With College Football Playoff expansion on the horizon and the sport as a whole undergoing radical change, another round of conference realignment may be on the horizon. Texas and Oklahoma have reportedly “reached out” to the SEC about joining the league should the two Big 12 powerhouses choose to leave their home conference.
Citing “a high-ranking college official with knowledge of the situation,” the Houston Chronicle‘s Brent Zwerneman first reported that the SEC could announce the additions of the Longhorns and Sooners “within a couple of weeks.”
Texas initiated the conversation, according to an Associated Press source. The ‘Horns are expected to inform the Big 12 that they do not plan to extend their grant of media rights deal with the conference, according to Stadium’s Brett McMurphy, who also reports that there is interest on both sides of the conversation. The Big 12’s grant of rights agreement expires in 2025.
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey would not address the reports while in attendance at 2021 SEC Media Days on Wednesday.
“No comment on that speculation,” he told CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd. Sankey later added: “We are only worried about the 2021 season. Somebody dropped a report from unnamed people.”
Texas and Oklahoma released similar statements refusing the acknowledge the reports.
“Speculation swirls around collegiate athletics. We will not address rumors or speculation,” said the Longhorns.
“The college athletics landscape is shifting constantly. We don’t address every anonymous rumor,” said the Sooners.
Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork made it clear to gathered media Wednesday that he wants the Aggies to be the only team from the Lone Star State in the conference. Texas A&M and Missouri were the two teams that left the Big 12 for the SEC in the last round of conference realignment nearly a decade ago.
“I haven’t read the article, but if you’re asking me to kind of comment on college athletics, it’s changing,” Bjork told Dodd. “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.”
There was talk at that time about Texas and Oklahoma potentially leaving the Big 12 for either the Pac-12 (then Pac-10) or SEC but nothing came of those discussions as both ultimately remained with the league they have been members of since 1996. Oklahoma was already part of the Big Eight when it transitioned into the Big 12 in 1996 by adding Texas as one of four programs from the defunct Southwest Conference.
However, the Big 12 was reduced to 10 teams during that round of realignment, and it has struggled to reclaim its footing among its Power Five peers. Texas and Oklahoma have propped up the league since its reduction in size, and if they did depart, it would put the Big 12 on the brink of collapse.
The additions of the Longhorns and Sooners would make the SEC the first 16-team superconference — a development long-discussed as a possibility should there be another round of conference realignment — while simultaneously adding massive brand power to a league already seen as the best in college sports.
However, Oklahoma and Texas will face resistance from within the Big 12 and beyond. Oklahoma State officials made it clear they do not support their potential departure for another conference.
“We have heard unconfirmed reports that OU and UT approached Southeastern Conference officials about joining the SEC,” OSU said in a statement. “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.”
As for the SEC, its by-laws state that 11 of 14 institutions must vote in the affirmative to invite new members to 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.”
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