North Carolina’s public universities now have to get permission before they can join a different athletic conference.

The full UNC System Board of Governors gave final passage on Thursday — without discussion — to a policy that requires each member school to get approval from both the board and UNC System President Peter Hans.

The policy was first introduced and approved by the board’s Committee on University Governance last month.

If a school wants to change athletic conferences, a chancellor will have to present a financial plan to both the board and to the president. Either the UNC Board of Governors or Hans can then approve or send the plan back to the chancellor, who may then represent a different plan, and restart the process.

According to the policy, a Board of Governors review can be conducted in closed session.

The Board of Governors Chair Randy Ramsey, or any member of the board, can also make a motion to calendar the proposal.

In the past, UNC System schools have changed conferences without input from the Board of Governors. For example, North Carolina A&T State has competed in three different athletic conferences since the 2020-21 academic year, jumping from the MEAC to the Big South to the CAA.

The new policy comes as the Atlantic Coast Conference — of which UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. State are founding members of — faces mounting challenges, including a lawsuit filed by Florida State University and a growing disparity in revenue between the ACC and the Big Ten and Southeastern Conference.

Rumors have emerged that those two larger conferences may be interested in adding additional members, with UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke as prime candidates. NC State and Wake Forest — the other two North Carolina-based ACC schools — would be less likely to be included in that expansion.

Brianna Atkinson is WUNC's higher education reporter and 2023 Fletcher Fellow, working in partnership with Open Campus.