As the future of the Big 12 Conference hangs in the balance, one thing is clear: The University of Kansas will need approval from the Kansas Board of Regents to make any type of move regarding its conference affiliation.
That fact is spelled out in black and white in the Board of Regents’ bylaws and policies online.
With Oklahoma and Texas formally requesting invitations to the SEC on Tuesday, the future of the conference and its eight remaining members appears to be uncertain.
If moving on from the conference it has called home for nearly three decades is viewed as the right move for Kansas, KU would need to have the Board’s blessing to even begin discussing joining another conference.
“Any change by a state university in its athletic conference membership shall require expedited Board Chairman and Board President and CEO approval before entering negotiations relative to such change,” the policy reads.
That was not always the case, however. According to the minutes provided at their March 17 meeting, the policy on requiring BOR approval to begin negotiations was adopted in March of this year.
No such policy existed the first time conference realignment hit college athletics back in 2011 and 2012.
However, according to the minutes of a BOR meeting from December of 2020, the approval policy was first proposed to the Board more than 18 months ago.
It surfaced again more recently in the minutes of a Jan. 20, 2021 meeting, with KU Chancellor Douglas Girod stating, according to the minutes of that meeting, that “these negotiations happen quickly and convening a Board meeting could be challenging.”
According to the minutes, Girod told the Board in January that there were two reasons a university might look to leave its current conference: “Either because the institution is deciding to seek a new conference or it is because there are changes happening in its current conference.” The minutes indicate that Girod also explained to the Regents that there could be confidentiality concerns.
According to the minutes, Girod ultimately said he supported the idea of informing the Board Chair, President and CEO of any such negotiations as outlined by the policy.
The Journal-World reached out to both KU and the Board of Regents on Tuesday, seeking clarification on the origin of the policy. KU spokesman Joe Monaco referred the inquiries to the Board of Regents.
Matt Keith, the Director of Communications for the Board of Regents, said the policy change originated in the Board’s Governance committee in late 2020 and was introduced because the Regents “wanted to provide additional Board oversight over athletic conference changes due to the significant impact conference membership has on a university.”
Board of Regents chair Cheryl Harrison-Lee made note of the policy during a Monday statement regarding the current state of the Big 12.
“The Regents recognize the importance of conference affiliation for the experience of all students and have Board policy to ensure that conference membership supports our strategic goals,” Harrison-Lee said in the statement. “Per that policy, if any state university wishes to change athletic conferences, the university CEO must obtain expedited approval from the Board Chair and President and CEO prior to entering any negotiations. This provides important Board oversight, while also protecting the time sensitive and confidential nature of these negotiations.”
Harrison-Lee went on to express confidence in the fact that Girod and Kansas State President Richard Myers “will seek approval from Board leadership prior to beginning any negotiations. She added that the Board would inform the public of such requests “at the appropriate time.”
Tuesday inquiries from the Journal-World to the Board of Regents about whether either school had requested such approval went unanswered.
In her Monday statement, Harrison-Lee also said that the Board would continue to monitor the developments in the Big 12 and their impact on KU and K-State.
“We will continue to work with the university leaders to prioritize the fiscal stability and academic standards of our universities consistent with the goals of our strategic plan to support Kansas families, businesses and economic prosperity,” the statement concluded.
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, via a Monday statement from state officials, also added her take on the current uncertainty in the Big 12 shortly after Oklahoma and Texas officially announced that they would not be signing a grant of rights extension with the conference in 2025.
On Tuesday, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey was the first to announce that both OU and Texas had requested formal invitations into the SEC.
“Governor Kelly appreciates the Big 12 remaining committed to the continued success both academically and athletically for members of the conference,” the statement began. “She and her office are in regular communication with KU, KSU, the Kansas Board of Regents and the Big 12 Conference to ensure our universities and the state of Kansas will be in the best possible position following the decision from UT and OU.”