State of College Football: Oklahoma, Texas Shakeup the Big 12

The State of College Football packed it’s bags and moved to The Draft Scout and I’m afraid that move might have turned the college football world upside down as fellow big brands, Texas and Oklahoma, look to take their talents elsewhere. This week we’ll dive into the massive news and what it could mean for Texas, Oklahoma and the Big 12. 

The first step, in what will undoubtedly be a long process, is for Texas and Oklahoma to inform the Big 12 that they will not extend their media rights with the conference, which expires on June 30, 2025.

It sounds like that will happen this week, or has already, and then the SEC and other conferences will be able to formally reach out to the college football powerhouses about joining their conference.

However, according to R. Bowen Loftin, former chancellor at Missouri and former president at Texas A&M, the SEC has a “gentleman’s agreement” in place that would allow any SEC school to veto expansion that would bring in another school from inside their state — notable for Texas and Texas A&M.

But, those gentlemen's agreements won’t hold up now, and the early opinion is that Texas A&M is the only school not okay with Texas and Oklahoma joining the SEC. If A&M does want to keep OU and UT out of the SEC its best effort is to convince three more SEC schools to vote against the move. The SEC requires 11 of its 14 members to approve any expansion. Could A&M convince schools like Missouri, Vanderbilt and Kentucky that this would be a bad move? I hope so!

As a huge Texas fan this move doesn’t make sense to me. While the “is Texas back?” jokes are funny and many consider Texas a blueblood program, Texas has to be realistic about who they have been over the last 11 seasons.

Since the 2009 National Championship loss to Alabama, the Longhorns have gone 78-60, had just one 10-win season (2018), and zero conference championships. That’s far from a top program and joining the SEC will not make it any easier to win a conference championship or accomplish a 10-win season.

Texas’ best bet to create revenue, since that is what this is all about, is to win football games. For Texas to be “back” they need to win football games, nine or 10 of them every year, and be in reach of a conference championship. If they can do that, money will pour into the program like no other program in the country, including Alabama. In fact, Texas still ranks as one of the most valuable football programs despite their poor on-field play. So, why would they join the SEC? They may need to explore going independent where they can schedule rivals Oklahoma and Texas A&M surrounded by cupcake wins while also controlling their own media rights and brand. Texas doesn’t need the SEC. But does Oklahoma?

Oklahoma is a top college football program by any measure—monetary value, rankings, recruiting, wins—they can do it all. So why join the SEC? Money.

Taking a share of the SEC money is what is enticing both programs to other conferences and for OU it might get them to a top three or four value. But at what cost? I have no doubt OU could compete at a high level in the SEC and make more than a few SEC Championship games, but if we’re being real, no one is competing with Alabama for SEC titles anytime soon—until Nick Saban retires.

Oklahoma has a direct and fairly easy path to the College Football Playoff every year, and the new College Football Playoff format would make it even easier with the Big 12 champs almost guaranteed a top four seed. The move to the SEC makes very little sense for the Sooners as well; and while no one wants to see the Texas vs. Oklahoma rivalry stop, maybe it would be best for OU if the Longhorns went independent and the Sooners continued their dominance, six straight titles, in the Big 12. 

In the end, I don’t understand the move to the SEC for either team. If Texas and Oklahoma were to move to a new conference a better option, for both programs, would be the ACC or Pac 12. Clemson is going to be a tough beat for a while, unless Dabo Swinney keeps running his mouth about college athletics not being professionalized, but the rest of the ACC would be fairly easy for OU while Texas could be a top three or four program in the conference—much like they are in the Big 12.

The conference that makes the most sense to me is the one that almost stole the two back in 2011, the Pac 12. Oklahoma would run the table in the Pac 12 and the conference would have a program worthy of the College Football Playoff for once. Even Texas would easily be a top two or three program in the Pac 12. I hope Pac 12 commissioner George Kliavkoff kicks the tires on bringing in the two schools in what would be a huge first move for the newly named commissioner. 

As for the Big 12, it’s time to panic. Not only is the SEC going to poach Texas and Oklahoma, but Kansas basketball will be a hot commodity too. The best bet for the conference to stay alive is to go after programs like Cincinnati, Houston, SMU and Memphis, and do the best they can to keep the remaining eight teams. But can the dying Big 12 attract programs away from the American Conference? That’s a question I never thought I would have to ask—I think we’ll find out this week after the Texas/OU news becomes official. 

The Big 8 (Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas Tech and West Virginia) will have a lot to decide too. When the Big 12 athletic directors met on Thursday I believe there was optimism going into the meetings that the conference could keep the group together, but by Friday morning there were already rumors of KU and Iowa State bolting for the Big Ten. And in my opinion that is the best move for both programs. West Virginia would be a perfect fit for the ACC—but the remaining five lack a good fit. The ACC and Pac 12 could look to expand into Texas and Oklahoma but may not want to add all four schools to an already big conference. Sadly, I think a few of these schools, like Kansas State and TCU may be left out of a Power Five conference. Joining the American Conference isn’t terrible for the Big 12 schools— especially considering the new College Football Playoff format allows for Group of Five conference winners a spot in the playoff. 

My best guess:

Baylor: Pac 12

Iowa State: Big Ten

Kansas: Big Ten

Kansas State: American

Oklahoma State: ACC

TCU: American

Texas Tech: Pac 12

West Virginia: ACC