The University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma jointly announced Monday that they've notified the Big 12 Conference of their intention not to renew grants of media rights to the league following the current contract, which expires in 2025. The move signals the schools' intention to leave the league, or at least explore the possibility of doing so, on the heels of reports last week that they have inquired about membership in the Southeastern Conference.
The powerhouse programs top the Big 12's football flagpole, and their departure would decimate a league that has yet to produce a College Football Playoff qualifier other than OU since the playoff began in 2014. At least three-fourths of the SEC membership -- 11 of 14 schools -- would have to vote in favor of expanding.
A move to the SEC would give college football's best league 16 teams, more than any other Power Five league, and create further imbalance between the SEC and other conferences both in terms of revenue and competition. The Longhorns and Sooners would add two more tradition-rich programs, replete with rabid fan bases and significant television audiences, to a league already loaded with schools that check those same boxes. Eleven of the last 15 national champions have come from the SEC, and Texas and OU added national titles in 2005 and 2000, respectively. The SEC regularly leads all conferences in NFL draft choices; the addition of Texas and OU would lengthen that gap as well, which serves as a recruiting advantage for SEC coaches. The move would also put rivals Texas and Texas A&M back on the field together; the two schools haven't played since Texas A&M left the Big 12 for the SEC in 2012.
Big 12 bylaws require 18 months notice for a school to withdraw from the league. Further complicating the move could be the cost of ending the current media rights agreement prematurely. Breaking that arrangement would require a buyout fee equal to two years of a departing school's share of Big 12 revenue distribution. The combined buyout fees for Texas and OU would be in the range of $150 million. For now, however, Texas and OU are taking the position that they will complete the current rights agreement.
"The universities intend to honor their existing grant of rights agreements," the statement read in part. "However, both universities will continue to monitor the rapidly evolving collegiate athletics landscape as they consider how best to position their athletics programs for the future."
Their inquiries about joining the SEC were first reported by the Houston Chronicle, and just a day later, Big 12 officials, minus representatives from Texas and OU, met via videoconference to discuss the potential shakeup.
Their SEC admission would mark the first time the SEC has expanded since admitting Texas A&M and Missouri in 2012. Prior to that, the SEC expanded with the additions of South Carolina and Arkansas beginning in 1992.