It’s official. Oklahoma and Texas are leaving the Big 12 Conference, and here we go again: Another big game of college football musical chairs will ensue.
After days of speculation, the schools informed the Big 12 on Monday that they will not extend the granting of their television rights beyond the 2024-25 athletic year, and Tuesday they made an official request to the SEC to join that league beginning in July 2025.
The ramifications are huge.
It means the rich are getting richer. The SEC — already the elite of the elite in college football — not only will become even stronger, but also will be the biggest conference in the country, with 16 schools. More members = more revenues (TV money, sponsorships) = more winning = more championships = more exposure = more blue-chip recruits = more money. ...
It means the SEC is a superconference. If LeBron James were moving to the SEC, this is exactly what he’d do: recruit some friends to make sure he wins.
It’s not even fair, but when has college football ever been about fairness? With the new additions, the SEC ranks will include Alabama, LSU, Florida, Georgia, Auburn, Oklahoma and Texas. Those seven schools have won 35 national championships, including 13 of the last 18.
It means the other elite conferences will likely take steps to keep up with the SEC, which could mean more changes are coming to the big business of college football.
It means college football is taking another step toward building a wall between the elites and the nonelites, between the Power Five and the Group of Five peasants. Someday they might just make it a formal break.
It means the departure of the Big 12’s marquee schools — Oklahoma and Texas. It means the Power Five just became the Power 4 ½. It’s like the Beatles performing without Paul and John. As one unnamed Big 12 administrator told The Athletic, “They set the house on fire, knowing there were eight of us in it.”
It’s karma. The Big 12 was originally formed in 1994 by merging the Big Eight and half of the schools from the old (and once-powerful) Southwest Conference. The move was led by DeLoss Dodds, the Texas athletic director at the time. Now Texas is bolting the league it helped create.
It means another restructuring of the Big 12 — or worse. The league has gone through so many divorces it can’t even keep up with the name changes. The Big Whatever lost Nebraska and Colorado in 2011 and Missouri and Texas A&M in 2012, the latter two schools also fleeing to the SEC.
To fill the vacancies, the “Big 12” (really eight at that point) added TCU and West Virginia, which, if you do the math, means they were actually a 10-school conference, not 12, but there was no name change. Now they are back to where they started when they were known as the Big Eight (the Big Ten also hasn’t bothered to change its name after adding four schools).
Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger wrote that the departure of Texas and Oklahoma could have even more dramatic ramifications — it could result either in the complete dismantling of the Big 12, sending the remaining schools to the other Power Five conferences, which would then become the Power Four, with 16 teams each, or rebuilding the Big 12 by adding two to four new schools.
Which leads us here. ...
“It means BYU, after a decade as an independent, will be a leading candidate to fill one of the vacancies in the Big 12. The Cougars are among the top schools being mentioned by Sports Illustrated, The Athletic and other media outlets as an expansion candidate.”
The Cougars have more credentials than most of the eight schools currently in the “Big 12” — more top-25 finishes than six of the schools, more national championships than all but one school (TCU, tied with one), and more bowl wins than six of the schools.
Considering BYU’s record on the field, its national TV audience and its marketability, The Athletic concluded that BYU would rank second only to TCU among current Big 12 members.
The Cougars have been here before. The Big 12 invited BYU — as well as Boise State, Colorado State, Houston and other schools — to apply for membership a few years ago but ultimately rejected them and decided against expansion.
BYU’s candidacy was challenged by LGBT groups for its stand on same-sex marriage and that’s likely to become an issue again if the league pursues BYU, even if it shouldn’t. Then it’s also reasonable to wonder if BYU even wants to join the Big 12 this time around, given the geographic challenges and the loss of the league’s marquee schools.
The bottom line is that the evolution of the football world is continuing and BYU will be part of it.