College football’s conference landscape could look a lot different in the near future, as realignment news and rumors have returned. On Wednesday afternoon, the Houston Chronicle broke the news of Oklahoma and Texas expressing an interest in joining the SEC. The Longhorns and Sooners are the biggest and best brands (and programs) in the Big 12, so a move to the SEC – the best conference in college football would be a massive shift and create a 16-team superconference.
While nothing is finalized and more news is expected to break over the next couple of weeks, expansion and realignment is certainly a strong possibility. Why the news now and what’s to come with SEC expansion? Here’s our full primer on what to know and watch going forward:
Why SEC Expansion
What Exactly is Going on With Oklahoma and Texas and the SEC?
On Wednesday, July 21, the Houston Chronicle reported that Texas and Oklahoma reached out to the SEC about membership in the conference. And according to Stadium’s Brett McMurphy, there is mutual interest among all parties – SEC, Texas and Oklahoma.
Is it Officially Happening?
Not yet. The next couple of weeks are likely to be filled with news and rumors about realignment, but it’s important to remember this isn’t done and plenty of negotiating behind the scenes has to happen. Essentially, stay tuned.
Could it Actually Happen?
Yes. It’s hard to guess how likely Texas and Oklahoma moving to the SEC really is after just one day of news, but there is plenty of smoke to this story. Also, the lack of a firm denial from the SEC, Oklahoma and Texas is very telling.
If it Happens, When Could an Announcement Take Place?
TBD. According to the Houston Chronicle, further details could come “within a couple weeks.”
If Oklahoma and Texas are Invited, When Would They Join?
TBD. The earliest could be 2022 or it could be after the ’24 season. It will take some time for the conferences to untangle and sift through television contracts, as well as any potential penalties for leaving before the end of the current media grant of rights.
Has SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey Commented?
Sort of. When asked about the Houston Chronicle report, Sankey told CBS Sports, “I'm not going to comment on speculation. Sankey also said, “I’m focused on the 2021 season.” Not exactly a no or a denial, is it?
Has Oklahoma Officially Commented on a Move to the SEC?
Has Texas Officially Commented on a Move to the SEC?
What Does Texas A&M Think About a Reunion with Texas?
Needless to say, Texas A&M isn’t in favor of Texas joining the SEC. Athletic director Ross Bjork told reporters, "We want to be the only SEC program in the state of Texas," Bjork said. "There's a reason why Texas A&M left the Big 12 – to be standalone, to have our own identity."
While Texas A&M may not want its in-state rival involved, the windfall of cash from a potential move by Oklahoma and Texas might be too much for other programs to pass on. Also, the Aggies would need some other dissenting votes to end the Longhorns’ hopes…
How Many Votes Does it Require to Bring in Texas and Oklahoma?
For the SEC to add members, 11 of the 14 programs need to vote yes.
What are the Obstacles to Stop a Move?
The first obstacle is the Big 12’s Grant of Rights. Oklahoma and Texas granted most of their media rights to the conference until June 30, 2025. Sifting through the ramifications of an early departure would take time, and there’s not a guarantee (as of right now) the SEC has the votes to admit both as a member of the conference. Also, the future of the Longhorn Network – a Texas-centric network run in conjunction with ESPN – is uncertain. If the Longhorns join the SEC, the Longhorn Network would have to disappear.
It’s unlikely state legislatures could stop Oklahoma from splitting with Oklahoma State, and for Texas to leave behind its fellow in-state universities. However, the politics within states around these moves could be very messy until the dust settles.
A wild-card factor to consider: If the Big Ten or ACC has any interest in either program, the news of interest in the SEC could spur both conferences into exploring a move with the Longhorns or Sooners.
What’s the Driving Force Behind This?
$$$ is a big part of the equation. Consider this: According to Yahoo Sports, the SEC awarded $44.6 million each to its members last season. The Big 12 handed out $38 million. But the SEC’s yearly payout to its members will increase significantly after the league inked a massive deal with ESPN to land the package of games previously on CBS.
Additionally, a better conference with more marquee matchups certainly makes schedules more attractive for fans to buy season tickets. And with a bigger payday coming for the expanded College Football Playoff, more teams from a conference getting into the 12-team selection would equal more revenue.
There’s also a prestige factor here. The SEC is college football’s best conference and has significantly more stability than the Big 12. Recruiting as an SEC member would only add to the cache that Oklahoma and Texas can offer to prospects.
Essentially, Oklahoma and Texas – two of the top programs in college football – have a chance to earn more revenue and play in the best conference on an annual basis. That’s a hard deal to pass on for either program.
Did CFB Playoff Expansion Play a Role?
Perhaps. With an expanded College Football Playoff, another loss or two in the regular season isn’t necessarily going to end a team’s season. Instead, better strength of schedule could keep a two- or three-loss team in the mix.
If Oklahoma and Texas Join, How Would That Change the SEC Divisions?
If Oklahoma and Texas join, it's likely both teams would go into the West Division. Missouri would join its old Big 12 counterparts, while Alabama and Auburn would slide to the East. Of course, the table below is just speculation. The conference could pursue a pod system of four small divisions with four teams too. Everything would be on the table.
|East Division||West Division|
What’s the Next Step to Watch?
At this point, news could break at any moment. According to Orangebloods.com, Texas plans to inform the Big 12 it will not renew its media rights with the conference after the 2025 season. Assuming that happens, more dominoes could begin to fall – and likely in the next week or two.
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