AUSTIN, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – During a Texas Senate hearing on the future of college athletics in Texas on Monday, August 2, the Commissioner of the Big 12 Conference unloaded on the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Oklahoma after they announced they’re moving to the Southeastern Conference in July 2025.
Bob Bowlsby told lawmakers the remaining eight schools in the conference, including three from Texas felt betrayed.READ MORE: Fort Worth Residents Concerned About Plans To Replace Nearly 100-Year-Old Forest Park Pool
“Not withstanding the obvious breach of trust, the University of Oklahoma and the University of Texas at Austin violated the very by-laws they helped to construct. Regrettably and inappropriately, these two universities chose to ignore their prior commitments and instead, moved ahead to deceive and undermine the institutions to which they pledged their loyalty.”
We reached out to both schools for comment Monday afternoon, but didn’t hear back.
Later in the hearing, UT Austin President Jay Hartzell responded to Bowlsby’s accusations by denying any wrongdoing. “Given today’s remarks and the conversation that’s unfolded, I want to set the record straight — we have and will continue to honor all agreements. We have not violated any Big 12 by law.”
The universities’ decision has sent political shockwaves through the Texas Capitol and throughout the Lone Star State.
State Senator Jane Nelson, R-Grapevine, chaired the Select Senate committee hearing. “One could argue the earth beneath college sports has shifted more in the past four weeks than in the past four decades. It’s seismic.”
During the hearing, Bowlsby and others referenced a study by economist Ray Perryman who said TCU in Fort Worth, Baylor University in Waco, and Texas Tech in Lubbock and their surrounding communities could lose between $397.7 million and $569.1 million in annual gross product and between 5,322 and 7,615 jobs depending on what happens to the conference.
The schools worry about a loss of revenue from television rights.
Bowlsby said the Big 12 Conference receives about $28 million in tv rights, and that at least half of it, $14 million is from UT and OU.
The Commissioner was also asked why he recently sent sports network ESPN a cease and desist letter. “We became aware of information that at least one and perhaps more conferences were meddling with our members and that there was some indication that ESPN had a participation in it.”
We reached out to ESPN for a comment. The network referenced a letter it sent to the Big 12 Conference in response to the cease and desist demand.
ESPN said, “The accusations you have made are entirely without merit. To be clear, ESPN has engaged in no wrongful conduct, and thus, there is nothing to “cease and desist.”READ MORE: Cook Children’s Halts Elective Surgeries Due To Staff, Bed Shortages During COVID-19 Surge
TCU Chancellor Dr. Victor Boschini told lawmakers that he’s been there for 19 years, and during that time, the University has been in the power five conference for nine years and out of it for ten years.
“Enrollment’s up. Applications are up. Our merchandise sales are up. Our visibility is up. Academic standards are up. All of these things go up. I think there is a direct connection between academic excellence and athletic success and I think the power 5 schools in general show that.”
Mack Rhoades IV, Vice President and Director of Intercollegiate Activities at Baylor University agreed. “If we no longer are a part of a power five, we will sell less tickets, we will sell less merchandise, we will raise less money and we’ll have less corporate sponsorship.”
Dr. Linda Livingstone, President of Baylor University told lawmakers athletics helps recruit students and professors. “When you think about our national championship in basketball and the visibility that gave, not just Baylor but the Big 12 Conference, and the State of Texas, and we had Houston in the final as well, that was huge. You just can’t buy that kind of publicity to promote the quality of the institution you are.”
Texas Tech leaders and the University of Texas at Austin President were also scheduled to address lawmakers at the hearing that continued into Monday evening.
Retired SMU Economics professor Bernard Weinstein told lawmakers the Big 12 should attract colleges and universities from the DFW and Houston metro areas, where about half of the state’s population lives.
“The way to keep the Big 12 viable is to make it more of a Texas focused conference with representation from Universities in the major metropolitan areas.”
Some lawmakers have fled bills to require legislative approval before Texas universities shift athletic conferences.
But without Governor Greg Abbott, a graduate of UT Austin, adding it to the special session agenda, those bills won’t go anywhere.
We reached to the Governor’s Press Secretary seeking comment on this issue, but we didn’t hear back.
Even if the Governor did add it to the special session agenda, the Texas House does not have a quorum to consider any bills because most House Democrats remain in Washington, D.C.MORE NEWS: COVID-19 Vaccines Don't Impact Fertility, But The Virus Does, Doctors Say
This special session is scheduled to end later this week, and Governor Abbott has told CBS 11 that the next special session would begin the next day so that lawmakers can pass a number of his priorities including elections integrity legislation.