AUSTIN (KXAN) — It’s now official. The University of Texas and The University of Oklahoma will join the Southeastern Conference by July 2025.
The vote by SEC presidents and chancellors to invite UT and OU passed unanimously 14-0 Thursday. According to the conference’s bylaws, 11 out of the 14 schools had to approve.
Once Texas and Oklahoma officially join, the SEC will be comprised of 16 schools, becoming the largest and most powerful college athletic conference in the country. Exactly when the Longhorns and Sooners will play their first game in the conference is undetermined.
The SEC said in a statement:
“Today’s unanimous vote is both a testament to the SEC’s longstanding spirit of unity and mutual cooperation, as well as a recognition of the outstanding legacies of academic and athletic excellence established by the Universities of Oklahoma and Texas,” said Commissioner Sankey. “I greatly appreciate the collective efforts of our Presidents and Chancellors in considering and acting upon each school’s membership interest.”
On Friday at 9 a.m., Texas’ Board of Regents is meeting, with one of the agenda items listed as “Discussion and possible appropriate action regarding athletic conference membership matters.” Oklahoma also has a Board of Regents meeting scheduled for the same time, with Athletics Conference Membership listed as the sole item on the agenda.
What’s next in Texas and OU’s move to the SEC
All parties involved announced July 1, 2025 as the departure from the Big 12 and arrival to the SEC date. But after everything is made official, that’s when lawyers will get involved to expedite the process of joining the league and negotiating buyouts between Texas, OU and the Big 12.
If the numbers are right, Texas and Oklahoma could be playing an SEC schedule as soon as the 2022 school year, which would help UT and OU avoid being lame duck members of the Big 12. However, each school will be paying millions of dollars to the Big 12 to leave early.
How the conference will schedule and divide its teams through divisions or pods will also require creativity. The SEC could go with two eight-team divisions, but the four-team pod model has a lot of support among fans.
The pod system would break the conference into four groups of four. In football, each team would play the three teams in its pod every year. The remaining portion of the conference schedule would rotate through a variety of teams each year.
Of course, Texas’ decision to move to the SEC will reunite the Longhorns with the Aggies. Texas and Texas A&M haven’t played against each other in football since 2011.
Initially, Texas A&M pushed back against Texas and OU’s intent to join the SEC, saying it wanted to keep its title of the only SEC team in Texas. However, in recent days, the Aggies’ stance has softened.
On Wednesday, the Texas A&M Board of Regents directed university leadership to vote in favor of inviting the Longhorns and Sooners to the conference. According to a press release, the board “concluded that this expansion would enhance the long-term value of the SEC to student athletes and all of the institutions they represent — including Texas A&M.”
Just over a week ago, Brent Zwerneman of the Houston Chronicle was first to report that Texas and Oklahoma were planning on leaving the Big 12, with the SEC as each school’s preferred destination.
On Monday, Texas and Oklahoma sent a letter, informing the Big 12 they would not extend their media rights agreements with the league. On Tuesday, the universities formally submitted a request to join the SEC.
The start of the Big 12 and past realignment
The Big 12 conference was officially founded in 1994 with 12 member schools. Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor and Texas Tech left the former Southwest Conference to join the Big 8 conference schools: Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Nebraska, Colorado, Missouri, Iowa State, Kansas and Kansas State.
Ten years ago, the conference began to shift.
Texas A&M announced it would leave the Big 12 for the SEC as multiple former Big 12 schools began to jump other conferences. Nebraska and Colorado were first to jump from the Big 12 in 2010, going to the Big Ten and Pac 12 respectively. Missouri announced its departure to the SEC in late 2011.
Down to eight teams, the Big 12 began its search for replacements — ultimately inviting TCU and West Virginia to join.
Next steps for the Big 12
The remaining eight teams in the Big 12 conference are at a crossroads. For financial reasons, the schools will try to stick together to salvage the Big 12. However, there are dangerous waters ahead.
So far, leadership from the remaining Big 12 schools have towed the party line, keeping their support in the conference. But what happens when another league like the Big Ten, Pac 12, American Athletic Conference or ACC comes calling for expansion?
According to Ralph Russo of The Associated Press, Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby says ESPN is pushing other conferences to pick apart the league so Texas and Oklahoma can move to the Southeastern Conference without paying a massive buyout.
“I have absolute certainty they (ESPN) have been involved in manipulating other conferences to go after our members,” Bowlsby said Wednesday in a phone interview with the AP.
Without Texas and OU, the Big 12 won’t be able to command the television dollars of the SEC, Big Ten or ACC. However, the Big 12 has autonomous rights with the NCAA, allowing it to keep its seat at the big boy table with or without the Longhorns and Sooners — for now.
The Big 12 currently has television deals with ESPN and FOX. Those networks will be able to immediately renegotiate with the conference for a smaller sum of money, due to language in the contract. No matter how it’s sliced — this is bad news for the Big 12, placing it on the brink of realignment or extinction.