The college football landscape is always changing these days, but no one saw this latest announcement coming. After the SEC‘s unanimous official vote on Thursday to accept both Texas and Oklahoma into the conference, it appears that the Big 12 and everyone else will undergo more change.
Although it seemed that this summer’s biggest news from the college football world was an expanded playoff, that’s not the case anymore.
This historic move places two of the biggest brands in the Big 12 Conference into the SEC by 2025 at the latest. The SEC has dominated college football for a long time now, with the likes of Alabama, LSU and Georgia excelling during the past decade.
While this is exciting for fans of the SEC and those schools, it probably marks the beginning of the end for the Big 12.
It’s possible it will look to add other programs or start to form a combination with another conference.
Of course, this directly affects the WVU Mountaineers and all of their athletics going forward.
Even if Texas and OU can’t legally transition until 2025, they can potentially pay a sizable fine and do it much sooner. It could be the last time West Virginia sportsbooks include either side in their odds to win the Big 12.
This all makes the future of college football and many other sports very uncertain at the moment.
SEC Approves Texas-OU Invitation
Texas and Oklahoma started making rumblings about this a week ago, but the SEC’s vote to invite them makes it real.
The two applied to the conference after telling the Big 12 that they wouldn’t renew their grants of media rights. That deal is set to expire in 2025 too.
One of the craziest parts of this story is that it’s unfolding just a month before college football starts. It seems like the two schools won’t leave before this upcoming season, but even that might not be 100%.
Despite the paperwork stating the colleges will join the SEC in July 2025, next year is definitely a real possibility.
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said he is thrilled to add some of the biggest names in college sports. According to ESPN, he said, “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.”
There are two sides to every story, though. Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby had a different tone when discussing the matter. Bowlsby said:
“We are disappointed these discussions went as far as they did without notice to, or inclusion of, other Big 12 members. Despite our concerns for the process and for the overall health of college athletics, we will do everything possible to make sure that the student-athletes at both universities enjoy an excellent experience throughout the remaining four years of their participation and competition in the Big 12 Conference.”
He’s hopeful that the Sooners and Longhorns will still be playing under the Big 12 for that long. If the programs choose to leave prior to 2025, they’ll each have to pay at least $75 million in fees.
The conference bylaws also say that schools must give 18 months of notice before doing so.
WVU Sports Impacted
There is no question that this will mean much more than just two colleges leaving for a different conference. Without OU and Texas, the Big 12 is now no longer a serious candidate to send a team to the College Football Playoff.
Oklahoma has earned four separate playoff appearances since the CFP was implemented in 2014.
Football is so important in this conversation because of how much money the sport generates for every conference and school. Naturally, the teams and conferences having the most success profit more, for the most part.
In 2020, each Big 12 member received around $40 million, compared to the almost $46 million each college in the SEC saw. The SEC consists of more teams, too, with 14 rather than 10.
Since the SEC is now able to roll out a super league of sorts, the other conferences must adjust before they get left behind.
Coincidentally, all this movement is taking place as we approach the first year in which college athletes can make money from their name, image and likeness (NIL).
WVU features a quality reputation for both football and basketball, so it could potentially have some options regarding its next endeavor.
Joining the ACC could be a possibility, but this will depend on how the Big 12 reacts.
There are rumors that the conference could add schools that get national recognition on the gridiron. They include Houston, Boise State, BYU, UCF and SMU.
Placing these programs into the Big 12 is an option; however, it wouldn’t do much to combat the SEC’s power play.
Instead, merging with the Pac-12 and forming another super conference could be a more viable answer. According to The Athletic, this opportunity was discussed during the Big 12 conference call last week.
Obviously, there is plenty to unpack here moving forward. How the Big 12 decides to react should cause a lot of additional waves throughout college sports.
This upcoming college football season might be the last one with the Big 12 as we know it, so enjoy it while you can.