AUSTIN, Texas — The eyes of Texas are glaring at the two biggest names in the Big 12 Conference. The University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma made major waves for reportedly reaching out to join the powerful Southeastern Conference.
Officials with UT and OU are neither confirming, nor denying. The move could make the SEC the first national super-conference and leave the remaining Big 12 teams stranded. Less than 24 hours later, state lawmakers are weighing in.
In recent years, college sports has found its way to infiltrate the Texas Capitol. State lawmakers took up a bill allowing students profiting off their image and likeness. There have been bills brought up through the years to try to revive the Texas A&M-Texas football rivalry.
Baylor graduate Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, said the lack of transparency is wrong on Twitter. He said he is working on a bill requiring legislative approval for UT to leave the Big 12. In a tweet, Leach said "This is about much more than college sports. The impact UT’s decision would have on communities & businesses all across Texas would be real, substantial and potentially devastating."
Meanwhile, Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, who went to Texas Tech, expressed similar sentiments on social media. Burrows noted how the Texas Legislature appropriates millions of dollars to higher education every session. Burrows tweeted, "When tax dollars are involved, there should be zero allowance for secrecy, especially when it comes to far-reaching and impactful decisions by our universities."
Texas A&M left the Big 12 nearly a decade ago and they are the only program in the state of Texas in the SEC. Recent statements from the Aggies athletic director makes it seem they want to keep it that way. The Longhorns and Sooners would need 11 out of the 14 members of the conference to agree to the move.
Texas politicians have a history of throwing their weight behind conference realignment, and it is not the first time UT teased leaving the Big 12. Around the time A&M left, UT was thinking about exiting as well. Baylor University officials tried to rally graduates at the state legislature. In the '90s, former Gov. Ann Richards and Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock helped shape the Big 12 because they wanted to save their alma maters, Baylor and Texas Tech, respectively.
Gov. Greg Abbott and House Speaker Dade Phelan,R-Beaumont, are Texas Exes.