Armageddon 2.0: Another realignment?

What all would it entail if NCAA football conferences were restructured?

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Sports

July 23, 2021 - 1:52 PM

Oklahoma Sooners band takes the field prior to the start of a NCAA football game between the Texas Longhorns and the Oklahoma Sooners at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas on Saturday, October 6, 2018.

HOOVER, Ala. — Conference realignment talk is back in a huge way.

So is all the drama, the speculation and intrigue with the focus on Texas and Oklahoma.

The Houston Chronicle first reported Wednesday that Texas and Oklahoma have reached out to the Southeastern Conference about joining the football powerhouse.

Multiple industry sources confirmed what was described as mutual interest between Texas, Oklahoma and the SEC, with Texas making first contact. UT board of regents chairman Kevin Eltife, a former state senator from Tyler, is believed to be a key player in the process as he was in the hiring of football coach Steve Sarkisian.

Rumors have been circulating among college football power brokers for a few weeks.

Welcome to College Armageddon 2.0. Remember the proposal for the Pac-16 a decade or so ago? This would be bigger in impact.

By SEC bylaws, the addition would require 11 votes from the current 14 members.

If that occurs, the acquisition of Texas and OU would result in a 16-team super-conference. It would also gut the Big 12, taking the conference’s two flagship members and leaving just eight schools trying to hold things together.

College sports, which is dealing with name/image/likeness legislation, lingering COVID-19 issues and a possible 12-team football playoff, would be changed immeasurably with two huge dominoes falling.

The SEC would become even more of a revenue and football powerhouse. In a 12-team playoff era, it’s not hard to imagine an expanded SEC placing four teams in the field.

Oklahoma has won the last six Big 12 titles and is expected to be a strong playoff contender this year. While Texas is on its third coach in eight years and hasn’t won a Big 12 title since 2009 under Mack Brown, the Longhorns are still a coveted brand.

The move would face numerous obstacles including the Big 12′s grant of media rights, Texas’ long-term agreement with ESPN for the Longhorn Network, state politics and what will almost certainly be a major pushback from Texas A&M about Texas coming on board.

The Chronicle indicated that an announcement could come in a couple of weeks, a very quick timetable.

What was curious was the lack of an outright denial.

Cornered by small group of reporters at SEC media days, Commissioner Greg Sankey said: “I don’t have any comment on that speculation.”

He later added to a different group: “I’m going to focus on the 2021 season, gentlemen.”

In a statement, Texas didn’t knock down the rumor: “Speculation swirls around collegiate athletics. We will not address rumors or speculation.”

An Oklahoma statement from a university spokesman said “the college athletics landscape is shifting constantly. We don’t address every anonymous rumor.”

Missing from the quotes and statements: the word “false.”

Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork was conducting a one-on-one interview Wednesday afternoon when his cell rang with a call from school President M. Katherine Banks about the impending story.

“I will tell you there’s a reason why Texas A&M left for the SEC because of how things were operating and we are going to be diligent in our approach to protect Texas A&M,” Bjork said, still processing the news a short time later. “I know how we feel about our position and who belongs in the SEC.”

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