Texas has a lot at stake in the University of Texas and University of Oklahoma transitioning from the Big 12 Conference to the SEC.
Many of the stakeholders were at the table Monday, as university presidents and Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby spoke in front of Texas lawmakers about the implications of Texas and Oklahoma leaving the Big 12 in 2025. According to The Associated Press, Texas senators heard testimony about the financial and academic implications on Baylor, Texas Tech and TCU, while University of Texas president Jay Hartzell defended the decision.
“We came to view that due to the changing landscape of college athletics and the strong position of the Southeastern Conference, that the SEC might be a better home for the university — providing us with greater certainty and less risk,” Hartzell said, according to The Texas Tribune. He noted the decision to leave was motivated by factors like the COVID-19 pandemic and name, image and likeness movement.
Lawmakers and other university president spoke about how UT made the move behind the backs of the rest of the Big 12, particularly Texas’ member schools — Baylor, TCU and Texas Tech. Texas A&M is already a member of the SEC.
The lawmakers said that UT’s move was a calculated choice meant to avoid intervention from legislators during this year’s legislative session. In July, Texas lawmakers filed legislation that would prohibit Texas public colleges from switching conference affiliations without legislative approval. However, governor Greg Abbott didn’t place university conference affiliations on the special session agenda.
State representative Dustin Burrows said that the move happening behind closed doors isn’t in the Big 12’s best interest, and noted two provisions in the Big 12’s bylaws: a commitment to be part of the conference for 99 years if it lasts that long and that members should not be engaged with discussions or conduct that go against the best interest of the conference.
“They’ve been doing this for weeks, if not months, behind your back,” Burrows said. “Behind the backs of the other members and maybe even behind the backs of the Legislature while we were in session.”
“The innate co-dependencies that are present in college athletics conferences extend far beyond the playing fields,” Bowlsby said. “Notwithstanding the obvious breach of trust, [OU and UT] have violated the very bylaws they helped to construct.”
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Hartzell said he initiated discussions with the SEC in the spring and said “We have and will continue to honor all agreements. We have not violated any Big 12 bylaws.”
Still, Big 12 communities will face a heavy impact. Baylor president Mack Rhoades noted the university’s athletic budget is 48 percent of Texas’.
“The economic impact is real,” Rhoades said Monday. “If we are no longer a member of the Power Five, we will sell less tickets, we will sell less merchandise, we will raise less money and we will have less corporate sponsorship.”
Bowlsby said the Big 12 generated $28 million in television revenue each year, and the TV contract value would take a 50 percent hit without Texas and Oklahoma.
The Big 12 reportedly distributed $34.5 million to each of its 10 members in 2020-21. The AP reported that the SEC could distribute as much as $70 million annually to its members in coming years.
The Perryman Group conducted a two-scenario study that found that Big 12 communities could cause losses of $938.9 million in annual gross product and 12,623 jobs. Scenario 2 resulted in expected losses of $1.3 billion in annual gross product and 18,063 jobs.
According to Everything Lubbock, The Perryman Group estimated that the realignment could have a $117-$161 million economic impact in Lubbock. The home of Texas Tech could reportedly also see 1,600-2,200 lost jobs and $6-8.6 million in lost local tax revenue.
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