Members of the Texas House of Representatives have filed a bill that would require legislative approval for conference realignment.
The proposed legislation come as speculation circulates that the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma are looking to make the jump from the Big 12 Conference to the Southeastern Conference — a move that would shake up the world of Texas collegiate sports.
The legislation filed Friday would bar public colleges, universities and their governing boards from changing “membership in a collegiate athletic conference without passage of a concurrent resolution by a majority vote in both legislative chambers.”
“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,” the bill’s author Rep. Dustin Burrows, a Lubbock Republican said in a statement.
More than 30 lawmakers have signed on as co-authors of the bill. In addition to Burrows, the legislation was also filed by State Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, and Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, according to a news release from Burrow’s office. A companion version of the bill is expected to be filed in the Senate.
Conference realignment is not on Gov. Greg Abbott’s special session agenda, which lays out what issues lawmakers can take up, so it’s unclear whether the proposal will gain traction. The session has been effectively brought to a halt after House Democrats broke quorum and went to Washington to block Republican-backed election bills.
Leach in a statement said the realignment decisions could have “monumental impacts” on Texas.
“For some communities and business owners, and certainly for our universities, the effects could be devastating,” he said. “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.. I am proud to be working with fellow State Representatives and Senators who understand the urgency of the present situation and am hopeful the Governor will join us in supporting our efforts.”
Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, has filed the Senate version of the bill, joined by Senators Lois Kolkhorst, R-Kolkhorst, Charles Perry, R-Lubbock and Sen. Beverly Powell, D-Burleson.
“This legislation would inhibit the proposed move of the University of Texas to the SEC without legislative approval,” Birdwell said in a Facebook post. “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.”
He ended his post by calling on Abbott to add the legislation to his special session call.