How friends Texas' Chris Del Conte, OU's Joe Castiglione decided on SEC move

OU athletic director Joe Castiglione speaks during a press conference in Norman on Monday, November 29, 2021.
OU athletic director Joe Castiglione speaks during a press conference in Norman on Monday, November 29, 2021.

OU athletic director Joe Castiglione was seated across SEC personality Paul Finebaum on a beach in Destin, Florida, when a familiar face showed up.

Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte, an arch rival but close confidant of Castiglione’s, joined the two on Finebaum’s daily SEC Network program to discuss one of the hottest topics this week in the Florida Panhandle. The Longhorns and the Sooners — the new kids on the block at the SEC’s annual spring meetings — officially join the league on July 1.

It’s been nearly three years since the programs announced their intention to depart the Big 12 for the conference that ”just means more,” and a little over a month away from that idea becoming a reality, the transition has seemed seamless.

“It wasn't initially,” Castiglione told Finebaum. “But as we have made this move and the support we've had from (commissioner Greg Sankey), the entire staff, to the member institutions, my AD colleagues, the presidents, other coaches now, it really does seem like a natural fit. We have so much in common with virtually all of the institutions, many of which are flagship universities in their own state like we are.

“A lot of tradition of success and our institutional missions are very, very similar.”

More: Paul Finebaum Q&A: Where does OU stand ahead of SEC entry?

Castiglione and Del Conte told Finebaum they used the time off during the COVID-19 pandemic to reflect on the landscape of the college football industry. They studied NIL, the NCAA v. Alston case, cost of attendance and other subjects before coming to the realization that moving to the SEC was the right move for their respective schools.

It’s no secret the SEC’s television deal ending after the 2023 season also prompted all parties involved to seek possibilities. Del Conte suggested the SEC move, the two argued back and forth briefly before quickly calling Sankey.

Sankey picked up his phone, heard the proposition and said, “There might be an interest.”

The decision was especially emotional for Castiglione, who was at the table when the Big 12 was first constituted during his time at Missouri.

“We had great respect for the Big 12,” Castiglione said. “We also had to see where the world was going and what was best for our two universities. So there was no animosity, but you still have to lead. This was something, between us and our presidents, that we had to do for the best interest of our universities in the long run.”

While it’s difficult to predict how OU and Texas will perform in the SEC, one thing for certain is the two men and their programs are in this together.

Castiglione told Rice and TCU to hire Del Conte for his first two AD jobs and the two talk three to four times a week. Finebaum even ran into the duo, who were grabbing coffee together, at 6:30 a.m. this week at the meetings.

“It’s a lot of communication,” Del Conte said. “But that’s just been forged over a long time. Our wives are very, very close. The beautiful thing of this industry is that after it’s all said and done, I’ll have a life friend.”

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: What OU's Joe Castiglione, Texas' Chris Del Conte said about SEC move