AUSTIN, Texas — The University of Texas took an aggressive step to solidify its future in collegiate athletics Friday morning by accepting an invitation to become a member of the Southeastern Conference.
University President Jay Hartzell made the announcement during a Texas System Board of Regents meeting. He described the move from the Big 12 to the SEC as a "monumental decision" for Texas, saying it's in the university's best interest to join a conference with a tradition of athletic excellence.
"Collegiate athletics is changing rapidly, whether anyone wants it to or not," Hartzell said during a virtual meeting that lasted only 12 minutes.
"This is evident by a critical Supreme Court decision and landmark legislation from several states across the country," he continued. "Issues such as name, image and likeness, declining cable television subscriptions, College Football Playoff expansion, the transfer portal, and the impact of the global pandemic on sports, just to name a few, have proved that the transformation in collegiate athletics is happening around us."
Hartzell's comments came one day after SEC presidents voted 14-0 to formally invite Texas and the University of Oklahoma to become the 15th and 16th members of the conference. On Friday, Hartzell thanked new Texas A&M President Katherine Banks for her support.
Hartzell also gave special credit to Texas athletics director Chris Del Conte for his leadership.
"Today is truly a great day for the University of Texas," Del Conte said. "I'm excited for our student-athletes, I'm excited for Longhorn Nation, but we have a lot of work to do. I will reiterate that we will be in the Big 12 for the foreseeable future — till 2025 is my intention. ... We have a lot of work to do in the next couple years to put ourselves in the very best position to compete for championship."
For now, the Big 12 television deal runs through the 2024-25 athletic year. It remains to be seen whether Texas and OU break away from the conference sooner.
Earlier this week, Texas and Oklahoma asked to join the SEC in 2025, although both have indicated they would prefer to start earlier. The SEC announced that the two schools were invited to join the league on July 1, 2025, with competition to begin in the 2025-26 athletic year.
"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," Hartzell said. "In a world of uncertainty and change, it is incumbent on us as leaders to protect our athletic program and university. In order to do so, we looked at conferences across the country and concluded that the SEC is the best bet for our future.
"The reasons are many," Hartzell continued. "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 a chance to regularly compete with the University of Oklahoma, the University of Arkansas and Texas A&M University."
Follow Rick Cantu on Twitter @Rickyprep
This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Texas regents accept SEC invitation for Longhorns to join conference