It’s officially official. Oklahoma and Texas will leave the Big 12 and join the Southeastern Conference.
On Thursday, the SEC’s 14 presidents unanimously voted to extend invitations to Oklahoma and Texas to join the conference. And on Friday morning, the board of regents for both universities officially accepted the offer, setting in stone what could be the first chapter in the latest version of realignment in college athletics.
Both boards unanimously approved the move.
“Recognizing the impact this would have on our athletics programs, the board unanimously voted to approve this conference realignment upon the expiration of our current agreement with the Big 12,” Texas board chairman Kevin Eltife said.
Said Oklahoma president Joseph Harroz: "We believe that joining the Southeastern Conference will sustain our tradition of national-caliber athletics excellence, strengthen our university as a whole and serve the wider interests of the state of Oklahoma."
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said adding Oklahoma and Texas is "an important moment" for the conference's long-term future.
"Oklahoma and Texas are outstanding academic institutions with two strong athletics programs, which will add to the SEC's national prominence," Sankey said.
When will Texas, Oklahoma officially join the SEC?
Exactly when Oklahoma and Texas become full-time members of the SEC is yet to be determined. As of now, both universities and the SEC will continue to publicly point to July 1, 2025, which is the day the current Big 12 media rights deal expires.
The exit fees are lofty — in the range of $75 million apiece. However, it’s considered highly unlikely that the Sooners and Longhorns will play out the final four years of that media contract. They could attempt to broker a deal, or hope the rest of the Big 12 breaks apart in a way that would essentially eliminate the contract.
The Big 12 is going to hold the feet of Texas and Oklahoma to the fire from a legal standpoint. In a Thursday statement, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said the league is disappointed by the turn of events, but will “make sure the student-athletes at both universities enjoy an excellent experience throughout the remaining four years of their participation in the Big 12.”
Texas and Oklahoma are playing along, too. So is the SEC.
Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte said UT "will continue to engage in competition and work with many great colleagues in [the Big 12] going forward through our contract that runs until 2025."
Added UT president Jay Hartzell: "We told the Big 12 that we intend to honor our current agreement, while knowing that notice now is the fairest way to allow the conference to plan for its future beyond 2025."
Oklahoma AD Jay Castiglione said, "We look forward to being a contributing member of the Big 12 through the remaining time in our conference."
And from Sankey, the SEC commissioner: "We look forward to the Sooners and Longhorns competing in our conference starting in the 2025-26 academic year."
Big 12 commissioner not happy
Bowlsby has also been very outspoken about the way this all transpired, especially with the apparent involvement of ESPN. On Thursday, he reiterated the league’s stance that “these [realignment] plans have been in the works with ongoing discussions between the parties and television partner [ESPN] for some time.”
“We are disappointed these discussions went as far as they did without notice to, or inclusion of, other Big 12 members,” Bowlsby said.
The Big 12 sent ESPN a cease and desist letter on Wednesday, accusing the network of conspiring with another conference — the American Athletic Conference, per Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel — to absorb some of the eight remaining teams in the Big 12. The network said Thursday that the Big 12's claims were without merit.
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