What will be the next moves in the college football landscape as Texas and Oklahoma reportedly leave Big 12 for SEC?
The remaining eight members of Big 12 have discussed reaching out to the Pac-12 for a potential 20-team merger, according to reports.
As news has swirled over the past two days that Texas and Oklahoma will leave the Big 12 for the SEC, ESPN, CBS Sports, The Athletic and 247Sports, among other outlets, have reported that the Longhorns and Sooners will inform the Big 12 of their intent to leave the conference as soon as next Monday morning.
Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman reported that the SEC will vote to offer offer invitations to Texas and Oklahoma as soon as next week, and the motion is expected to pass.
The SEC currently is hoping to vote to offer invitations to Texas and Oklahoma as soon as "sometime next week," an SEC source tells me. "The vote will be 13-1."— Kirk Bohls (@kbohls) July 23, 2021
Stadium’s Brett McMurphy reported that the plan for Texas and Oklahoma to move to the SEC have been in motion since December. He also reported that Texas and Oklahoma were not on a Big 12 conference call Thursday following the Houston Chronicle’s initial report that the universities “have reached out” to the SEC about membership.
Adding Texas and Oklahoma, the Big 12’s premier football schools, to the SEC would only strengthen the best football conference in the country. In the BCS era (1999-2014), an SEC member appeared in the national championship 11 times and won it nine times.
In the College Football Playoff era, eight SEC teams have played in the playoff, with an SEC team appearing in all but one national championship game. SEC teams have won four of the seven College Football Playoff national championship games.
Texas and Oklahoma would join Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee and Vanderbilt in a new 16-team SEC. Six of those teams — Alabama, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Georgia, Florida and Texas — were in the final College Football Playoff Top 25 in 2020, a season that saw Alabama win its 18th national championship.
Then there’s probably the biggest selling point for Texas and Oklahoma — money. The Ringer points out that the SEC reported nearly $721 million in revenue for the 2019 fiscal year, according to USA Today. Compare that to the Big 12, which reported $439 million in that same time frame.
Plus, the SEC signed a new 10-year, $3 billion football and men’s basketball TV deal, which features the top games on ABC and ESPN (both owned by Disney), that will go into effect in 2024. Previously, CBS held the rights to the top football game each week, along with the SEC championship game and key men’s basketball games.
The new deal is in addition to ESPN’s existing 20-year deal with the conference signed in 2013 that created the SEC Network and included the rights to football, men’s basketball and other sports.
How soon could Texas and Oklahoma start playing in the SEC?
When the move to the SEC will officially happen is not known yet. The current Big 12 media rights deal does not expire until June 2025, according to The Athletic. Texas and Oklahoma could choose to wait until that deal expires to join the SEC. That would be the cleanest break, with no exit fees or buyouts or lawyers getting involved. The Athletic reported that the two schools are prepared to wait until 2025 if necessary.
The Longhorns and Sooners could also choose to bolt earlier, but it would cost them. If Texas and Oklahoma want to leave sooner, they would have to give the Big 12 18 months’ notice and pay the conference approximately $76 million each for their part of the media rights deal, according to ESPN, which could put them in the SEC as soon as 2023.
What ripple effects could this move have on the college football landscape?
It would be the biggest conference realignment shift since the 2010s shakeup that saw the collapse of Big East football, Nebraska, Maryland and Rutgers join the Big Ten, Colorado and Utah join the Pac-12, TCU and West Virginia join the Big 12 and Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Notre Dame (non-football) and Louisville join the ACC. That set off ripple effects throughout the Group of Five conferences, bringing major changes to the Mountain West Conference, Conference USA and WAC.
According to USA Today, Texas was the highest-generating public college athletic department in the country, totaling $224 million in revenue, with Oklahoma the eighth-highest, totaling $163 million in revenue. This would be a huge blow financially to the remaining eight Big 12 members — Baylor, TCU, Texas Tech, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Iowa State and West Virginia. The Ringer reported that none of the remaining eight members are in the top 25 of athletic department revenues.
The Athletic reported that the remaining eight teams in Big 12 would try to stick together. However, with only eight members and no Top 25 revenue-drawers, the conference may need new members to bolster it and add value for a new media deal.
One possibility discussed during the Big 12 conference call Thursday, according to The Athletic, would be reaching out to the Pac-12 to discuss a potential 20-team merger, forming their own “superconference.”
Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff told The Mercury News, “I love the schools and the teams we have today. We are not actively seeking to poach any teams from any conferences. But we’d be foolish not to listen if schools call us.”
Another alternative is for the Big 12 to try to get other schools to join the conference to get its member numbers back up. Assuming no Power Five conference members would bolt from their conference to join the Big 12, an alternative would be adding some Group of Five members, possibly from the American Athletic Conference, or adding an independent like BYU, but reaching out to the Pac-12 about a merger is the preferred option if the Big 12 decides it needs to add members.
“There is no combination of Group of Five members we can add that will garner our same TV deal, but it’s all on the table right now,” an anonymous Big 12 athletic director told The Athletic.
Yet another option could be other Power Five conferences picking up some of the eight remaining teams if the Big 12 dissolves.