Texas, Oklahoma set wheels in motion to bolt from Big 12 for SEC

Texas and Oklahoma school officials formally notified the Big 12 they do not intend to extend their media rights deals with the conference past 2025, setting the stage for the colleges to lead the conference for the SEC, perhaps as early as next year.



July 27, 2021 - 9:48 AM

Texas Longhorns fans cheer on their team against Oklahoma in 2019. Photo by Ricardo B. Brazziell / American-Statesman

Just call it Texit – with some Sooner separation for good measure.

Texas and Oklahoma effectively served notice Monday to the Big 12, setting the stage for SEC membership and dealing a major blow to their former home.

An 11th hour meeting Sunday with the Big 12 executive committee, including commissioner Bob Bowlsby, failed to deter Texas and Oklahoma from a plan assembled many months ago. Texas board of regents chairman Kevin Eltife was a key figure in the move. Texas president Jay Hartzell and OU counterpart Joe Harroz, each relatively new on the job, listened Sunday on the video call and were undeterred.

Each school notified the Big 12 on Monday that they would not extend their media grant of rights past 2025, when the conference’s TV deals with ESPN and Fox expire. The Big 12 had sought an extension of the grant of rights through 2030.

“The University of Oklahoma and the University of Texas at Austin notified the Big 12 Athletic Conference today they will not be renewing their grants of media rights following expiration in 2025. Providing notice to the Big 12 at this point is important in advance of the expiration of the conference’s current media rights agreement,” Texas said in a statement. “The universities intend to honor their existing grant of rights agreements.

“However, both universities will continue to monitor the rapidly evolving collegiate athletics landscape as they consider how best to position their athletics programs for the future.”

After having given notice, Texas and Oklahoma are positioned to accept the golden ticket to the SEC. Eleven of the 14 schools have to approve membership, which shouldn’t pose a problem. Only Texas A&M has voiced any opposition to the move and the Aggies softened their tone this past weekend.

The result will be a college juggernaut, a 16-team super-conference designed to generate maximum TV revenue and dominate multiple sports, especially football. Texas and Oklahoma are expected to bump SEC per team revenue to more than $60 million. The Big 12 is expected to pay out about $40 million in 2021-22.

For the Big 12, this is potentially an extinction-level event, if not now then in a few years with massive potential consequences for Texas Tech, Baylor and TCU.

By exiting the Big 12, Oklahoma and Texas are departing the conference they helped found in 1996. The figure of the Big 12 is now uncertain with just eight remaining schools, none of which have the market value and brand of the Longhorns and Sooners.

“Although our eight members are disappointed with the decisions of these two institutions, we recognize that intercollegiate athletics is experiencing rapid change and will most likely look much different in 2025 than it does currently,” Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said in a written statement. “The Big 12 Conference will continue to support our member institutions’ efforts to graduate student-athletes and compete for Big 12 and NCAA championships.

“Like many others, we will use the next four years to fully assess what the landscape will look like in 2025 and beyond.  The remaining eight institutions will work together in a collaborative manner to thoughtfully and strategically position the Big 12 Conference for continued success, both athletically and academically, long into the future.”

The Big 12 is left with the option of either raiding the Group of Five conferences or hoping individually or in groups to land at the Pac-12, Big Ten or ACC.

The alternative is a step back in prestige and athletic revenue, as several Texas schools, including TCU, experienced when the Southwest Conference broke up.