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Lubbock Representative files bill that would require legislative approval for college conference realignment

Published: Jul. 23, 2021 at 11:32 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 23, 2021 at 11:53 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Lubbock Representative Dustin Burrows and others in the Texas Legislature have filed a bill responding to reports that the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma are preparing to leave the Big 12 conference.

Ten years after Texas A&M University departed for the Southeastern Conference, rumors began this week claiming UT and OU have been discussing a break from the Big 12 to the SEC. Currently, this move would require the approval of 11 of 14 SEC schools.

According to House Calendars Chairman Burrows, Bill 298 was filed on Friday and supported by more than 30 legislators. The bill is joint authored by State Representative Jeff Leach, State Representative Greg Bonnen, and State Representative Charlie Geren.

The proposed bill would amend Higher Education Code, in part saying the governing board of each institution may not change membership in a collegiate athletic conference without passage of a concurrent resolution by a majority vote in both legislative chambers.

HB00298I by Brad Burt on Scribd

“Texas lauds some of the finest universities and athletic programs in the nation,” Rep. Burrows said. “Their impact reaches far beyond their superiority in the classroom, distinction in research, and excellence on the field. They play a significant role in the economic development, tourism, and overall prominence of their respective regions.”

Governor Greg Abbott, a graduate of UT, could add the bill to the current special session agenda but a vote can’t be held at this time, as Democrats in the Texas Legislature have left the state Capitol to break quorum and block a bill on voting supported by Texas Republicans.

The Big 12′s TV contracts run through June 30, 2025, which could be the earliest either UT or OU can leave the conference.

Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork told ESPN on Thursday, “we want to be the only SEC program in the state of Texas.”

Representatives filing the bill believe UT and OU’s move would influence economics for those schools, and businesses across the state, as well as other Texas universities in the Big 12 conference, including Texas Tech.

With the announcement of the bill, Representative Jeff Leach said major conference realignments can “have monumental impacts on the entire State of Texas.”

“For some communities and business owners, and certainly for our universities, the effects could be devastating,” Rep. Leach stated. “Such important decisions must not be made by a select few behind closed doors, nor should they be unduly impacted by out-of-state interests who have little care or concern for the people of Texas.”

The day before the bill was filed, Texas Tech Chancellor Tedd Mitchell spoke on rumors of the departure, saying he has been “extremely disappointed by the actions and intentions of our friends in Austin and Norman.”

“From day one of the Big 12 Conference’s existence, Texas Tech has been a proud and trustworthy partner,” Mitchell said. “As the landscape of collegiate athletics shifts, I can promise Red Raider Nation that our leadership will diligently pursue all options to best position Texas Tech for long-term success.”

A spokesman for the University of Texas responded saying, “we will not address rumors or speculation.” Oklahoma stated, “The college athletics landscape is shifting constantly. We don’t address every anonymous rumor.”

State Senator Brian Birdwell will be filing companion legislation in the Texas Senate, along with State Senator Lois Kolkhorst, State Senator Charles Perry, and State Senator Beverly Powell.

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