Texas and Oklahoma are on the heart of what might be one other main shift in college soccer realignment — maybe the most important within the historical past of the game.
According to a report Wednesday by the Houston Chronicle, the Big 12 colleges have reached out to the Southeastern Conference to be part of it in one other spherical of realignment. The Chronicle, citing “a high-ranking college official with knowledge of the situation,” reported their addition might be addressed by the convention “within a couple weeks.” The SEC would successfully turn out to be college football’s first superconference.
A Texas spokesman, talking to the Chronicle, claimed no data of talks with the SEC earlier than declining additional remark. Oklahoma additionally launched a press release in response to the information: “The college athletics landscape is shifting constantly. We don’t address every anonymous rumor.”
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey declined to remark to the Chronicle earlier than later telling reporters at SEC Media Days that the convention is not wanting past this yr.
“We are only worried about the 2021 season,” he said. “Somebody dropped a report from unnamed people.”
AL.com corroborated the Chronicle’s report, saying that “multiple college football insiders” confirmed the Red River rivals had taken “multiple steps” to facilitate a transfer. It’s unsure whether or not the faculties are appearing independently of one another or would act collectively in making an attempt to go away the Big 12.
The Longhorns and Sooners have been member establishments for the reason that Big 12’s formation in 1996, when former Southwest Conference colleges Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor and Texas Tech have been added to the Big 8. The convention suffered vital losses within the final spherical of college soccer realignment on the flip of the last decade, with founding members Colorado and Nebraska leaving for the Pac-12 and Big Ten, respectively, in 2011. Missouri and Texas A&M adopted go well with following the 2011 season to be part of the SEC.
Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork mentioned in response to the Chronicle’s report that SEC ADs have not mentioned the addition of Texas or Oklahoma. He additionally scoffed on the concept of Texas becoming a member of the SEC. Per Ross Dellenger of Sports Illustrated:
Ross Bjork says he was unaware of Texas/OU curiosity in becoming a member of the SEC. SEC ADs have not mentioned the difficulty, he says.
It’s clear the place the Aggies stand.
“There’s a reason why Texas A&M left the Big 12 – to be stand alone & have our own identity. That’s our feeling,” he says.
— Ross Dellenger (@RossDellenger) July 21, 2021
Bjork’s opposition to the transfer is not the one roadblock Texas and Oklahoma face if they need to soar from the Big 12. Here’s a breakdown of the a number of obstacles that would maintain the faculties from turning the SEC right into a superconference:
Existing broadcast offers with ESPN, Fox
According to a report by Front Office Sports, the SEC earned $728.9 million within the 2020 fiscal yr — roughly $300 million greater than the Big 12’s reported earnings ($409.2 million). That distinction, coupled with the SEC’s new take care of ESPN — which is estimated to pay greater than $300 million yearly to the convention and is scheduled to go into impact in 2024 — could be alluring for any outdoors groups wanting to money in on the SEC’s reputation.
Moreover, each ESPN and Fox — which maintain Big 12 broadcast and streaming rights — reportedly declined to enter into early TV negotiations with the convention earlier than the deal ends in 2025.
That mentioned, the Big 12’s current rights take care of these networks might muddy potential negotiations between Texas, Oklahoma and the SEC. Texas has its personal take care of ESPN within the type of the Longhorn Network, which pays the varsity $15 million yearly and contractually obligates the community to air 200 Texas athletics occasions per educational yr via 2031.
In 2019, the Big 12 and ESPN rearranged their broadcast deal — which ends in 2025 — to enable each member college apart from Texas and Oklahoma to present stock to ESPN+. The settlement, as reported by the Sports Business Journal (via the Austin American-Statesman) pays the convention $22 million yearly. Oklahoma offered its third-tier rights to Fox.
It’s potential ESPN might rework the Longhorn Network deal within the occasion Texas and Oklahoma transfer to the SEC, but Fox doubtless could be sad to half with its two greatest college soccer property earlier than the Big 12 contract ends in 2025. Moreover, the addition of two groups to the SEC would scale back the quantity every member establishment would get from ESPN’s new rights deal; it is potential ESPN could be pressured to pay extra on a per-year foundation in its take care of the convention.
ESPN might contemplate that transfer, because it may be offset by declining a future TV rights take care of a considerably less-alluring Big 12.
Big 12 exit charges
If Texas and Oklahoma have been to go away the Big 12 earlier than the conclusion of its TV offers, it will price each colleges a not-insignificant amount of cash. For instance, Nebraska and Colorado paid exit charges of $9.25 million and $6.86 million, respectively, to go away for his or her new conferences. Missouri and Texas A&M each paid $12.4 million to go away for the SEC.
Those charges, nevertheless, have been paid in 2010 and 2011 — earlier than the Big 12 signed a 13-year, $2.6 billion rights take care of Fox and ESPN. It’s unclear how a lot Texas and Oklahoma would have to pay in exit charges in the event that they left for the SEC earlier than 2025, but it will nearly definitely be greater than what Nebraska, Colorado, Missouri and Texas A&M paid to go away the Big 12.
The Longhorns and Sooners may be prepared to incur that penalty with the promise of future income from the SEC — but would its member establishments be prepared to settle for them?
Opposition by Texas A&M, Missouri
It’s doubtless Texas A&M and Missouri would strongly contemplate blocking Texas and Oklahoma from coming into the convention, ought to the difficulty come to a vote of SEC presidents. It’s clear each establishments — together with Colorado and Nebraska — left the Big 12 to escape Texas’ lengthy shadow within the convention, due partly to its devoted community and the disproportionate energy it wielded over its fellow establishments.
Bjork is already on the file as opposing any transfer by Texas to the SEC. The convention bylaws state that at the very least 11 of 14 colleges should vote sure to lengthen an invite to a possible new college.
While Bjork and A&M president Michael Young’s preliminary inclination doubtless could be to oppose Texas, guarantees of elevated income could create strain from throughout the convention for a “yea” vote.
Additional SEC, Big 12 resistance
It’s unsure how the opposite SEC colleges other than Missouri and Texas A&M would vote on this matter. Adding the highest two Big 12 applications to a convention that already consists of Alabama, LSU, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and Auburn — not to point out Texas A&M and Missouri — would make it exceptionally harder for groups to win the convention title and earn a College Football Playoff berth.
There’s additionally the difficulty of division realignment, which might doubtless go away a number of groups sad. Texas and Oklahoma might transfer to the SEC West, forcing Alabama and Auburn to the East, to the chagrin of Florida, Georgia and Tennessee. The groups left within the West — Arkansas, LSU, Texas A&M, Ole Miss and Mississippi State — doubtless would not be pleased with the additions, both.
The SEC might additionally put the groups in numerous divisions, a lot because it did with Texas A&M and Missouri in 2012, which might on paper create extra stability between the divisions. Or, the convention might have a look at a pod scheduling format, one that will doubtless sacrifice one in every of parity or conventional convention rivalries. Moreover, it is unlikely groups would react positively — behind closed doorways, at the very least — to any extra competitors.
Big 12 groups have already launched statements in response to the information as nicely, reminiscent of this from Oklahoma State:
There are different sports activities the SEC would contemplate beside soccer, too. Texas and Oklahoma would carry highly effective applications in basketball, softball, baseball, gymnastics, males’s and girls’s golf and extra. Those would add to the spectacular stock of content material already accessible to ESPN, which might make a brand new rights deal extra profitable for the community, the SEC and its member establishments. That’s to say nothing of these universities’ educational deserves.
But soccer is first and foremost within the SEC, and any extra roadblocks the convention could face regarding that sport — particularly with playoff realignment looming — might be sufficient to hinder Texas and Oklahoma’ admittance.