Tex-it: Oklahoma, Texas to leave Big 12 conference

photo of Texas Longhorns football team
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Texas and Oklahoma are looking to leave the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference, a move that would change the dynamics of college athletics forever.

What was your immediate reaction to the news that Texas and Oklahoma are looking to leave the Big 12?

Ryan Chien: Any reshuffling of a major collegiate sports conference — especially within the Big 12 — is big news. So when I first got the notification on my phone, I was intrigued. How long had the schools been planning their exit? What does this mean for the Big 12’s future? Which schools are going to replace Texas and Oklahoma? Given that the two schools boast some of the top sports programs in the Big 12, I also assumed that this move would have an immediate ripple effect on other collegiate conferences such as the Pac-12. Maybe the Pac-12 will lose teams; maybe it’ll gain some more from the Big 12. Now all that’s left to do is wait and see.

Ethan Moutes: Where did that come from? Off of the top of my head, I couldn’t think of a more dramatic shift in the layout of the Power Five conferences, and I still can’t. From the moment I heard the news, I was aware that this move could fundamentally reconfigure college sports as we know them, setting off a chain reaction of moves by other major schools.

What would this development mean for Texas and Oklahoma athletics?

RC: The grass is always greener on the other side. And for the Texas and Oklahoma athletics programs, it means even more money. After all, the decision to leave the Big 12 in the first place was wholeheartedly a financial one. So once the two schools officially join the SEC, expect both programs to make millions of more dollars than when they were in the Big 12. With more money also comes an even greater amount of media exposure — a positive feedback loop that will ultimately result in Texas and Oklahoma becoming “super” sports powerhouses.

EM: Specifically in football, the Longhorns and Sooners may experience growing pains in the early goings of their time in the SEC. With teams such as Alabama, Florida, LSU and Georgia, the SEC is a murderer’s row of college football blue bloods. While Oklahoma has proven capable of keeping up with those programs, its path to the College Football Playoff would get considerably harder, as would Texas’. That said, the SEC is more lucrative than the Big 12, so the Longhorns and Sooners will have more resources at their disposal.

What’s next for the Big 12 and the SEC, assuming that this move goes through?

RC: Given that Texas and Oklahoma brought in a hefty bulk of revenue for their previous conference, the Big 12 is all but in shambles. From a football perspective, the conference’s nationwide fan base will dwindle precipitously. Without the Longhorns and Sooners, the rest of the Big 12 teams will have to make a critical decision: stay or go? For the SEC, it’s just the opposite. The conference will become more popular than ever before, and with 16 active teams, it could soon rival the entire NCAA in media revenue. Adding in the basketball programs as well, the SEC is set to become the first true collegiate super league that has the potential to expand to even more schools.

EM: The Big 12, which despite its name was already down to 10 teams before this proposed move by Texas and Oklahoma, is on the brink of collapse. The SEC, meanwhile, is amassing unprecedented influence in the world of college athletics and doesn’t appear to be slowing down. As one conference grows weaker, the other approaches a monopoly status. 

What precedent would be set by a move of this magnitude?

RC: The consolidation of power centered around the SEC will likely result in the future merging of other collegiate conferences. In the case of the Pac-12, expanding its national football fan base beyond coastal borders will necessitate teaming up with other conferences such as the Big Ten. This will also set a precedent for increasingly important in-conference competitions. Now, with presumably the same types of teams in the College Football Playoffs, the SEC could host a tournament of its own that would be just as entertaining to watch from a football fan’s point of view.

EM: This seismic shift will incite hordes of aftershocks. We’re about to see universities jumping to new conferences at an unprecedented rate, following in the footsteps of Texas and Oklahoma by prioritizing finance over conference loyalty. I suppose putting money first in the world of college football is nothing new; football was the first sport to come back during the COVID-19 pandemic despite its high potential for spreading the virus.

Ethan Moutes is the sports editor. Contact him at [email protected].
Ryan Chien covers women’s soccer. Contact him at [email protected].