Texas and Oklahoma are at the center of what could be another major change in college football realignment, perhaps the largest in the sport’s history.
According to a report on Wednesday from Houston Chronicle, the 12 major schools have approached the Southeastern Conference to join it in another round of realignment. The Chronicle, citing “a high-ranking university official with knowledge of the situation,” reported that the conference could address its addition “in a couple of weeks.” The SEC would effectively become the first college football superconference.
A Texas spokesperson, speaking to the Chronicle, claimed to be unaware of the conversations with the SEC before declining to comment further. Oklahoma also issued a statement in response to the news: “The landscape of college athletics is constantly changing. We do not address all anonymous rumors.”
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SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey declined to comment to the Chronicle before telling reporters on SEC Media Days that the conference looks no further than this year.
“We are only concerned about the 2021 season,” he said. “Someone dropped an anonymous report.”
AL.com corroborated the Chronicle report, saying that “multiple college football insiders” confirmed that Red River’s rivals had taken “multiple steps” to facilitate a move. It is unclear if the schools are acting independently of each other or if they would act together to try to drop the Big 12.
The Longhorns and Sooners have been member institutions since the formation of the Big 12 in 1996, when the former Southwest Conference Texas schools, Texas A&M, Baylor and Texas Tech were added to the Big 8. The conference suffered significant losses in the last round. of college football realignment earlier in the decade, with founding members Colorado and Nebraska departing for Pac-12 and Big Ten, respectively, in 2011. Missouri and Texas A&M followed suit after the 2011 season to join the SEC.
Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork said in response to the Chronicle report that the SEC’s ADs have not discussed the incorporation of Texas or Oklahoma. He also scoffed at the idea of Texas joining the SEC. According to Ross Dellenger of Sports Illustrated:
Ross Bjork says he was unaware of Texas / OU’s interest in joining the SEC. The SEC’s announcements haven’t discussed the issue, he says.
It’s clear where the Aggies are.
“There is a reason why Texas A&M left the Big 12: to be independent and to have our own identity. That is our feeling,” he says.
– Ross Dellenger (@RossDellenger) July 21, 2021
Bjork’s opposition to the measure isn’t the only hurdle Texas and Oklahoma face if they want to jump out of the Big 12. Here’s a breakdown of the multiple hurdles that could prevent schools from turning the SEC into a super conference:
Existing broadcasting agreements with ESPN, Fox
According to a report by Office sports, the SEC made $ 728.9 million in fiscal 2020, roughly $ 300 million more than the reported earnings of the Big 12 ($ 409.2 million). That difference, coupled with the SEC’s new deal with ESPN, which is estimated to pay more than $ 300 million annually to the conference and is scheduled to take effect in 2024, would be attractive to any outside team looking to cash in on the conference. SEC popularity. .
Additionally, both ESPN and Fox, which own the broadcast and broadcast rights to Big 12, He reportedly refused to participate in the first television negotiations. with the conference before the deal ends in 2025.
That said, the Big 12’s existing rights deal with those networks could cloud potential negotiations between Texas, Oklahoma, and the SEC. Texas has its own agreement with ESPN in the form of the Longhorn Network, which pays the school $ 15 million annually and contractually obligates the network to broadcast 200 Texas sporting events per academic year through 2031.
In 2019, Big 12 and ESPN reorganized their broadcast agreement, which ends in 2025, to allow all member schools, in addition to Texas and Oklahoma, to provide inventory to ESPN +. The agreement, as reported by the Sports Business Journal (via the Austin American-Statesman) pays the conference $ 22 million annually. Oklahoma sold its third-tier rights to Fox.
ESPN may be able to rework the Longhorn Network deal should Texas and Oklahoma move to the SEC, but Fox probably wouldn’t be happy to part with its two biggest college football assets before the 12’s contract ends. large in 2025. Additionally, the addition of two SEC teams would reduce the amount each member institution would get from ESPN’s new rights deal; ESPN may be forced to pay more per year in its dealings with the conference.
ESPN might consider that move, as it could be offset by rejecting a future TV rights deal with a significantly less attractive Big 12.
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12 great exit fees
If Texas and Oklahoma left the Big 12 before the conclusion of their television deals, it would cost both schools a not insignificant amount of money. For example, Nebraska and Colorado paid exit fees of $ 9.25 million and $ 6.86 million, respectively, to go to their new conferences. Missouri and Texas A&M paid $ 12.4 million to go to the SEC.
However, those fees were paid in 2010 and 2011, before the Big 12 signed a 13-year, $ 2.6 billion rights deal with Fox and ESPN. It’s unclear how much Texas and Oklahoma would have to pay in exit fees if they went to the SEC before 2025, but it would almost certainly be more than Nebraska, Colorado, Missouri, and Texas A&M paid to leave the Big 12.
The Longhorns and Sooners might be willing to incur that penalty on the promise of future revenue from the SEC, but would their member institutions be willing to accept it?
Opposition from Texas A&M, Missouri
Texas A&M and Missouri are likely to seriously consider blocking Texas and Oklahoma from entering the conference, should the issue come to a vote by the SEC presidents. It is clear that both institutions, along with Colorado and Nebraska, abandoned the Big 12 to escape the long shadow of Texas at the conference, due in part to its dedicated network and the disproportionate power it wielded over its partner institutions.
Bjork already has a record of opposing any Texas move toward the SEC. Conference bylaws state that at least 11 of the 14 schools must vote yes to extend an invitation to a potential new school.
While the initial inclination from Bjork and A&M President Michael Young would likely be to oppose Texas, the promises of higher revenues may create pressure within the conference for a “yes” vote.
Additional SEC, Big 12 resistor
It is unclear how the other SEC schools, besides Missouri and Texas A&M, would vote on this matter. Adding the two major Big 12 programs to a conference that already includes Alabama, LSU, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, and Auburn, not to mention Texas A&M and Missouri, would make it exceptionally more difficult for teams to win the conference title and land a college. Soccer playoff bunk.
There is also the problem of the realignment of the division, which would likely leave several teams unhappy. Texas and Oklahoma could move to the SEC West, forcing Alabama and Auburn to the East, much to the chagrin of Florida, Georgia and Tennessee. Teams that stayed in the west – Arkansas, LSU, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State – probably wouldn’t be happy with the additions, either.
BENDER: What would the SEC realigned with Texas, Oklahoma look like
The SEC could also place teams in different divisions, as it did with Texas A&M and Missouri in 2012, which on paper would create a greater balance between divisions. Or, the conference might consider a group scheduling format, one that would likely sacrifice one of the traditional or parity conference rivalries. Furthermore, teams are unlikely to react positively, at least behind closed doors, to any additional competition.
The 12 big teams have already released statements in response to the news, like this one from the state of Oklahoma:
There are other sports that the SEC would also consider besides soccer. Texas and Oklahoma would bring powerful programs in basketball, softball, baseball, gymnastics, men’s and women’s golf, and more. Those would add to the impressive inventory of content already available to ESPN, which could make a new rights deal more lucrative for the network, the SEC, and its member institutions. Not to mention the academic merits of those universities.
But soccer comes first and foremost in the SEC, and any additional hurdles the conference may face in relation to that sport, especially with the looming playoff realignment, could be enough to hamper the entry of Texas and Oklahoma. .
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.