Texas, Oklahoma Indicate They’ll Leave the Big 12 for the SEC
The SEC, the nation’s premier college football conference, was at the heart of what Texas unconvincingly called “rumors or speculation” about the future of the Longhorns and Sooners last Wednesday. The league already includes some of football’s most powerful brands, including Alabama, Florida, Georgia and the state of Louisiana, but attracting Oklahoma and Texas would add two proud and tradition-bound programs.
And that would almost certainly enrich the league, which declined to comment, in a dramatic way.
In December, the SEC announced a deal with ESPN which, according to people familiar with its terms, will pay the league around $ 300 million a year. The additions of Oklahoma and Texas would give the conference new leverage for a rights deal that could skyrocket in value with the arrival of two power plants.
Indeed, one of the thorniest topics surrounding the expected Oklahoma and Texas defections has been how much universities could pay the Big 12 and its schools in a buyout deal. Like every other Big 12 school, Texas and Oklahoma have agreed to give the conference control over their top-grossing television rights, including football and most men’s and women’s basketball games, which the conference then sold to ESPN and Fox as part of a $ 2.6 billion deal that runs through the 2024-25 school year.
Under the Big 12 rules, schools must pay tens of millions of dollars each – and lose tens of millions of dollars more – if they leave the conference before the end of the rights agreement. The negotiations could significantly reduce those costs and allow Oklahoma and Texas to play elsewhere sooner.
A college sports executive familiar with the proceedings said Oklahoma and Texas contacted the SEC months ago, but talks between the league and the schools had gathered pace more recently. SEC rules require 11 of its 14 universities to vote in favor of a school applying for membership.
So far, only one SEC school – Texas A&M – has expressed public opposition.
“We want to be the only SEC program in the state of Texas,” Ross Bjork, athletic director of Texas A&M, told reporters last week. He said the university should “have our own autonomous identity in our own conference”.
But the fury of the Aggies is about to have a limited lifespan. Over the weekend, after the Texas A&M board called a meeting Monday night to discuss varsity athletics, university president Katherine Banks said the school was waiting looking forward to “the continued success of our SEC partnership for many years to come”.
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