Lubbock lawmaker announces legislation to stop UT from joining the SEC

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Dustin Burrows on the floor of the Texas House (Nexstar/Staff)

LUBBOCK, Texas — Dustin Burrows, a state lawmaker from Lubbock, announced legislation Friday to prevent the University of Texas from leaving the Big 12 athletic conference without first getting approval from the Texas Legislature.

UT and The University of Oklahoma expressed an interest in joining the Southeastern Conference (SEC) as first reported by the Houston Chronicle.

Texas Tech objected, with Chancellor Tedd Mitchell saying he was disappointed with the actions of OU and UT. Most observers agree that the Big 12 would be devastated after such a move.

CBS Sports and other media outlets reported that OU and UT will make a formal request on Monday to exit the Big 12 — possibly at the expiration of a “grand of rights” period in 2025.

Burrows said, “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.”

Texas House Chairmen Dustin Burrows, Greg Bonnen, Charlie Geren, and Jeff Leach File Bill Requiring Legislative Approval of Conference Realignment; Want Legislature to Address Issue Immediately.

Today, Texas House Calendars Chairman Dustin Burrows filed House Bill 298 which requires legislative approval before a public senior college or university can change membership in a collegiate athletic conference. The bill is joint authored by State Representative Jeff Leach, Chair of the House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence; State Representative Greg Bonnen, Chair of the House Committee on Appropriations; and State Representative Charlie Geren, Chair of House Local and Consent Committee. The House Bill is supported by over 30 legislators who have initially signed on as Co-Authors.

State Senator Brian Birdwell, Chairman of the Senate Natural Resources and Economic Development Committee, will be filing companion legislation in the Texas Senate, along with State Senator Lois Kolkhorst, Chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services; State Senator Charles Perry, Chair of the Water, Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee; and State Senator Beverly Powell.

Chairman Burrows said, “Texas lauds some of the finest universities and athletic programs in the nation. 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. 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. That is why I am joining my fellow House Chairmen and Senators Birdwell and Kolkhorst in authoring a bill to require legislative approval before an institution can take such action. The exceptionalism of the great state of Texas must not be left in the hands of a few but is a responsibility to be shared by all.”

Chairman Leach stated, “Decisions relating to major conference realignments potentially 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. 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.”

Under the proposed law, Sec. 51.979. of the Higher Education Code would be amended as follows: “Notwithstanding any other section of this code, a public senior college or university, as defined by Section 61.003(4), and 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.” We want the legislature to take up and consider this issue immediately.”

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