When Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey began his introductory remarks at SEC Media Days on July 19, he opened by quoting Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A'Changin'," as a means to delve into his remarks on the NCAA's quickly changing role as the governing body of college sports. As it turns out, he might've been foreshadowing much more.
The University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma, just a day after notifying the Big 12 that they do not intend to renew their grants of media rights beyond a current contract that runs through 2025, have now formally applied for SEC membership in 2025.
"While the SEC has not proactively sought new members, we will pursue significant change when there is a clear consensus among our members that such actions will further enrich the experiences of our student-athletes and lead to greater academic and athletic achievement across our campuses," Sankey said in a statement. "The presidents and chancellors or the SEC, in their capacity as the conference's chief executive officers, will consider these requests in the near future."
SEC expansion would require approval from three quarters of its membership -- at least 11 of 14 schools.
Oklahoma State president Kayse Shrum, on Monday, issued a statement on Twitter that was highly critical of the move.
"Earlier today OU delivered a document to the Big 12 Conference office which indicated they will not sign the grant of rights agreement in 2024-25. This action was strategic, deliberate and is the result of months of planning with the SEC," Shrum wrote. "We believe these conversations, which developed over a long period of time, are in clear breach of the bylaws of the Big 12 Conference and broke a bond of trust between our universities in existence for decades."
The SEC, already college football's top conference, would wield unheard-of strength, both in terms of television audience and competitiveness, if it were to add the Big 12's two flagship football programs.
Big 12 bylaws require 18 months notice for a school to withdraw from the league.
Although both schools claimed Monday in a joint statement that they intend to fulfill the current Big 12 media rights agreement through 2025, that agreement can be broken with hefty buyout fees that would net the Big 12 roughly $150 million. Four years would be a painfully long period for the schools to compete in the Big 12 with their exit formally agreed upon, which could serve as a strong motivation for buyouts.
The addition of Texas and OU would give the SEC 16 member schools, more than any other Power Five conference, and likely trigger conference realignment throughout college sports.