There has been much intrigue over the past week and half about potential realignments in college sports, particularly designed to attract greater audiences and financial incentives for certain football programs. With the departure of the University of Colorado (to the PAC-10) and the University of Nebraska (to the Big 10), it’s clear the current configuration of the Big 12 Conference will be no more. As the major Texas universities are now weighing their options, a committee of the Texas House of Representatives has found it necessary to hold a hearing on this issue.
On Wednesday, the Texas House Committee on Higher Education, headed by Republican State Rep. Dan Branch of Dallas, will hold a public hearing on the matter. Chairman Branch has been quoted as saying “I’m confident the regents will make sound decisions,” but it’s also reported in another interview that he suggested “it would not be wise to act on any conference movement before [the hearing on] Wednesday.”
Is this meant to serve as some form of intimidation toward the boards of regents? After all, in Texas, higher education systems (i.e., UT System and TAMU System, etc.) are a part of the state’s power diffused executive branch, and were created to oversee and govern the activities of the individual college campuses. University system regents are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Texas Senate.
One would hope the university boards of regents are considering more than the potential positive impact from new media attention on their football program. Their decision will not only affect the football team, it will impact all sports on the campus, from track to volleyball, golf, etc., as well as a century of storied tradition and rivalry between The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University.
Additionally, the choice of moving into a new conference has impacts that will be felt throughout their student-athlete communities, particularly if the change would now require participants to travel far more often to far flung regions of the country. Adding this travel burden would probably reduce the amount of time students can dedicate to their academic studies, which is supposed to be the main reason they’re enrolled at the university, right?
These are complex issues that need to be fully examined, and legislators should closely track these decisions for the potential fiscal and policy impacts that may result. But to hold a pre-emptive hearing to probe a fluid decision-making process seems to suggest legislative encroachment into the executive branch.