HOOVER, Ala. – Texas and Oklahoma have inquired with the Southeastern Conference about leaving the Big 12, and the SEC is interested in adding the two schools, sources told Stadium.
“This will take some time, but the interest by both sides is there,” a source told Stadium.
A source said Texas was planning to notify the Big 12 within the next week that it wasn’t interested in renewing the league’s media grant of rights, which expire in 2025.
“I felt all along this was inevitable,” a Big 12 source told Stadium. “Texas and Oklahoma were never willing to talk about extending our grant of rights early. Our league has always depended on Texas and Oklahoma — for a lot of good reasons and a lot of bad reasons.
“Texas has always had a wandering eye for a while and been tough to deal with. It’s hard to keep them happy or satisfied. OU has no choice but to join Texas. At the end of the day, this is all about survival. When the music stops, how many chairs are left?”
According to SEC by-laws, the league requires more than 75 percent of the schools (11 of 14 institutions) to extend an invitation to join the conference. SEC commissioner Greg Sankey would not comment specifically about Texas and Oklahoma.
“We are only worried about the 2021 season,” Sankey said.
An industry source said the SEC would have interest in adding Texas and Oklahoma because it would increase the number of homes adding the SEC Network, which could allow ESPN to also increase subscription rates, if it desired.
“The key to all this is — surprise — follow the money,” the industry source said.
Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork said the Aggies would be opposed to adding Texas to the SEC. The Aggies would need only three other schools to block Texas (and Oklahoma), but these decisions are usually passed unanimously.
There has been speculation by some of a “gentlemen’s agreement” within the SEC, that would not allow the league to add another school to a state that already has an existing member — such as Texas. However, a source told Stadium no such agreement exists in the league.
As far as the motivation for Texas and Oklahoma to leave the Big 12, it’s fairly simple, an industry source said.
“We’ve gone from the Big 12 to a mini-12 (with 10 league members) and have lost Texas A&M, Missouri, Nebraska and Colorado,” a Big 12 source said. “It’s simply not the same conference.
“Texas specifically has not been happy with its home conference schedule as its best conference game against OU is annually in Dallas. Their fans don’t get excited about Kansas, Kansas State, etc. But that has been the case for a number of years.”
Both Oklahoma and Texas released statements, not exactly denying interest in the SEC.
Oklahoma: “The college athletics landscape is shifting constantly. We don’t address every anonymous rumor.”
Texas: “Speculation swirls around collegiate athletics. We will not address rumors or speculation.”
The non-denial denials from Oklahoma and Texas are worthless. The statements should have read: We don’t comment on things we don’t want to comment on.
Wednesday afternoon, the Houston Chronicle initially reported that Texas and Oklahoma reached out to the SEC, ironically on the same day Texas A&M representatives were at the SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala.
Bjork, who was in Hoover, told Stadium the SEC had not addressed conference expansion in at least the last year.
“As leaders in college athletics, which the SEC is, have we talked about what does the future hold, how do we make sure the SEC is in the best position and forward thinking and proactive – not reacting,” Bjork said. “Have we talked about those ideals and principles, yes. But specifics, no. What does the SEC need to do to maintain our belief we’re the best athletic conference? Knowing the landscape will shift, no one has discussed details, you have to have conversations.”
Bjork also said Texas A&M president Katherine Banks was not aware of any contact between Texas or Oklahoma and the SEC. Bjork said he spoke with Sankey on Wednesday and reiterated Texas A&M’s objection to adding Texas.
“There’s a reason why Texas A&M left the Big 12,” Bjork said. “Those perspectives haven’t changed since A&M joined the SEC. To stand alone and have our identity. That’s our feeling.”
Last week at Big 12 Media Days, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby was asked about conference realignment. He said the “motivation is essentially gone” because the cable universe has shrunk 20 million households and will continue to shrink.
“A lot of motivation for realignment is no longer there,” Bowlsby said. “Is that to say it couldn’t happen? No, it could possibly happen for other reasons. But it doesn’t appear to me that the motivation is there at this point in time. Not to say it couldn’t happen, but it’s not one of the things that keeps me up at night.”
As far as Oklahoma’s allegiance with rival Oklahoma State, sources said there are not any binding contracts or agreements that would keep Oklahoma from joining a new conference without Oklahoma State. However, there could be political pressure to keep Oklahoma and Oklahoma State in the same conference.