Athlon's editors debate the future of the SEC and the Big 12.
The rumors of Oklahoma and Texas A&M heading to the SEC have been heating up over the last week, largely due to Texas and the Longhorn Network. Although the Big 12 was held together last summer, it appears the conference may be in jeopardy again. Do you think Oklahoma and Texas A&M will eventually leave for the SEC or can the Big 12 be saved once again?
Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden)
The only way Oklahoma and Texas A&M, or any other Big 12 program not named Texas, head to the SEC, is if the Texas Longhorns decide to go Independent. If the power brokers and bean-counters in Norman and College Station are preparing for the Burnt Orange to venture into Independence, then absolutely it's possible. Every other program in the Big 12 will need to have plans in place to cover their rear ends — especially Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Iowa State, Baylor and Texas Tech. Oklahoma and TAMU could probably survive on their own or even in another conference, like say, the Big Ten.
However, the new Big 12 TV contract, as well as the Longhorn Network, will be a boon for every program in the conference, so I just don't see it happening in the near future. They all make more money and have more stability with the current situation. Obviously, this all hinges on Texas maintaining the status quo. If the most powerful program in the nation decides to head off into the great blue yonder of Independence, chaos would ensue, and all bets would be off.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
I’d be really surprised if Oklahoma and Texas A&M bolted for the SEC. Sure, the SEC is a better league than the Big 12, but I’m not sure either school is really gaining much by leaving. Escaping the shadow of Texas is the main reason for both schools wanting to depart — similar to Nebraska — but life won’t be any easier joining an already challenging SEC. Allowing Texas to create the Longhorn Network played a role in helping to keep the Big 12 together, but has been a source of concern from Oklahoma and Texas A&M on whether it creates unfair recruiting advantages. The concerns over the network have prompted the Oklahoma and Texas A&M rumors, which SEC commissioner Mike Slive didn’t exactly dismiss at media days. Considering that the Longhorn Network’s plans to televise high school games are on hold, this should help to quiet some of the realignment talk.
All of the Texas schools wanted to stick together when the possibility of a 16-team league was discussed, so I find it very hard to see Texas A&M splitting away. There may even be some political influences to keep the Aggies closely connected with the Longhorns. If the SEC called Oklahoma and Texas A&M, would they listen? Absolutely. Even if the Longhorn Network does give Texas an unfair advantage in recruiting, I’m not sure it’s enough to break up the Big 12.
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
No, I don't. I believe Oklahoma and Texas A&M will remain in the Big 12. I completely understand their concern over the Longhorn Network, which will seemingly give Texas a huge advantage in recruiting. There were reports last night, however, that the NCAA was looking into the network's decision to televise high school games involving Texas' prospects/targets. Obviously, no ruling has been made, but if the Longhorn Network is NOT allowed to televise these games, Oklahoma and Texas A&M have less to be concerned about.
However, one point needs to be made: If OU and A&M perceive Texas as having an unfair advantage in recruiting (even if those high school games aren't televised), the advantage exists even if the Sooners and Aggies flee to the SEC. Leaving the Big 12 would get them away from big, bad Texas — which, from their point of view, would have an unfair advantage over the other teams in the league — but it wouldn't really solve the problem. Both schools need to be able to recruit the elite players in the sate of Texas to remain relevant on the national scene.
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
The world of college football was almost turned upside down last summer with all of the conference realignment rumors — Texas and Oklahoma to the Pac-10? Texas to the Big Ten? Texas A&M to the SEC? When the dust settled, the league did lose two schools —Nebraska to the Big Ten and Colorado to the new Pac-12 — but at least there were 10 teams left to march forward. Many of us thought the Big 12 should have extended invitations to other schools (TCU and Houston would have created more rivalries like the ones that have made the SEC so popular) to get their total back up to 12 and to continue the lucrative league title game. Instead, the conference decided to stick with the 10 schools for the foreseeable future. The Big 12 also chose to stick with its unequal revenue sharing (something that made Nebraska want to leave), another issue that differs from the lucrative SEC.
The Big 12 drama grew even more this winter with the announcement of a University of Texas/ESPN contract where the two parties will form a 24-hour television network dedicated to Longhorn sports. The new deal will pay Texas $300 million over 20 years, which will further the gap between the Longhorns and the other conference schools. In addition, there is a possibility that the network will air high school games and give Texas yet another recruiting advantage. You have to be skeptical that this ‘have’/’have-not’ type of arrangement can work for the long term.
I don’t see the SEC wanting to expand until another power conference goes to 14 or 16 teams and forces its hand. It would be a shame to see Texas separated from Texas A&M and Oklahoma, but that could become a real possibility in the future with the Longhorns playing a huge game of ‘keep-away’ from the rest of the Big 12.