Dan Branch, chairman of Texas’ House Committee on Higher Education, said today he has been assured by Texas A&M officials that the purpose of Monday’s board of regents meeting in College Station _ one day before a scheduled public hearing in Austin _ is not to circumvent Texas lawmakers on their way to the Southeastern Conference.
“I’ve been told that’s absolutely not the case,” Branch said in a phone interview, adding that A&M administrators indicated to him that it “may take up to two weeks” before closure can be achieved on finalizing a move to the SEC. “This is not an attempt to pre-empt my colleagues from being able to ask questions on Tuesday.”
Branch, R-Dallas, acknowledged that some committee members raised those concerns when A&M administrators called a special regents meeting on Monday that included an agenda item authorizing the school president to “take all actions relating to Texas A&M University’s athletic conference alignment.”
The move came within hours after House officials, who control funding for the state’s public institutions, scheduled a public hearing for Tuesday to address A&M-to-the-SEC discussions.
Branch said he has been assured by A&M administrators that Monday’s action is more of a preliminary step, designed to allow A&M president R. Bowen Loftin to begin formal negotiations with the SEC if an invitation is extended. SEC presidents are scheduled to meet Sunday to discuss expansion options, including A&M.
Branch said he anticipates A&M representatives attending Tuesday’s public hearing to explain their thought process in regard to a move to the SEC.
“If this is a good thing for A&M, (Tuesday’s meeting) will be an opportunity to tell a lot of people how this is a good thing for the state of Texas,” Branch said.
SEC commissioner Mike Slive and Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe also have been invited to Tuesday’s public hearing.
_ Jimmy Burch