution, and the Trustees or Regents I think are all appointed by the Governor, and beholden to the Governor. So if the legislature were to pass a resolution or a law, then that could impact or prevent UT from doing this.”
Dunn said it could come down to the clout of supporters of all the schools involved. “You’re going to have on the one side, University of Texas, on the other Texas A&M, TCU, Texas Tech and Baylor and that’s the only way that that there might be a legal way to block this.”
For now, the bills aren’t going anywhere during the special session of the legislature.
That’s because Governor Abbott hasn’t added the issue to the agenda and the House still doesn’t have a quorum even if he did.
No word yet on the what the response is from the Governor, who’s also a UT graduate.
CBS 11 reached out to his office Monday, July 26, but has not heard back.