More than 30 Texas lawmakers signed onto a bill Friday that would require any state university to get approval from the legislature before switching athletic conferences.
As reported by Forbes, Republican state representative Dustin Burrows, who attended Texas Tech University, filed the bill amid concerns that the University of Texas, along with the University of Oklahoma, are poised to leave the Big 12 Conference for the Southeastern Conference — moves that many believe would mark the end of the Big 12.
In a statement Friday detailing HB 298, Burrows wrote in part, “a decision to switch to a different athletic conference affects the opportunity and stability of our publicly funded universities across the state and must be fully vetted in the most transparent and comprehensive manner possible,” according to CBS affiliate KEYE in Austin.
However, Texas governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, is a University of Texas graduate, and the governor would have to add the bill to the special session agenda for it to be considered. Lawmakers with ties to three Texas-based Big 12 universities (Texas Tech, Baylor and Texas Christian) and Texas A&M, which plays in the SEC, met with the governor's staff Thursday to discuss the defection rumors, but Abbott had not yet taken a public stance as of Friday evening, Forbes reported.
Texas A&M is expected to be the only SEC member to vote against admitting Texas and Oklahoma, should expansion come to a vote. Playing in a stronger conference gives A&M one edge in recruiting over Texas.
The Texas and Oklahoma football programs alone generate a combined average annual revenue of $276 million, according to Forbes' most recent list of College Football's Most Valuable Teams, released in 2019. Texas is ranked second behind only Texas A&M, while Oklahoma came in at No. 6. Losing Texas and Oklahoma would leave the conference without a single member among college football's 25 most valuable programs.
As reported by KEYE, there’s also a companion bill, SB 76, that is expected to be filed by senator Brian Birdwell that includes co-authors Louis Kolkhorst, a former golfer at TCU who represents a district that touches A&M territory, and Charles Perry, who attended Texas Tech and represents Lubbock.
In a Facebook post about SB 76, senator Birdwell wrote in part, “Such a move would negatively impact other Big 12 schools in our state like Baylor, TCU, and Texas Tech. These schools and their surrounding communities heavily depend on the financial income that BIG 12 football provides. Without a significant player like Texas, along with the possible departure of OU, the Big 12 becomes a less favorable conference, effectively losing a substantial amount of viewership and attendance.”