After the initial report from the Houston Chronicle that the Oklahoma Sooners and Texas Longhorns were looking into a move to the SEC emerged Wednesday afternoon, further reports from other media sources shaped the narrative that makes all of this look much more real.
As the afternoon passed and the sun went down, further context came down the pipe to fan the flames of conference realignment.
When it comes to college football realignment, follow the television rights deals, or in essence, follow the money. When the Sooners, Longhorns, Texas Tech Red Raiders, and Oklahoma State Cowboys were looking at making a move to the PAC 10 a decade ago, it was about just that, making more money in an even more lucrative television contract.
Though the schools ultimately decided to stay, mostly because Texas wanted to pursue their own network, realignment happened in the Big 12, and the Sooners missed out on a chance to cash in.
With a bigger brand and in the midst of a run that includes six conference champions, two Heisman Trophies, a Heisman finalist, and another big-time recruiting class in 2022, Oklahoma’s brand has never had more value than it does now.
Though Texas may be the team that moves the needle, much in the way the Dallas Cowboys do, the Sooners carry a ton of weight as well.
Jason Whitely of WFAA in Dallas-Fort Worth reported late last night that the Sooners and the Longhorns plan to issue a joint memo to the Big 12 opting not to renew their media contract when they expire in 2025.
The University of Oklahoma has been disappointed with Fox Sports in recent months after the network declined their request to move the 50th anniversary of the Game of the Century matchup between Oklahoma and the Nebraska Cornhuskers to primetime. There was clear frustration from University of Oklahoma Athletic Director Joe Castiglione, and the lack of support from the Big 12 and Commissioner Bob Bowlsby fanned the flames of that frustration.
When asked about it last week at Big 12 media days, Bowlsby didn’t sound like he was in Oklahoma’s corner when he said, “We all signed the TV contract.”
Remember when Nebraska, Missouri, Colorado, and Texas A&M left at the emergence of the Longhorn Network. Sure there was frustration with Texas, but the real frustration was with the conference leadership for failing to be there for the rest of the conference.
Bowlsby’s lack of support for Oklahoma’s petition was a slap in the face of its most successful member.
Statements from either school offered nothing definitive, which means a move is more likely than not if you read between the lines. If it weren’t going to happen, they would have issued statements about being content in the Big 12. They didn’t doesn’t mean a move will happen, but it’s clear the two schools from the Big 12 are considering a move.
Whitely added that after notifying the Big 12 of their intentions early next week, the two schools would petition the SEC for membership. Admittance to the Southeastern Conference would require 11 of 14 votes in the affirmative. With Texas A&M as the lone school to voice their displeasure of the idea of Texas joining the SEC, it would be surprising if the measure didn’t get enough votes to pass.
While realignment a decade ago would have brought Oklahoma State along with the Sooners to the Pacific Athletic Conference, a move to the SEC hold no guarantees for the Cowboys. From the Athletic’s Jason Kersey, the two schools are governed by a separate board of regents, and the Oklahoma Legislature holds no authority to keep the schools in the same conference (subscription).
As news broke about Oklahoma’s possible desire to move to the SEC, a common misunderstanding resurfaced on social media regarding the Oklahoma state legislature and its role. The Oklahoma state legislature holds no authority regarding the athletics conference of state schools. The University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University are governed independently by the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents and the OSU/A&M Board of Regents, respectively. – Kersey
Would it make sense for the two universities to continue their annual rivalry? Absolutely. But that can happen regardless of the conference the two schools play in. Bedlam has been an annual tradition for the two schools forever. It certainly makes sense to keep the two schools together. However, if OSU isn’t in the cards for the SEC, Oklahoma may be moving east on their own.
The University of Oklahoma has the right to look out for itself as the future of college football evolves. As the television contracts continue to grow and with the college football playoff offering more teams a path to a national championship, staying a big fish in a small pond may not make sense for the program’s future.