As momentum builds for Texas, OU to SEC, Texas A&M and state legislators scramble to keep up

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas A&M Athletic Director Ross Bjork has made his disdain for the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma’s plans to move to the Southeastern Conference well known over the past few days.

Now, Texas A&M officials are planning their next steps.

In a release sent by the university, Texas A&M announced that the university’s Board of Regents will have a “special telephonic meeting” on Monday and that following the meeting, the Board “will convene in open session for discussion and possible action on contractual and governance issues relating to Texas A&M University and the Southeastern Conference.”

It wasn’t just the college football world that was caught off guard by the surprise report that Texas and Oklahoma are trying to move to the SEC. The Texas Legislature was, too.

“It’s really concerning to me, especially, it just kinda popping up really quick on us like this,” State Rep. Justin Holland, R-Heath, said.

It’s not unusual for state lawmakers to get involved in college athletics, especially when it involves conference realignment. Then-Governor Ann Richards, a Baylor alum, famously lobbied for her Bears to be included when the Big 12 was coming together. That’s why Baylor, not TCU, was an original member.

“This is something I think that all the schools in the Big 12 need to think about the impact financially, recruiting-wise, what it does to our educational institutions of people wanting to go there not for sports reasons,” Holland, a Texas Tech grad, said.

Two years ago, a bill was proposed that would force Texas and Texas A&M to play every year, but it failed to make it out of committee. Legislation was also introduced in 2013, just a year after the Aggies left the Big 12 for the SEC.

On Friday, Baylor addressed the reports and the potential effect the Big 12’s dissolution could have on it.

“We understand the significance and urgency of this matter, as our conference membership impacts not only Baylor, but also the Waco community, the state of Texas and beyond,” school president Linda Livingstone and Baylor athletic director Mack Rhoades, IV, said in a joint statement. “Conference affiliation has the power to greatly enhance our institution’s academic and athletic national standing and visibility while also expanding academic and research opportunities available to faculty, students and our communities.”

To that end, Livingstone and Rhoades even suggested it will use its alumni in the state Legislature to try to protect the school’s best interests when it comes to being in a preeminent “Power Five” conference.

“Rest assured, we, along with the Board of Regents, members of the Baylor delegation in the Texas Legislature and other Baylor leaders, are actively engaged in conversations with our Big 12 colleagues and others to ensure our University is in the strongest position possible now and into the future,” they continued in the statement.

But just because the Legislature has gotten involved in college athletics before, doesn’t necessarily mean that it should.

“I haven’t put a whole lot of thought into how appropriate it is for the legislative process and football conferences to interact,” Holland said. “What I do know is higher education in the state of Texas is a conversation that we have every session.”

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