The Big 12 Conference athletic directors and CEOs met Thursday evening to discuss rumors that Oklahoma and Texas might depart for the Southeastern Conference. According to Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger, administrators were informed the Sooners and Longhorns have indeed explored joining the SEC.
However, representatives for the Sooners and Longhorns were not present for the meeting, according to Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel. Per Dellenger, a source indicated Texas and OU’s departure is “not imminent,” but serious, with the charge being led by the Texas Board of Regents. The Big 12 released a statement after the meeting.
“Oklahoma and Texas are founding members of the Big 12 and we value their traditions and history of success,” the statement said. “The eight members strongly desire to retain the current composition, which has proven it can compete at the highest level.
“There is a recognition that institutions may act in their own self-interest, however there is an expectation that members adhere to Conference bylaws and the enforcement of Grant of Rights agreements. This is a time of dramatic change within intercollegiate athletics that presents both opportunities and challenges, and the Big 12 Conference looks forward to continuing to play a major role in its evolution.”
Per Stadium’s Brett McMurphy, a source who participated in the meeting said the league wants to know OU and Texas’ motivations for leaving and what it would take to keep them in the fold. “I don’t think it’s they’re 100 percent gone,” the source told McMurphy. Dellinger’s source added that “no one has real answers why,” OU and Texas are considering a move to the SEC.
The Athletic’s Nicole Auerbach confirmed OU and Texas weren’t present despite being invited to attend the meeting. CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd first reported the meeting was set to take place.
Initially, the Houston Chronicle reported Wednesday that OU and Texas had reached out to the SEC about joining the conference. Chronicle Texas A&M beat writer Brent Zwerneman cited an unnamed “high-ranking college official,” as his source and reports an announcement could come “within a couple of weeks.”
In response to the reports, an OU spokesperson released the following statement Wednesday afternoon: “The college athletics landscape is shifting constantly. We don’t address every anonymous rumor.”
According to the Austin American-Statesman, Texas president Jay Hartzell declined comment on the matter last week, and an anonymous source in the OU athletic department jokingly denied the rumors. “Speculation swirls around collegiate athletics. We will not address rumors or speculation,” a Texas spokesperson said in a Wednesday statement.
Jason Whitely, senior reporter at Dallas’ WFAA television station, reported late Wednesday that OU and Texas will send letters to the Big 12 next week, announcing they don’t intend to extend their current media contracts, which expire in 2025. With that potential roadblock to realignment removed, Whitely reports that the schools will then petition the SEC for membership.
Conference expansion is an oft-discussed topic around the Big 12, so much so that commissioner Bob Bowlsby finished his press conference at last week’s media days by thanking reporters for not asking any questions about the subject. SEC commissioner Greg Sankey was asked about the OU and Texas rumors Wednesday at his conference’s media days and said he has “no comment on that speculation.”
Per the American-Statesman, an SEC source has said it would take a majority vote for OU and Texas to be accepted into the conference. Sources say Texas A&M and Missouri would object to OU and Texas joining the conference.
In July 2012, Texas A&M left the Big 12 for the SEC after Colorado departed for the Pac-12 and Nebraska moved to the Big Ten in 2011.”We want to be the only SEC team from Texas,” Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork said Wednesday.
Though no one from OU has attached their name to statements about Wednesday’s news, Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said at last week’s media days his team has “a lot of respect” for the Big 12. The Sooners have won the conference title each of the last six seasons.