The boards of regents for the University of Oklahoma and the University of Texas unanimously voted to accept invitations to join the Southeastern Conference on Friday, finalizing a move that has rocked college sports, and in particular, the Big 12 Conference.
For now, the schools are to officially join the SEC on July 1, 2025 with full athletic participation in the 2025-26 academic year. In announcing their move to the SEC, both schools stated an intention to stay in the Big 12 through the current rights agreement. However, the likelihood that the schools will compete for four more years in the Big 12 appears slim. The Big 12 currently holds media rights for both schools until 2025, but Texas and OU can break that contract with exit fees equal to two years of a departing school's Big 12 revenue distribution -- roughly $75 million each. Add to that the palpable acrimony among Big 12 officials over the move, and four years would be a painfully long time for the Longhorns and Sooners to stick around as exiting Big 12 members. Indeed, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said he expects the schools to attempt to join the SEC sooner than 2025.
"They acted the part of happy members. Had we been aware of some grievances, we would have attempted to address it. I'm sure they'll try to get out of the exit fee and the grant of rights," Bowlsby told Sports Illustrated's Ross Dellinger.
The acceptances of the SEC's invitations will mark the end of a procedural whirlwind -- wrapped up in tidy fashion in one week -- that began Monday when Texas and OU notified the Big 12 that they would not renew grants of media rights beyond 2025. Tuesday, the schools formally applied for SEC membership. Wednesday, Bowlsby sent a cease and desist letter to ESPN, alleging the network had violated its contract for Big 12 broadcast rights by communicating with another conference about inducing at least one more Big 12 school to leave the league -- a charge ESPN vehemently denied. And Thursday, the SEC approved the applications of Texas and Oklahoma with a unanimous vote.