With OU & UT reportedly eyeing the SEC, are we on the brink of conference realignment 2021?
Moments after reading a Wednesday story from the Houston Chronicle that reported that Oklahoma and Texas had been in contact about potentially leaving the Big 12 for the SEC, I went out to mow my lawn.
My how things have changed from the conference realignment days of old.
Back then, when schools moved from conference to conference like some strange game of musical chairs, I was afraid to even leave my computer.
Mowing the lawn or going to the grocery store seemed like crazy ideas in those days, because, even in just 5-10 minutes, major news could come out that could affect any one of college athletics’ power conferences.
Wednesday’s report, which indicates that a decision on whether to add the two Big 12 power programs to the SEC could be made in as little as two weeks, certainly qualifies as major news.
Any time programs like OU and Texas — particularly football programs of that nature — are talking about relocating, you have to at least consider the domino effect that such a move would have on all of college athletics.
The reason this type of talk does not seem quite as desperate and panic-inducing this time around has everything to do with what we’ve seen in the past several months and weeks on the college athletics landscape.
Change is coming. Heck, change is already here. And it seems smart to expect in the not-too-distant future that college athletics will look very different than it has in the past.
That’s not to say that losing alliances with power brokers like OU and UT should be considered a good thing for any of the rest of the Big 12. But if you squint just a little, what appears to be on the horizon in the new era of college sports may provide some comfort for those athletic departments that once believed that their only path to survival was to provide Bevo and Boomer with around-the-clock butler service.
Just last year, a longtime college athletics administrator told me that they thought college athletics as we know it today could be virtually unrecognizable within five years.
That was before the name, image and likeness and changes to the transfer rules passed, and before NCAA President Mark Emmert threw up as close to a white flag as we’ve seen by saying recently that it may be time for college athletics to be decentralized.
Hello, free enterprise. Adios, NCAA?
In the end, as was the case last time, this whole thing is again going to come down to the money.
If OU and UT truly are looking to leave and the powers that be in the SEC believe that adding them to the conference would increase their television deals by enough cheddar to make their additions worthwhile, it may very well happen.
Multiple reports this afternoon noted that 75% of the SEC’s 14 members would need to vote yes on the invitations for anything to happen.
What’s more, other reports pointed out that Oklahoma politicians made it awfully clear last time that OU wasn’t going anywhere without Oklahoma State. So while it’s possible to picture 11 of the 14 current SEC schools voting yes to add the power twosome, you have to wonder if the number would remain as high if the SEC schools were voting on adding Oklahoma State, as well.
The OU and Texas side of this thing only further underscores how much this would likely be about money.
With the college football playoff system headed for some kind of expansion, with the six highest-ranked conference champions likely getting an automatic spot in the playoff in the new system, why wouldn’t those two programs want to stay in the Big 12, where their chances at winning a title are exponentially higher year in and year out than they would be in the dog-eat-dog SEC?
All of this certainly bears watching in the rest of the Big 12, which would find itself in a world of hurt if OU and UT were to leave.
While just about everything was on the table in terms of a response the last time this kind of threat hit the conference, I have to think that it would be much more likely that the reaction to such an upheaval this time around would be much different.
Put a different way: Rather than desperately seeking replacements for OU and Texas, it would make more sense to me for the remaining members to go scrambling for the best landing spots they could find.
For Kansas specifically, the ACC and Big Ten come to mind. Beyond that, KU fans should rest easy knowing there were good options out there the last time this all happened that likely would be options again.
You also have to wonder if all of those past rumors about the Big 12 pursuing Arizona and Arizona State would suddenly have some juice behind them, and whether those additions would be enough to keep the Big 12 alive.
The options are out there. The question now is whether any of them will be needed.
Regardless of the answer, the two-week timeline hardly makes any of this worth getting worked up about just yet. There will be plenty of time for that — and other emotions — if this actually happens.
Right now, I’m headed to get the weed eater to finish up outside.