Sunday, July 25, 2021

Big 12 leaders meet with OU, Texas presidents as rumors, theories swirl

In this Oct. 7, 2017, file photo, a Big 12 pylon marks the end zone at Darrell K Royal Texas Memorial Stadium before an NCAA college football game between Texas and Kansas State in Austin, Texas.  (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

In this Oct. 7, 2017, file photo, a Big 12 pylon marks the end zone at Darrell K Royal Texas Memorial Stadium before an NCAA college football game between Texas and Kansas State in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)


Barring a dramatic change of direction, Texas and Oklahoma are moving toward taking the Red River Rivalry to the Southeastern Conference in a seismic shift that will have repercussions in college sports from coast to coast.

According to multiple reports, the first and significant formal step of the process could come as soon as Monday with the two schools informing the Big 12 they will not renew the contractual agreement that binds conference members until 2025.

The Big 12 said Sunday night its executive committee of Texas Tech President Lawrence Schovanec, Baylor President Linda Livingstone and Commissioner Bob Bowlsby held a video conference with Oklahoma President Joe Harroz and Texas President Jay Hartzell.

“The meeting was cordial, and the Executive Committee expressed a willingness to discuss proposals that would strengthen the Conference and be mutually beneficial to OU and UT, as well as the other member institutions of the Conference,” Bowlsby said in a statement. "I expect that we will continue our conversations in the days ahead and we look forward to discussing thoughts, ideas and concepts that may be of shared interest and impact.”

If the Big 12 can't get Oklahoma and Texas to reverse course, expect the lawyers to take over. An early departure could cost the schools well over $100 million combined to get out of that grant of rights.

But a pot of gold awaits in the SEC and having the Longhorns and Sooners linger as lame ducks doesn't have much upside for the Big 12.

There is a good chance that come kickoff of the 2022 college football season, Texas and Oklahoma will be in the Southeastern Conference.


The SEC signed a $300 million deal with ESPN last year that gives the network rights to all SEC football games starting in 2024 and is expected to bump the conference's annual distribution to its members to about $68 million.

The Big 12 distributed $34.5 million per school recently, down over the previous year because of the pandemic.

A projection done by Navigate Research, which does data modeling for professional sports leagues and college conferences, for The Athletic last year had the annual distribution gap between the SEC and Big 12 at about $16 million per team per year in the SEC's favor by 2026.

That was under the assumption the Big 12 would still have Texas and Oklahoma.

The Big 12's next TV deal will pay substantially less without its flagship schools than the $574 million in 2026 that Navigate was projecting.

“That's a given,” said former Big 12 Commissioner Chuck Neinas, who stepped in to help the conference survive the last round of realignment in the early 2010s.

Generally, TV contracts are structured so if a conference adds new members, the network's payout increases proportionally.

The addition of Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC could break from standard operating procedure. That's especially true if ESPN decides it no longer needs a partnership with the Big 12 and the SEC increases the quality and quantity of its football inventory by going to a nine-game conference schedule.

Or maybe 10.


The Aggies are not thrilled about the prospect of sharing the SEC with the Longhorns, who they were happy to leave behind when they left the Big 12 in 2011.

There will be complaints from board members and politicians, but Texas A&M; will not play obstructionist as the SEC tries to complete this deal.

“Whoever joins, whatever that looks like, that's what we're ready for,” Texas A&M; athletic director Ross Bjork told the AP on Sunday.


SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey was part of a four-person group, along with Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby, that worked on College Football Playoff expansion for about two years.

The plan unveiled last month calls for a 12-team field. There are steps to go before formal approval, but implementation could come as soon as 2023.

Those with a background in college sports believe it was no coincidence that Sankey was working on both CFP and SEC expansion.

“People have tried to say, ‘Why now?’” former Western Athletic Conference and Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson said. “If there's a different structure and if the SEC going to 16 teams is going to create a different structure among its peer conferences, you need to do it before the next CFP expansion.”

The current CFP expansion proposal calls for the six top-ranked conference champions to make the 12-team field, along with six at-large picks by the selection committee.

The SEC is about to add the only Big 12 school (Oklahoma) to make the playoff and the only other Big 12 school (Texas) to win a national championship since the conference was formed in 1994.

Texas and OU will have a more treacherous path to the CFP in the SEC, but more roads are opening up.

“If there is a 12-team playoff, they still can be in line to play for a national championship," Neinas said. “If it remained at four or even went to eight with conference champions having automatic bids, their odds of winning a national championship would be diminished.”

An even stronger SEC could cannibalize its best teams in some seasons. It could also potentially eat up half the spots in a 12-team CFP in others.


If Texas and Oklahoma leave, do Texas Tech, TCU, Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Iowa State and West Virginia scatter to other conferences or stay together and rebuild?

Realignment is survival of the fittest. Collegiality and collaboration last right up until one party finds a better deal for itself than the collective can provide.

There are a few factors that might work in the Big 12's favor.

Currently, the Big 12 is one of five autonomy conferences in NCAA Division I governance along with the SEC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and Atlantic Coast Conference.

That doesn't go away if Texas and Oklahoma leave.

The Big 12 also has status within the current CFP structure. The Big 12's share of CFP revenue is $67 million per season, same as the other Power Five (or Autonomy Five) conferences.

Throw on top of that the Big 12's deal with the Sugar Bowl, which pays another $80 million per year to the conference and puts its champion (or another highly rated team) in a high-profile game to face an SEC team.

Those agreements expire after the 2025 season, but for five more football seasons, the Big 12 has big money flowing in through the CFP and its current TV agreements with Fox and ESPN.

Plus, a possible windfall in exit fees from Texas and Oklahoma.

A new Big 12 might be stripped of all this status and earning potential eventually, but tapping into that for even five years should be appealing to a lot of schools that currently have neither.


Can the A in American stand for aggressor?

The American Athletic Conference has no plans to sit back and let a rebuilding Big 12 lure its best programs such as Houston, UCF and Cincinnati.

Expect Commissioner Mike Aresco to court the potential Big 12 leftovers.

What the AAC has going for it is an ESPN contract that runs through the 2031-32 school year.

Aresco can sell long-term stability and the ability to re-open that $1 billion TV deal for a super conference of 16, 18, maybe even 20 schools that will be more valuable long-term than what the next version of the Big 12 could get when it hits the open market.


Big Ten — The conference is still positioned with its big markets, big brands, large fan bases and relationship with Fox (TV deal is up in 2023) to be the SEC's biggest rival.

But it does seem as if the SEC's Sankey might have taken advantage of a change in leadership within the Big Ten —- not just Kevin Warren replacing Jim Delany as commissioner, but also at the university president level — to make the one move that could pull the SEC ahead of the Big Ten in revenue generation.

ACC — Even before this move, the ACC was searching for a way to reopen a long-term TV deal with ESPN (expiring in 2036) that could leave the conference lagging way behind its peers in revenue.

Is it add Notre Dame or bust? Could some combination of West Virginia, Cincinnati and UCF create an opportunity for significant renegotiations?

Pac-12 — The West Coast's conference might benefit from a weakened Big 12, allowing it to jostle with the ACC to be a distant No. 3 in the pecking order.

Expansion works best in the Pac-12 if it brings in a new time zone (Central) or fertile recruiting ground. The school would also need to be an academic and cultural fit with existing members. None of the non-Texas Big 12 schools check every box.


As the NCAA cedes power to conferences, a bigger, richer SEC led by a policy wonk such as Sankey has the potential to become the most powerful entity in college sports off the field, too.

“The SEC is in a position to lead in whatever this transformation is in college athletics,” Bjork said. “And so that's why you're seeing the interest of others wanting to join.”


Joe Ross 2 months ago

Intersecting issues and the domino effect?

Does a NIL Supreme Court decision regarding college sports mean that richer schools can attract better athletes? And does adding Texas and OU make the SEC more powerful and therefore richer (yes?) ?

Could it be that the NIL decision has caused another round of conference realignment?

Chris Oestreich 2 months ago

Joe, You are partially spot on. I don't think the NIL specifically is causing realignment. The timing due to the ineptitude of the NCAA's lack of action on almost all fronts and a money grab is the biggest contributor. Matt may be able to comment more but I know the smaller or lower funded P5 athletic departments are going to struggle to help their student athletes. Although they can not directly put together the deals for the athletes the athletic department can provide avenues and opportunities to develop graphics and provide support when trying to lure financial opportunities for themselves. Smaller athletic departments or those who were not preparing for NIL are way behind and don't have the staffing to properly support the athletes. Even though the portal has been busy we may see even more higher profile athletes jump in in the future due to a departments lack of resources to help their athletes.
So, did NIL cause the conference realignment, I don't think so, I believe the timing was just right with the Grant of Rights coming up in 2025. Money, money, money. Lets hope KU was being proactive and finds the opportunity that allows them to grow the football program and support the basketball programs success.

Matt Gauntt 2 months ago

I'm done with Texas. They have been throwing their weight around and ruining things for 25 years. Let them go. Hopefully there isn't going to be any offers of "hey, we will give you more of our money to keep you" If we do that, 10 years from now they will want even more. Let's just go to the Big 10 and be done with it.

Gerry Butler 2 months ago

I was listening to a National Sports talk show last night that came off 1490 FM here in Topeka. They were talking about I guess that Texas and Oklahoma had said to the Big 12 body that if they would stay in the Big 12 that they wanted their share of the revenue to go up.

Currently each Big 12 School gets 37 million a year. - -Texas and Oklahoma want their share to go up to 56 Million each to consider staying Which they said the Big 12 body might just do to get them to stay. The thing is even if they stay with the increased revenue on their part , they brought up what's to keep them from bolting in 2025 when the contract expires ?

They also brought out an interesting point and might just be interesting to see what happens. - -I guess the Texas Legislature has introduced a bill that states that in order for Texas to be allowed to leave the Big 12 and Joining the SEC it's has to gain the approval of the Texas legislature.. - -What makes this interesting is that one of the Legislators is a Texas A & M grad - -Another is a Baylor Alum - -Another is from Texas Tech and yet another is from TCU Well as we know Texas A & M is for sure against Texas joining the SEC as they want to be the only Texas School in the SEC then the other 3 are Big 12 Schools alums.

Then they brought up they said , OK so Oklahoma says fine you won't allow Texas to leave , then that's fine we will just take our little Sister Oklahoma State with us. - Great then the question becomes - does Oklahoma State offer the SEC enough attraction that they would still want to extend the invitation to those Schools ? I think in the end Texas & Oklahoma STILL joins the SEC but this might provide a few snags along the way might be interesting

Matt Gauntt 2 months ago

To play devil's advocate, if Oklahoma takes OK State with them to the SEC, then the next step will be for Texas to reach out to the PAC-12 and bring the Texas schools with them. We are right back in the same situation. My understanding is that the PAC-12 tried to get Texas 12 years ago anyway.

Ted Adams 2 months ago

The problem with the Pac12 is that everyone knows their timezone is a graveyard for TV revenue. The majority of athletic departments in the Pac12 are in the red for that very reason. It's also the reason they basically fired their commissioner. No one wants their games in the mountain or pacific timezone. Heck, it's so bad out there they are actually considering 9:00am PT starts for football! Almost half the Pac12 have been in contact with other conferences about making a move. The AZ schools CAL and USC I know for sure have. I don't see anyone from the Big XII making a move West unless its a last resort and they have no choice.

John Strayer 2 months ago

I don't get this time zone issue. If the NFL can make it work successfully for what 6 or so NFL teams why can't the PAC-12?

Bville Hawk 2 months ago

Gerry, maybe you missed this in the article regarding Texax A&M:

"“Whoever joins, whatever that looks like, that's what we're ready for,” Texas A&M; athletic director Ross Bjork told the AP on Sunday."

Ted Adams 2 months ago

No doubt A&M is pissed. They were kept in the dark on all of this ON PURPOSE by just about everyone in the SEC. However, I don't see them being able to block anything in the end. Although, if I'm the Big10, I'm at least making a phone call to see if they'd be interested in a move once TX/OU move is complete. The money is going to be virtually the same in both of those conferences once all the movement is over.

Joe Black 2 months ago

That was the Athletic Director making that statement not the legislature (which would or could have the true final say).

Spencer Goff 2 months ago

I have said this repeatedly, this is an abusive relationship, and needs to end. I don't care if that is to a Power 5 or to a Group of 5. It is not healthy for a university to enable this.

They want more money and control this time. They wanted more money and control last time. They will want more money and control next time. We will never get better here, we will never fix football here, slowly over time they will bleed over basketball.

Stop enabling it. Move on, I don't care where. That Big 12 leadership even remotely entertains the idea of giving them a cent more is ridiculous.

Let them move now while Nick Saban is still alive, see how successful they are then.

Armen Kurdian 2 months ago

I'll be sick to my stomach if by some horrible sequence of events KU lands in the Pac-12. Don't care if I might see them more often that I live in San Diego County.

Money is slowly destroying college athletics...we're going to see too much power collected in too few schools. The last bastion of sports that I love so much, college hoops could be changed forever and it makes me really sad.

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