Now that the central question of Wednesday’s House Higher Ed Committee meeting on athletic conference realignments has been answered, there's no need for the show to go on.
In the last 24 hours, the 10 remaining members of the Big 12 Conference all announced decisions to hang together in what University of Texas President Bill Powers jokingly calls the “Conference Formerly Known as the Big 12.”
House Higher Ed Chairman Dan Branch, R-Dallas, issued a statement this afternoon saying "the immediate need for a hearing has passed" after Texas Tech, the last holdout, officially committed to staying put. "The hearing was originally scheduled with three principle objectives in mind: to allow a public evaluation of the merits of possible athletic conference reconfigurations involving our largest public universities, to provide more transparency, and to encourage an outcome that best serves our state," Branch said. "The Committee's intent was not to micro-manage individual university decisions."
Though, this does mean that non-Big 12 schools that had been expected to attend the hearing — Rice University, Texas Christian University, Southern Methodist University, University of Houston, for example — won't get their perspective heard. The opportunity to join the conference would be seen as a major boon to some of those universities. State Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, who lives just blocks from UH, has emphasized the need for the Big 12 to use this opportunity to incorporate more Texas schools in the conference.
As of now, however, the 10-team conference has no plans to expand, said conference commissioner Dan Beebe in a teleconference this morning. Further, he said, "I don't expect it to come in the future."
But Coleman says he's willing to do some micromanaging to make it happen. The legislature could, for instance, assert a right to approve any contract between a university and a conference. "Nothing stops us from doing that." Though the conferences are not under state control, the universities "are owned by the public," Coleman said. "We forget that — and sometimes they forget that."
He'll have to wait a while longer to remind them.
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