The University of Texas System Board of Regents today unanimously voted to approve The University of Texas at Austin joining the Southeastern Conference at the expiration of its current grant of rights contract with the Big 12 Conference. Board Chairman Kevin Eltife released the following statement:
“Our board met today to discuss the ever-changing landscape of collegiate athletics and the invitation from the Southeastern Conference to The University of Texas at Austin. Recognizing the impact this would have on our athletics programs, the board unanimously voted to approve this conference realignment upon the expiration of our current agreement with the Big 12.”
University of Texas System Chancellor James B. Milliken released the following statement after the board’s vote:
“Today’s action by the Board of Regents is in the best interests of UT student athletes, the UT Austin athletics program overall, and the university. This move ensures a strong future for an outstanding athletics program, providing the opportunity for our student athletes to compete at the highest levels.”
During today’s board meeting Chairman Kevin Eltife, President Jay Hartzell, and Vice President and Director of Athletics Chris Del Conte delivered the following statements:
From Chairman Kevin Eltife:
Before I call for a motion, I would like to make a few comments as I plan to vote in favor of accepting the invitation for The University of Texas at Austin to join the Southeastern Conference in 2025. We are honored to receive the invitation. I am grateful to the SEC and to Commissioner Sankey for considering our request for membership and to the League of Presidents and Chancellors for their unanimous vote and support. I am particularly grateful and want to express my appreciation to the chairman of the Texas A&M Board of Regents, Tim Leach, and the entire Board of Regents at Texas A&M for their support. Yes, our two schools can be competitive, but we have a rich tradition of working together, and that will continue, as at the end of the day both of our institutions care deeply about our students and our commitment to higher education in the State of Texas.
Just this past Monday, we told the Big 12 that we did not intend to renew our grant of rights agreement when it expires in 2025. We then petitioned the Southeastern Conference for membership at the end of our current agreement. We received word yesterday evening that they responded to our request and voted to invite The University of Texas to participate in the SEC at the end of our current agreement.
Over the last 25 years, we’ve benefitted from our strong relationship with our valued Big 12 Conference partners. They’ve provided great competitive contests. Together we created a shared history during this chapter. As our relationship evolves, we will continue to fulfill our obligations to them through the end of our time together.
From President Jay Hartzell:
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to first thank the Board of Regents of the UT System for your consideration today of the invitation from the Southeastern Conference to The University of Texas. This is a monumental decision for UT athletics, our students, faculty, staff, alumni, and fans. And, because of the inextricable link between our athletic and academic endeavors, this is also a monumental decision for our entire university.
Collegiate athletics is changing rapidly whether any of us wants it to or not. This is evidenced by a critical Supreme Court decision and landmark legislation from several states across the country. Issues such as name, image and likeness; declining cable television subscriptions; college football playoff expansion; the transfer portal; and the impact of a global pandemic on sports, just to name a few, have proved that a transformation in collegiate athletics is happening around us.
While our university has enjoyed over 25 years in the Big 12 Conference, we recognize that we must be willing to make changes with our eyes on the future. In a world of uncertainty and change, it is incumbent upon us as leaders to protect and enhance our athletic program and university. In order to do so, we looked at conferences across the country and concluded that the SEC was the best fit for our future. The reasons are many: the stability and strength of the league and its leadership, the level of visibility for our student athletes, some of the toughest athletic competition, and exciting stadiums that are similar in capacity and attendance to ours. It should also be noted that this move allows us to protect and rekindle some key rivalries, including the chance to regularly compete with the University of Oklahoma, University of Arkansas, and Texas A&M University.
On Monday, we alerted the Big 12 that we would not be renewing our grant of rights agreement in 2025—four years down the road. We told the Big 12 that we intend to honor our current agreement, while knowing that notice now is the fairest way to allow the conference to plan for its future beyond 2025. On Tuesday, we sent a letter to the Southeastern Conference requesting membership in that conference at the end of our current agreement. Yesterday afternoon, the SEC unanimously voted to accept our request and invited us to join them in 2025.
I want to thank the SEC leadership, Commissioner Sankey, and the chancellors and presidents of the SEC for their support of this move. I especially want to thank the new president of Texas A&M, Katherine Banks, for her support, and I concur with the conclusion that this is the best outcome for the flagship institutions of both of these key university systems of Texas.
Finally, I’d like to thank my colleague, OU President Joe Harroz. I know we’re both looking forward to continuing our 120-year-old rivalry.
This is the right decision at the right time for the future of our UT athletics programs. I am grateful for the guidance of our Chairman and the support of our Board of Regents. I am also grateful for the support of our Chancellor and the UT System leadership. I’d like to thank our fantastic athletics director, Chris Del Conte, for his leadership. There’s nobody I’d rather have guiding our incredible athletics department through these changing times. Finally, I’d like to thank my incomparable UT leadership team, who worked tirelessly to set this institution and our athletics department on this path continuing to focus on excellence, strength and stability. I believe the greatest and most exciting days for Texas Longhorns athletics are ahead of us.
I’d like Chris Del Conte, our Vice President and Director of Athletics, to share some remarks.
From Vice President and Director of Athletics Chris Del Conte:
Thank you, President Hartzell.
First and foremost, I’m so appreciative of Chairman Eltife and President Hartzell. I say it all the time: Their leadership, vision, wisdom and passion are second to none. They constantly inspire me, and this was another awesome opportunity to work alongside them as we navigated through it. I am truly grateful for their boldness and the steps they helped us take to evaluate the dynamics of collegiate athletics and to position our university and our athletics programs for continued stability and success.
We shouldn’t go forward without appreciating where we’ve been and where we are. 2021 will be our 26th year in the Big 12, and we’ve had so many great experiences and memories and will continue to engage in competition and work with many great colleagues in our league going forward through our contract that runs until 2025. I personally have made many great friendships in the Big 12. I have respect, admiration, and appreciation for them. I look forward to continuing that.
Today is an exciting day. There’s a lot of opportunity on the horizon, and we feel great about our future. So, as we head into Big 12 action this fall, we’ll be competing as hard as ever, striving to be champions on and off the field, and representing our league with the pride and passion that epitomizes our Texas Longhorns. We have a rich tradition and history, and we will continue to compete proudly as members of the Big 12 as we prepare for our future in the SEC in 2025.