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UT President Given Power to Tackle Conference Issue

University of Texas President Bill Powers announces UT's commitment to the Big 12 Conference.
Photo by Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune
University of Texas President Bill Powers announces UT's commitment to the Big 12 Conference.

The University of Texas System regents today gave UT President Bill Powers the authority to take any necessary actions regarding conference realignment. Hours earlier, the University of Oklahoma regents empowered their president, David Boren, with the same authority.

The action by both universities is identical to a move Texas A&M University System regents made in August when they granted such authority to Texas A&M President  R. Bowen Loftin — two weeks before A&M officially notified the Big 12 Conference that it wanted out.

With the Big 12's future uncertain following A&M's effort to depart for the Southeastern Conference, UT is reportedly considering a move to the PAC-12 Conference — possibly along with fellow Big 12 members Texas Tech University, University of Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State University — with an arrangement that would allow the university to keep a slightly tweaked version of its recently launched Longhorn Network, which is projected to provide the university $300 million over 20 years.

Ultimately, any change in UT's conference affiliation would be to be approved by the Board of Regents. Powers told the regents that staying in the Big 12 remained a possibility.

Last week, Ken Starr, president of Baylor University — a Big 12 institution whose legal threats have thrown a kink in A&M's plans to leave — wrote, "At the present time, we are optimistic that the big 12 will remain a viable athletic conference."

To underscore that point, on Monday Baylor officials highlighted the results of a poll the university commissioned of football-loving college graduates in Big 12 member states conducted over the weekend. Three-quarters of the 1,500 college graduates who responded — 300 each in Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas and Iowa — said they would be unhappy if so-called "super conferences" meant the end of historic rivalries.

With A&M's move to the SEC, the annual Thanksgiving battle between the state's two flagship public universities might be history. If Oklahoma and Texas end up in the Pac 12, their historic annual battle in Dallas would likely be preserved.

"Baylor has consistently aregued that decisions regarding conference realignment are too important to be determined by small groups meeting behind closed doors," said John M. Barry, Baylor's vice president for marketing and communications, in a statement accompanying the poll results.

Reeve Hamilton has interned at The Nation and The Texas Observer, for which he covered the 2009 legislative session. Most recently, he was a desk assistant at The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. A Houston native, he has a bachelor's degree in English from Vanderbilt University.