The SEC will reportedly vote Thursday whether to grant membership to Texas and Oklahoma to form the country’s first “superconference.” All signs point to this being a formality for both powerhouse programs (even Texas A&M has softened its stance in trying to block the move).
Then the question will be when UT and OU officially join the league. For now, both have said they intend to honor their grant-of-rights agreements with the Big 12 through the 2024 football season. That’s likely legal talk that received a jolt Wednesday when Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby accused TV partner ESPN of orchestrating the departures.
ESPN is set to become the exclusive home of SEC sports starting in 2024.
“This whole thing has been a complete articulation of deception,” Bowlsby told the AP.
ESPN said the claims have no merit.
Regardless, realistic talk has UT and OU playing in the SEC in 2022 even though legal battles and hefty buyouts loom with the Big 12.
UT and OU will have no interest in selling recruits on the idea of beginning their college careers in the Big 12, a conference in which every opposing fan base despises you, before finishing it in the SEC. Both schools will be hopeful the eight remaining schools find landing spots elsewhere and there is no league to pay.
But, if the Big 12 stays together, yours truly believes Texas and Oklahoma will eventually cave and pay millions of dollars to leave the conference early. There is no way either school will want to compete in the league beyond this upcoming season.
Nebraska, Texas A&M, Colorado and Missouri all left within a year of announcing affiliations with new leagues. The same should be said with Texas and Oklahoma.
For TCU and the remaining eight, though, the waiting game is just beginning as far as finding new homes.
The SEC landed the golden goose of realignment by bringing in the Big 12’s flagship schools. There is already talk centered on the Big Ten possibly eyeing a counter move by going out west and trying to poach a few flagship schools from the Pac-12. The ACC could also be looking at a few Pac-12 schools.
After all, the Big Ten can’t counter what the SEC did by bringing in a Kansas and an Iowa State a week later. The optics of that aren’t great.
The guess here is that eventually those flagship schools in the Pac-12 will remain loyal to their respective leagues and the new college sports landscape becomes four 16-team “superconferences.” The Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 will acknowledge that the SEC is leading the way in that regard and every league will eventually expand to 16 teams.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise if expansion committees in those leagues are formed as early as next week.
That’s when the remaining eight schools in the Big 12 will become more attractive. If a league views the future like the SEC with a 16-team “superconference,” it might as well get in front when every school is available.
Clearly none of the eight remaining teams are on the other conferences’ “wish list” like a UT or OU, but they would bring value in different ways.
TCU, for instance, has to make it a priority to sell the Pac-12 on the importance of having a presence in Texas. A TCU, Texas Tech and/or Baylor combo could be attractive for the Pac-12 in expanding its footprint into a talent-rich state. Plus, those schools may be willing to structure their media rights payouts in a way where they don’t receive as much as, say, USC. For instance, TCU joined the Big 12 as a “junior member” in 2012.
The football programs at USC, UCLA, Oregon and Stanford should covet the idea of having more inroads into the fertile recruiting grounds of Texas too. A similar sales pitch could be made to the Big Ten as far as extending its reach into Texas.
Other Big 12 schools such as Oklahoma State and Kansas could draw interest from other leagues. Yes, this is a football-driven realignment, but maybe KU’s basketball brand piques the interest of one of the leagues. The ACC could view KU as a way of solidifying itself as the top basketball league to go along with premier football programs in Clemson, Florida State, Virginia Tech and Miami.
Or maybe KU has some appeal to the Big Ten or Pac-12 for similar reasons.
At the end of the day, if college sports is headed toward four 16-team superconferences, the remaining Big 12 teams should draw some interest … eventually.
For now, it’s the dreaded waiting game as no league is going to be able to match the SEC’s coup of UT and OU.
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