According to a report in the Houston Chronicle, the future of the Big 12 Conference is very much in jeopardy.
The story says both Oklahoma and Texas have reached out to the Southeastern Conference about joining the league. It also adds, “an announcement could come within a couple of weeks concerning the potential addition of UT and OU to the league.”
Multiple media outlets, including The Associated Press and ESPN, confirmed the report.
SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey declined to address the report at the league’s media days.
“I’m talking about the 2021 season,” Sankey said.
The SEC currently has 14 members and its bylaws require at least three-fourths of those members (11) to vote in favor of extending an invitation to join the league.
The Big 12, currently with 10 members, would be left in limbo and with eight members if OU and Texas left.
Texas A&M, which left the Big 12 for the SEC in 2012, is not in favor of adding Texas.
“We want to be the only SEC program in the state of Texas,” Texas A&M Athletic Director Ross Bjork said. “There’s a reason why Texas A&M left the Big 12 — to be standalone, to have our own identity.”
A potential obstacle exists that could prevent Oklahoma and Texas from leaving the Big 12 in the near future. Following the last round of conference realignment, Big 12 schools signed a grant-of-rights agreement that grants their media rights for football and men’s basketball to the conference through June 2025. That allows the Big 12 to own members’ media rights in those sports until the agreement expires, even if they are no longer league members.
The Big 12’s television contracts with ESPN and Fox expire in 2025, while The Longhorn Network has a deal with ESPN through 2031.
Texas has been tied to realignment before when back in 2010, the Pac-10 tried to lure UT and five other Big 12 members to form a Pac-16. Texas opted to stay in the Big 12 and started its own TV network, but reports two years later that both the Longhorns and Oklahoma remained interested in joining the West Coast-based conference led to Missouri and Texas A&M to joining the SEC.
Although the Big 12 had already lost Nebraska to the Big Ten and Colorado to the Pac-12, the league added West Virginia and TCU.
Wednesday’s report prompted a statement from Oklahoma State, which didn’t hide its frustration.
“We have heard unconfirmed reports that OU and UT approached Southeastern Conference officials about joining the SEC,” the statement reads. “We are gathering information and will monitor closely. If true, we would be gravely disappointed. While we place a premium on history, loyalty and trust, be assured, we will aggressively defend and advance what is best for Oklahoma State and our strong athletic program, which continues to excel in the Big 12 and nationally.”
Oklahoma is the only Big 12 schools to ever qualify for the College Football Playoff, having done so four times since its inception in 2014. The Sooners are 0-4 in the CFP, leaving the league without a win in the sport’s top event.
Just last week at the league’s media days, Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby hinted realignment was something he was hardly concerned with.
“A lot of the motivation for realignment is no longer there,” Bowlsby said. “Is that to say it couldn’t happen? No, it could possibly happen for other reasons, but it doesn’t appear to me the motivation is there at this point in time. Not to say it couldn’t happen, but it’s not something that keeps me up at night.”