UT Austin and Oklahoma accept invites to SEC, changing overall landscape
By Joe Clark, Sports News Editor
The University of Texas at Austin (Texas) and Oklahoma University both unanimously accepted invites to join the Southeastern Conference (SEC) on July 30. Both schools will likely join the conference after their rights agreement with the Big 12, their current conference, ends in 2025; however, it could happen sooner.
This move was made for football revenue, as most conference realignment moves are, with the exception of UConn joining the Big East and Wichita State joining the American Athletic Conference (AAC) in recent years. However, it will have repercussions outside of football and could affect the Big East.
With Texas and Oklahoma joining the SEC, the two schools boost the basketball profile of the conference that largely has been dominated by Kentucky and Florida in recent years. Texas and Oklahoma recently hired new coaches, with Chris Beard leaving Texas A&M to become the head coach of Texas (his alma mater) and Porter Moser leaving the program he built at Loyola-Chicago to run the Sooners’ program.
While Texas is an immediate threat to the SEC basketball hierarchy, what’s more interesting is what will happen with the Big 12. With Oklahoma and Texas leaving, other schools could follow. Kansas already had a meeting with the Big Ten, and West Virginia seems like it could be a natural fit in the ACC.
Other schools could also look to the Pac-12 for their new home. One possible fit would be Kansas going the same route as UConn: taking their football program independent and joining the Big East. Kansas football has been a bottom-dweller ever since Mark Mangino was fired after the 2009 season, so going independent and further highlighting their basketball program with a basketball-only conference would certainly be an intriguing move.
The Big 12 will likely look to the top AAC schools to join the conference. The University of Houston, University of Central Florida and University of Cincinnati could be schools the Big 12 looks at to join the conference due to their recent success in football and basketball. It’s a legitimate question, though, if those schools would leave a conference where they’re perennially at the top in order to join the remnants of the Big 12.
Southern Methodist University is another option, as is Boise State. Boise State would throw the league’s geography a little bit out of whack, but a westward expansion could also open up the possibility to add schools like Football Championship Subdivision powerhouse North Dakota State or further poach from the Mountain West with Nevada or Utah State.
In the end, whether or not any other schools join the Big 12 will likely mostly depend on TV rights deals if extended an invitation, as money is usually king in college athletics. Without Texas and Oklahoma, it’s likely the next Big 12 TV deal is lower than what it currently is. No matter what happens though, the college football landscape has already changed drastically, and the possibility for the basketball landscape to be significantly altered is real.
Photos courtesy of utexas.edu (left) and soonersports.com (right)