Jul 15, 2019; Arlington, TX, USA; Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby speaks to the media during Big 12 media days at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Thursday, July 22 at 12:19 a.m. update: An official move from Texas and Oklahoma is becoming increasingly imminent with reports saying the two institutions could inform the Big 12 of their intention not to renew the media rights contract set to expire in 2025 as soon as next week.
That move would signal the end of the Longhorn Network, as first reported by OrangeBloods.com late Wednesday night. The Texas-centric television channel was one of the Big 12’s biggest concessions to the folks in Austin during the original realignment saga more than a decade ago.
We’ve heard very little from anyone outside of anonymous sources across the country since the initial report from the Houston Chronicle, but this story is still only just beginning. Wednesday’s initial report seems to have just sped up the timeline.
Well… here we go again, I guess.
It has been 10 years and three weeks since Nebraska left the Big 12 for the Big Ten. Missouri, Texas A&M and Colorado followed suit soon after by joining the SEC and Pac-12, respectively. These moves ultimately thrust the Big 12 into years of rampant speculation about its demise, constant rumor-mongering and ever-present uncertainty.
It seemed as though those days were behind the Big 12 with it having found two new members to fill the void and settling into relative harmony between the league’s 10 schools.
That is… until Wednesday.
The Houston Chronicle has reported Texas and Oklahoma have reached out to the SEC about joining the conference, citing an unnamed high-ranking college official. According to the report, an official announcement of the Big 12’s two most high-profile schools jumping ship for the SEC could come within the next few weeks.
Adding Texas and Oklahoma would give the SEC 16 schools and make it the nation’s first super-conference. The SEC, holding its annual football media days this week in Hoover, Ala., has declined to comment on the report, as did the University of Texas.
“Speculation swirls around collegiate athletics,” a UT spokesperson told the Austin American-Statesman’s Brian Davis. “We will not address rumors or speculation.”
I’m sure that will clear things up. *insert eye roll emoji here*
There are a lot of layers to unpack in this story, and it is one that our publisher, Chris Williams, is probably more well-equipped to tackle, but I’ll give my initial thoughts anyway.
The first thing to consider is the Big 12’s Grant of Rights, which gives the league control of each member school’s media rights, runs through June 30, 2025. That agreement still stands even if a school leaves the league before the deal’s expiration.
In other words, Texas and Oklahoma could theoretically leave the league right now if they wanted to do so. Still, the Big 12 would continue to control and receive the compensation generated by their tier-one and tier-two media rights until halfway through this decade.
Oklahoma and Texas joining the SEC for this “super-conference” would surely be lucrative financially for everyone involved well into the future. In addition, it would drastically shift the landscape of college athletics in every way, with numerous dominoes sure to fall in the days, months and years that followed.
With that said, I have a hard time understanding why Oklahoma and Texas would want to leave the Big 12 for the SEC right now unless something is going on behind the scenes that the public has not been made aware of.
Oklahoma and Texas are the big fish in a (relatively) small pond. Right, wrong or indifferent, those two schools are the ones that call the shots in the Big 12 at the end of the day.
It would be hard to see that being the case in this new super-conference with Alabama, LSU, Georgia and Florida all involved as well. None of the schools in the SEC would bend to the will of Texas (or, to a lesser extent Oklahoma) like has happened previously within the Big 12.
Additionally, under the current structure of college football, going to the SEC would seem to make qualifying for the College Football Playoff exponentially harder. As it stands right now under the four-team format, if Oklahoma (and theoretically Texas, although they’re not as close to being a factor on the field in this point) wins all their games, then they’re more or less guaranteed a spot in the CFP field.
That will especially be the case once the Playoff expands to 12 teams, which is expected to happen around the same time the Big 12’s Grant of Rights expires in 2025.
Why would Oklahoma and Texas trade playing the schools in the Big 12 for playing Alabama, LSU, Florida, Georgia, etc., every year if their path to the CFP is easier where they’re already at?
We also learned during the last realignment go-around that Oklahoma’s state legislature will not allow OU to leave for any league unless it takes Oklahoma State along with it. Maybe that has changed in the last 10 years, but I highly doubt it.
At the end of the day, this all comes down to money, which, to me, is really stupid considering everyone across the country is already making a lot of money.
There is a chance that this is just a signal of things to come for college football, with basically the entire landscape as we know it going away in exchange for a world of a few super-conferences across the country.
I don’t know what the answer to all of this is. I don’t even know if we can really trust the initial reporting as an absolute fact, but there sure seems to be a lot of smoke confirming its validity.
Regardless, leaking the possibility of an imminent move has sufficiently overturned the Big 12 apple cart. Who will be left to pick up all the apples remains to be seen.