Texas committee studying impact of Longhorns’ Big 12 exit holds first meeting

As the University of Texas’ decision to leave the Big 12 Conference for the Southeastern Conference continues to rock the college sports world, there are growing questions about the economic effect on our state and on other area universities. A legislative committee will meet Monday to discuss what that impact could look like.

On Friday, the Universities of Texas and Oklahoma both officially accepted an invitation to join the SEC effective in 2025—meaning they'll be out of the Big 12. 

But days before that even happened Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick had already established the Select Committee on the Future of College Sports in Texas. That committee will hold its first hearing Monday at 1:00 PM. The committee’s goal, Patrick says, is to study the athletic and economic effect of UT’s decision to leave the Big 12 on Texas communities and schools--specifically other schools that remain in the conference.

The 14-member committee is chaired by Sen. Jane Nelson of Flower Mound and consists of eight Senate Republicans and three Democrats—with Patrick pointing out the House was unable to conduct its own hearing due to the Democrats' walkout. Because of that, there are three House Republicans who will join these discussions as well. All of the members represent areas that will be affected by UT’s move to the SEC—places like Waco, Lubbock, and Ft. Worth.

In a statement, Patrick underscored the gravity of this shift, saying, "College athletics bring Texans together in celebration of our state's rich athletic heritage and our Texas identity." Political analysts we spoke to say the Lieutenant Governor is making the right move by taking this seriously, but some question how much the committee can really do in this situation.

"He has got to do it, we know that the Big 12 falling apart is a loss of revenue for a lot of Texas schools, especially in places like Lubbock and Waco, who count on big football games," said Dr. Brian Smith, a political science professor at St. Edward’s University.

"He shouldn't punt; he has to play. He has to fight because this is a big deal even in North Texas, the Ft. Worth area, but I also agree it may be a losing battle," said Gromer Jeffers, Jr., of the Dallas Morning News.

"I don't see it as something that gets much play during the next special session," said Cassi Pollock of the Texas Tribune.

The Big 12 is headquartered in Irving and has a big footprint in Texas. 

On Friday, Oklahoma’s president talked about the importance of preserving the Texas-Oklahoma Rivalry. The Red River Showdown between the two teams at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas appears it will not be impacted by this shakeup. UT President Jay Hartzell says he's pleased Texas will rekindle rivalries with Texas A&M and Arkansas.

University of Texas officials say this was a well-thought-out decision, despite it coming about rather quickly. Lucrative financial benefits from moving to the SEC helped to entice both schools, though Hartzell says this is about move than just money.

"While our university has enjoyed over 25 years in the Big 12 Conference, we recognize that we must be willing to make changes with our eyes in the future. We looked at conferences across the country and concluded that the sec is the best fit for our future. The reasons are many: the stability and strength of the league and its leadership, the level of visibility for our student-athletes, some of the toughest athletic competition, and exciting stadiums that are similar in capacity and attendance to ours," Hartzell said on Friday.

The move to the SEC isn't supposed to happen until 2025 when the media rights agreement that Texas and Oklahoma have with the Big 12 expires. However, there is already speculation the schools might exit the Big 12 much sooner, a scenario that is not without precedent. For example, both Texas A&M and Missouri were accepted into the SEC in 2011 and started playing a year later.

SEC votes 14-0 to invite Texas, Oklahoma to join conference
Texas A&M System Board of Regents votes to support SEC expansion
Texas, Oklahoma submit request to join SEC
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