There’s an old saying: a rose by any other name is still a rose. Given recent events in college sports, it’s fair to say a Big 12 conference without Oklahoma and Texas is no longer Big.
Last week, both the University of Oklahoma and the University of Texas at Austin announced their intention to not renew their participation in licensing rights in the Big 12 conference. After that decision predictably caused a major uproar, this Monday both schools formally petitioned the NCAA to join the SEC beginning on July 1, 2025.
That noise you just heard was every object in the Big 12 headquarters being thrown at a wall or out a window. The shockwaves that will be felt from this move threaten to upturn College Football, and not in just two conferences. But nationwide.
What This Means for the Big 12
The Big 12 hasn’t been “12” for a while. It currently has ten members, but barring the recruitment of other schools, will fall to just eight in 2025 when Texas and Oklahoma flee.
The Big 12 has long been dominated by the Longhorns and Sooners, and the presence of small schools like Baylor and Texas Christian University have placed the group at a disadvantage with the SEC and other conferences for recruiting and all-important ad dollars.
Some are predicting the Big 12 (8) will cease to exist once Texas and Oklahoma go. But, I think it will find a way to survive. It’s not likely they will be able to attract top competitive schools to the league, which would have half of their remaining members in two states: Oklahoma and Texas, but without the marquee college football powerhouses in those states.
The Big 12 will likely get squeezed for broadcasting dollars as media companies scramble over themselves to gobble up the lucrative broadcasting contract that an SEC Plus OK/TX would fetch.
As national college football writer Pete Thamel reported: “One source summed up the Big 12’s conundrum this way: It’s like a shopping mall lost their two anchor stores, and the rest of the stores are trying to figure out how to stay open.”
What Oklahoma And Texas Will Mean For The SEC
The SEC is college football’s powerhouse conference. It’s where many of the most well-known coaches work, and it has some of the most iconic rivalries. Athletes like to play in the south where it’s warm and they are guaranteed to strap on a helmet in front of about 80,000 to 100,000 fans each Saturday in games that are seen across the United States.
So far in the seven-year history of the College Football Playoff, the SEC has won the title four times and had at least one school in the championship game in each of the last six games. Alabama, LSU, Georgia, and Florida are typically among the best teams in college football each year. Last season, four teams from the SEC ranked in the top ten in the final College Football Playoff rankings, and Alabama won the title by routing Ohio State.
Texas will regain a natural rivalry in the SEC with Texas A&M, and still face their nemesis Oklahoma. Also, an annual or every-other-year battle between Alabama and Texas or Oklahoma, and also a Tennessee matchup with either the Sooners or Texans, would be even more fresh meat for the frenzied SEC fan base.
In 2020, the SEC inked a very nice $300 million deal with ESPN for network rights to all football games starting in 2024. The addition of two more powerhouse teams will likely prompt conference officials to pressure ESPN to renegotiate that figure. It could even bring other networks into a bidding war.
An ancillary effect could be felt for some SEC athletes who could benefit in attracting large dollar contracts for their recently won NIL rights. Skill position players in a revamped SEC with games fetching huge ratings could garner big bucks.
How The Big 10 And Pac 12 Conferences May React
The Big 10 is watching closely as the SEC gobbles up more market share and the Big 12 is weakened. There really isn’t any option for the wounded Big 12 to threaten the Big 10’s status as one of the two or three top conferences in the country. In terms of broadcast dollars, the Big 10 rates only behind the SEC, but they also have been hinting at expansion.
The Big 10 may do well to sit back and see where the shuffling falls out. If the Big 12 implodes, they could invite Kansas and Kansas State into the family, or even Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, which has a large enrollment and a hefty $1.3 billion endowment.
The Pac 12 has to be nervous. There’s a scenario where what happened to the Big 12 could happen to them. The University of Southern California, which is easily the most profitable and lucrative of the member schools, has hinted previously that they could bolt to another conference. On the other hand, if the leftovers at the Big 12 want to jump ship, they may form an alliance with the Pac 12 and form a two-division super conference.
What Conference Shuffling Means For College Sports Fans
It’s too early to know for sure how this will all work out, but for now, it’s clear that SEC fans will get more big games, more rivals, and more chances to bet on great matchups with big-time players.
The SEC will only get stronger, while teams in the Big 12 (if it survives) will find it nearly impossible to get into the College Football Playoffs. This could have a ripple effect that allows the Big 10 and Atlantic Coast Conference (which has powerhouses Clemson and Notre Dame) to get an additional slot in a playoff. The NCAA could always expand the playoffs from four to eight teams, as well. Which would only help a monster conference like the SEC as it would be in 2025 with Oklahoma and Texas.