After months of speculations about changing conferences, Texas and Oklahoma have made it official that the teams will be leaving the Big 12 as they will be joining the Southeastern Conference(SEC) at the start of the 2024 season.
Even though the transfer of the team had been discussed earlier, the change took place soon, almost a year before their originally planned transfer. The news about the transfer of the team was officially announced by all the parties including their current conference Big 12 and also the two programs.
As the teams will be leaving the conference almost a year earlier than their intended plans, both the teams, the Texas Longhorns and the Oklahoma Sooners will pay a combined withdrawal fee of $100 million.
As for the Oklahoma Sooners, the team was scheduled to play against the Georgia Bulldogs in the upcoming season of Big 12. But the game was subjected to a reschedule as the SEC intervened and prompted to take Oklahoma off the schedule as they were getting ready for their SEC introduction soon.
Both Sooners and Bulldogs were also scheduled to play against each other in 2012 as well but that was also re-arranged. As per current reports, the Bulldogs will now face Ball State in 2023.
The Texas Longhorns and Oklahoma Sooners are two of the best programs that are a part of the Big 12. Both the teams received their invitation to join the SEC in July 2021 and the teams accepted their offer with the intention to join them after their active grant of rights agreement with the Big 12 expired, as the teams will be able to move out of the conference free and clear.
Even though the teams considered their offer to join the SEC and make a transfer, they intended to join them in July 2024, almost a year ahead.
But as the teams began their plans to move out from Big 12, the conference tried to fill in the vacancy of membership by adding Cincinnati, Houston, UCF, and BYU and the teams joined the league for the 2023 season.
This addition of new teams into the league is said to have increased the momentum for the teams to make their shift much sooner than they have originally planned.
It is also said that both the teams not only preferred in avoiding playing with the new teams, but they also wanted to join the SEC for year 1 of their new television rights deal with ESPN.
Possible Effect On SEC Schedules
The addition of the two new teams to the SEC is bound to bring in major changes in the existing format of the games. The main change is expected to be reported in the SEC schedules, which are yet to be finalized by the concerned authorities of the leagues.
The final format of the upcoming SEC games is expected to be discussed and finalized in March after the annual spring meeting of the conference administrators.
As the league currently has around 16 members, there are two major modes that are speculated to be possible and the most practical schedules for the upcoming SEC game schedules. One of the possible ways is through an eight-game league schedule where each team will have a permanent opponent.
Another probable schedule is a nine-game schedule, where each team in the league will play against three permanent opponents.
As per the nine-game schedule, each team will play against three permanent opponents and also against six rotating opponents. This means that the teams will play against every opponent in the conference at least twice every four years.
As per the available reports, the SEC seems to prefer the nine-game schedule without divisions. The reports also suggest that the SEC is asking ESPN for extra funds for additional league games.
The SEC has entered a deal with ESPN which has made the network their exclusive media rights partner. The deal will be in effect starting in 2024.
The Big 12’s Response
The sudden transfer of two teams from a league is expected to bring about a certain change. As the Texas Longhorns and Oklahoma Sooners were two of the best programs in the league, the transfer is undoubtedly a hit for the Big 12.
While the exit of the teams will certainly leave a mark on the brand name of the league, Big 12 is not expected to suffer from a huge financial loss.
Even though the future of college sports is currently unpredictable, the Big 12 is free of tension regarding their financial future at least through the 2030-31 seasons as the league has agreed to terms and has finalized a deal for six years with ESPN and Fox Sports.
The deal which is valued at $2.3 billion will grant the exclusive media rights of the league with their media partners ESPN and Fox Sports, according to credible sources.
The Additional Pressure On The Coaches
While the transfer of the team from the Big 12 to the SEC is seen as an advancement, the transfer is expected to put additional pressure on the coaches of both teams.
The coach of Oklahoma Sooners, Brent Venables, and Texas ‘Horns coach Steve Sarkisian are two coaches who are still trying to find their way with the team and with their games.
Even though the Venables was a part of the Clemson team for almost a decade and Sarkisian has experience serving as the offensive coordinator for Alabama on SEC, the sudden transfer of the team which is almost a year ahead of the expected transfer is said to put an immense weight of pressure on the shoulder of both the coaches.
Even though the teams will go through a lot, owing to their sudden transfer of leagues an interesting event that can come off as an advantage for the teams will be the expansion of CFP from the original four to an updated twelve teams, which will be in effect from the 2024 season.
This means that if Texas or Oklahoma find themselves in a pickle in overcoming the existing programs in the SEC, the extended playoff chances will provide a ray of hope for both teams to make a noteworthy mark.