Potential Big 12 fallout should UT, OU leave
If Texas and Oklahoma do make an official move in the direction away from the Big 12 to join the SEC, some around the industry are already starting to suggest it would be a landscape-shifting event on the scale of the Supreme Court's 1984 decision that allowed schools and conferences to make their own media rights deals instead of going through the NCAA.
Yahoo! Sports' Pete Thamel writes that we should expect the Big 12 to "be aggressive in adding schools," should the Longhorns and Sooners be on the way out. And who gets a call depends on how big the conference wants to get. Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, Utah, Cincinnati, UCF, USF, BYU and Boise State were all mentioned in his afternoon update, with a note that Houston and SMU could be attractive candidates though Baylor and Texas Tech might oppose more in-state competition.
One line of thinking seems to be that the Big 12 would be on the ropes without its two primary brands, but this report indicates more of a domino and food chain effect then marking the end of the conference as we know it. Of course, those potential candidates would have to say yes and be swayed to join a league that's going to head into media rights negotiations (hypothetically) in a much different state.
Big 12 presidents meeting Thursday
The SEC presidents are meeting on Thursday and will likely discuss the possibility of expansion, and now several Big 12 leaders are following suit. CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd reports that Big 12 athletic directors and CEOs will meet at 5 p.m. CT specifically to discuss the news that Oklahoma and Texas could be departing the league.
At this point, it's clear that wheels are spinning on this story faster than a the wheels on a Formula 1 car. It's a fair assumption that, if Texas and Oklahoma are involved, that they will be peppered with questions from their peers. If they aren't, expect multiple plans to save the conference to be developed.
Making sense of the politics involved
Ten years ago, during the last round of realignment, it was rumored that Oklahoma and Oklahoma State were required by law to stay together in the same conference. That's apparently not the case. Pistols Firing reports that it's more of a "gentleman's agreement" between the two schools, not something that is actually on the books.
Now that it's clear that there's plenty of fire to the rumor that Oklahoma and Texas are eyeballing the SEC, it was only a matter of time before the politicians get involved. That time is now. Texas State Representative Jeff Leach (R-67), posted on Twitter that he is drawing up documents that would force Texas' decision to leave the Big 12 to go through the state legislature,
"The lack of transparency by our flagship institution is wrong," Leach wrote. "Such a monumental economic and educational decision impacting the entire state must not be made in a bubble on the forty acres. Working on legislation requiring legislative approval for UT to bolt the BIG XII.
Why is this happening now?
University of Texas regents chair Kevin Eltife is behind the pitch, sources tell CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd. Eltife is a 62-year-old commercial real estate investor in Tyler, Texas, who served in the Texas Senate from 2004-13. He was appointed as a regent to the UT system by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in 2019.
The Longhorns initiated these conversations with the SEC, and it's been reported that they may inform the Big 12 of their decision not to renew their grant of rights agreement with the league as soon as next week. Whether that will happen -- or whether the Sooners will do so simultaneously -- remains to be seen. The Big 12 grant of rights agreement ends in 2025.
With Texas and Oklahoma, the SEC could conceivably go from a $44 million per team annual payout to $60 million, largely due to television rights, according to Dodd.
Passage may be tough ... or maybe not
SEC by-laws state that 11 of 14 member institutions must vote in the affirmative to invite new universities into the conference. There may be some current SEC teams -- in addition to Texas A&M -- that are reluctant to accept additional league members for myriad reasons, including concerns about future expansion into their states. However, Yahoo Sports' Pete Thamel reports that "getting 11 of the 14 votes doesn't appear to be an issue" if Texas and Oklahoma ultimately do want to join the SEC.
Texas A&M, Oklahoma State will have their say
Texas A&M hopes to maintain its stranglehold on the Lone Star State within the SEC by holding off Texas from entering, while Oklahoma State is worried what will happen to the Big 12 and its place in the college athletics landscape if Oklahoma departs for greener pastures. Both programs have a significant interest in keeping a move from happening, though they may ultimately be powerless in preventing the inevitable.
Aggies athletic director Ross Bjork made his stance clear Wednesday. "I haven't read the article, but if you're asking me to kind of comment on college athletics, it's changing," Bjork said. "So what does that look like? I don't know. ... We want to be the only SEC program in the state of Texas. There's a reason Texas A&M left the Big 12: to stand alone to have our own identity."
The Cowboys also stand in clear opposition with the following statement. "We have heard unconfirmed reports that OU and UT approached Southeastern Conference officials about joining the SEC. We are gathering information and will monitor closely. If true, we would be gravely disappointed. While we place a premium on history, loyalty and trust, be assured, we will aggressively defend and advance what is best for Oklahoma State and our strong athletic program, which continues to excel in the Big 12 and nationally."