Oklahoma and Texas are officially on their way to the SEC. While the conference crossed off one big decision in expanding to 16 teams, a handful of questions still remain before the Sooners and Longhorns join the league. The amount of conference games, whether or not to retain divisions and the potential addition of revenue from the league’s new television deal are all looming over the SEC and the desk of commissioner Greg Sankey.
Even though Oklahoma and Texas are set to join at a date TBD, the SEC’s move to 16 teams doesn’t end the process of expansion for the league. Instead, the conference now has to begin answering some key questions before the teams officially enter the SEC. Here’s a look at five things to watch:
SEC Expansion: 5 Remaining Questions About the Addition of Oklahoma and Texas
When Will Oklahoma and Texas Enter the SEC?
It’s complicated. Oklahoma and Texas are technically tied to the Big 12 after signing over their grant of rights to the conference until the end of the 2024 season. Additionally, the two programs must pay a buyout equal to two seasons of revenue from the conference. On first glance, 2025 looks like the first opportunity for the Sooners and Longhorns to play in the SEC, especially after the official release from the conference indicated July 1, 2025 is the projected date when both teams will enter the league. However, a buyout and a quicker resolution seem likely. Both Oklahoma and Texas want to move on, and the Big 12 can start the process of putting the league back together once an official date is finalized. The legal wrangling to depart, playoff expansion and if the Big 12 can keep the league together will also come into play for the departure date. Even though the official release says 2025, don’t be surprised if Texas and Oklahoma enter the SEC sooner rather than later.
How Many Conference Games?
Will “it just means more” apply to league play going forward? The SEC currently plays eight conference games and maintains its East/West split in divisions. Within that structure, the schedule has six opponents within the division, one permanent crossover and one rotating opponent. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the SEC played 10 league games in 2020. Could the addition of Oklahoma and Texas spur the conference to go to nine SEC games a season? How about 10? Or will the schedule remain the same with eight league matchups? The guess here is more conference games are coming to the SEC when Oklahoma and Texas officially join.
Divisions or Pods?
Another scheduling element to watch is how the SEC is actually structured. Will the league shift into a 16-team free-for-all in one division? Will the East/West split be retained? Or will the conference shift to a pod structure? The pods would have four teams in each setup, giving each team three opponents within their pod, while also playing two opponents from each of the other three pods. If the pod setup is selected, that would bump the conference (potentially) to nine league games a year.
More $$$ on Television Deals?
The SEC recently inked a massive deal with ESPN/ABC to land the package of games currently on CBS, which includes the lucrative conference championship game in December. ESPN/ABC will assume broadcast rights for those contests in 2024. Will the additions of Texas and Oklahoma require ESPN/ABC to add extra cash to the deal? Reportedly, the deal with CBS is around $55 million a season. That total is expected to climb to $300 million a year with ESPN/ABC. With the new television deal, along with the additions of Oklahoma and Texas, all SEC teams could receive between $60-70 million a year in revenue from the conference.
More Autonomy Within the NCAA?
It's no secret the SEC (and commissioner Greg Sankey) isn't thrilled with the slow-moving and outdated structure of the NCAA when it comes to big decisions or setting new policy. "I was pleased by President (Mark) Emmert's call to reconsider the responsibilities of the national office of conferences and of campuses," Sankey said at SEC Media Days. "While not knowing the path forward, we desire this necessary dialogue as it remains important for college athletics to have an effective governing body." In other words: More autonomy is needed and should be coming for college football. Sankey is expected to be one of the leaders pushing for changes in several areas. What does that structure look like and how fast can it be implemented?
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