Kansas Regents take steps to ensure KU, other schools cannot change athletic conferences without prior approval

If the University of Kansas ever decides that it wants to change athletic conferences, it seems likely that it will need to obtain state approvals that are not required today.

Members of the Kansas Board of Regents are creating a new policy that would require any Regents university — KU, K-State, Wichita State, Fort Hays State, Pittsburg State and Emporia State — to obtain approval from at least three non-university officials before moving to a new athletic conference.

The pending policy — which was recently approved by a subcommittee of regents, but not yet enforced by the full board — follows a major conference realignment, which has sparked discussions about whether KU may have to leave the Big 12 conference to protect its sports programs.

Among the biggest upheavals nationwide, the University of California, Los Angeles announced its intention to leave the Pac-12 conference and join the Big Ten conference in 2024. This planned decision has drawn protests on the scene of California higher education, with claims that other public schools in the state will be harmed if UCLA’s decision diminishes or destroys the Pac-12 conference.

“We’ve seen with the UCLA situation that there’s no roster there, and we want to make sure we move up the roster at Kansas,” the Regents president said Thursday. Jon Rolph, at Journal-World.

But Kansas officials stop short of requiring the entire board of directors to publicly approve any conference changes. Instead, the Governance Committee of Regents is recommending approval of a policy that would require the President, Vice President, and President/CEO of the Council of Regents to approve any move to a new conference.

Rolph said the regents are working to create a policy to ensure that the board of regents are not “notified after the fact” of a conference change. Some higher education leaders in California have alleged that this was the situation with UCLA and its decision to move from the Pac-12 conference to the Big Ten conference. In California, everyone from the governor to the regents has considered retroactively removing UCLA’s power to make its own decisions about conference membership. That could force UCLA to forfeit its planned 2024 move to the Big Ten.

The Kansas Regents want to avoid that situation with any move involving a University of Kansas. But Rolph said he is not currently considering requiring the full board to be required in a public meeting to approve a move to the conference. Rolph said negotiations can sometimes move very quickly and not align well with the regents’ meeting schedules.

“We believe this process will allow the chairman and vice chairman to represent the views of the board,” Rolph said.

He also said that in the event of a disagreement between the regents, the council could choose to ask the full council to review any conference changes before they are finalized.

The Regents have had a policy in place since 2020 — created shortly after Wichita State changed the conferences — that requires the Chairman of the Board and the President/CEO of the Regents to give their approval to begin negotiations on any potential changes to the conferences. Although the current policy requires a university to obtain permission to negotiate, it does not require the approval of any regents official to actually change the lectures. The proposed policy would explicitly require such approval.

“Expedited approval from the Chairman of the Board, Vice Chairman of the Board and Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer will also be required before the final change decision is made and communicated. to a third party,” the proposed policy states.

Regent President and CEO Blake Flanders told the governance committee that he expects to be informed of any communication from a university leader about a change in conferences.

“I think there was some confusion about what’s being traded,” Flanders said. “What that would cover is really any discussion, which as we know can turn into negotiations quite quickly and it becomes quite fluid.”

Under the proposed policy, Rolph, Flanders and Carl Ice, the vice president of regents, who is also an officer of the Kansas State University Foundation, would be the three people required to approve a conference change.

It is expected that the full Board will review the new policy for approval in the coming months.

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