Regents authorize President to negotiate conference realignment

Liz Farmer

The UT System Board of Regents voted to give the UT-Austin president authority to negotiate entrance into another conference or to remain in the Big 12.

The decision was made over a special telephone meeting between the Board of Regents and current president William Powers Jr. The meeting is the beginning of many talks focused on the future of UT Austin football. The University of Oklahoma’s Board of Regents also gave OU’s president the authority to negotiate their position in the Big 12 or begin a move towards entrance into another football conference on Sept. 19.

“There’s been a great deal of movement concerning conference realignment,” Powers said.

Although legal issues concerning their contract with the Big 12 remain, Texas A&M University withdrew from the Big 12 in late August with plans to join the Southeastern Conference. This came as a response to the Longhorn Network, which A&M views as an unfair recruiting advantage for UT, according to the Associated Press.

Powers and UT athletic director DeLoss Dodds reportedly met with Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott in Los Angeles this past weekend, according to a New York Times article.

“We believe it would be helpful to be able to explore options,” Powers said. “Including continued participation in the Big 12 in the interest of our student athletes.”

According to the Big 12’s official website, UT has been a member of the Big 12 since its formation in 1994 when the conference began through a merger of the Big 8 conference with four Texas universities from the now-defunct Southwest Conference. Athletic competition within the conference began in 1996, with UT remaining a consistent football powerhouse in the conference, earning four national championship wins.

The Pac-12 will launch its own television networks in August 2012, according to the Associated Press. If UT applies for entrance into the Pac-12, the future of the Longhorn Network and how it will fit into the possible partnership could come into question.

The Board of Regents must ratify any change in conference membership. Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, both part of the Big 12, are expected to apply for entrance to the Pac-12 if UT and OU make the move. 

Printed on September 20, 2011 as: Powers gains conference control