The board of regents at Texas and Oklahoma voted unanimously Friday to formally accept invitations for both schools to join the Southeastern Conference.
While leaving behind the Big 12, Texas and Oklahoma will make the SEC the first 16-team conference.
“While our university has enjoyed over 25 years in the Big 12 Conference, we recognize that we must be willing to make changes with our eyes on the future,” Texas President Jay Hartzell said. “In a world of uncertainty and change, it is incumbent upon us as leaders to protect and enhance our athletic program and university. In order to do so, we looked at conferences across the country and concluded that the SEC was the best fit for our future.
“The reasons are many: the stability and strength of the league and its leadership, the level of visibility for our student athletes, some of the toughest athletic competition, and exciting stadiums that are similar in capacity and attendance to ours.”
One day after SEC presidents and chancellors voted unanimously to invite Oklahoma and Texas, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey expressed pleasure with the addition of both schools.
“This is an important moment for the long-term future of the Southeastern Conference and our member universities,” Sankey said. “Oklahoma and Texas are outstanding academic institutions with two strong athletics programs, which will add to the SEC’s national prominence. Their additions will further enhance the already rich academic, athletic and cultural legacies that have been cultivated throughout the years by our existing 14 members.”
The question now becomes when the Sooners and Longhorns will officially join the SEC.
In a joint statement released Monday, UT and OU said they intend to remain members of the Big 12 through June 30, 2025 — the date the league’s grant of media rights expires. However, the schools could come to an agreement on a settlement with the league to leave before then, though it likely won’t be cheap.
So long as the Big 12 stays a conference prior to Texas and Oklahoma joining the SEC, both schools would likely face a cost of no less than $75 million to get out before June 2025.
“We alerted the Big 12 that we would not be renewing our grant of rights agreement in 2025 — four years down the road,” Hartzell said. “We told the Big 12 that we intend to honor our current agreement, while knowing that notice now is the fairest way to allow the conference to plan for its future beyond 2025.”
The remaining eight Big 12 schools — West Virginia, Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, TCU, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State — could stay together and allow the league to look elsewhere for additions that could make it a 10-or-12-team conference.
On the flip side, any school on that list could act in what it believes is its best interest and seek membership into another league, forcing the Big 12 to disband.
In addition to taking issue with ESPN for its alleged role in conference realignment, Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby has been outspoken against both Texas and Oklahoma.
Bowlsby issued a statement earlier this week after learning each had submitted a request to the SEC for membership. It read in part: The events of recent days have verified that the two schools have been contemplating and planning for the transition for months and this formal application is the culmination of those processes. We are unwavering in the belief that the Big 12 provides an outstanding platform for its members’ athletic and academic success. We will face the challenges head-on, and we have confidence that the Big 12 will continue to be a vibrant and successful entity in the near term and into the foreseeable future.