Big 12

Lawmakers Want Say in Whether Public Schools Can Leave Athletic Conferences

The item is not on the agenda for the special legislative session

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The University of Texas took the first formal step on Monday toward leaving the Big 12 Conference and moving to the SEC with the University of Oklahoma.

It would not only mark a massive change in Texas sports and shake up the national college athletics landscape but also carry an economic impact for cities around the state.

That has some Texas lawmakers expressing concerns.

“This is an issue that is more than just about sports, this is about economic vitality in many of our Texas communities, and I think that those issues should always be on the table for us to consider,” state Sen. Beverly Powell (D-Fort Worth) said.

Powell represents Fort Worth, the home of TCU. She is one of the co-authors of a Senate bill, which would require House and Senate approval for public colleges and universities to leave their athletic conferences.

In addition to the bill filed in the Senate, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick established the Select Committee on the Future of College Sports in Texas, which will be chaired by Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound).

"Collegiate athletics bring Texans together in celebration of our state's rich athletic heritage and our Texas identity," Patrick's office said in an emailed statement. "It is vital that the Texas Senate understand the economic and athletic impact of the University of Texas leaving the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference."

The committee will meet for the first time on Monday, Aug. 2.

There is a version of the bill in the House too.

But with the item is not on Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's (R) agenda for the special legislative session, prospects of getting it passed could be dim.

“I don't think there is anything that the legislature can do at this point," said state Rep. Justin Holland (R-Rockwall), a co-author of the House bill. "I think that if there were a way that the stars could align and we could get some of our Democratic colleagues back from D.C. to make a quorum, and the governor wanted us to have the conversation -- a lot of things would have had to come in line for that to happen so I do believe that at this point it is probably too late."

Abbott's office did not respond to a request for comment Monday afternoon.

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