Texas and Oklahoma have officially begun their transition from the Big 12 to the SEC. The two schools announced Monday they will not renew their grant of rights agreement with the Big 12, though they plan to "honor their existing ... agreements" through the 2024-25 term.
The joint statement marks the first step the two Big 12 powerhouses had to take on their way to leaving the conference, though the timing of their departure remains unknown. The Longhorns and Sooners stating publicly that they are willing to remain with the Big 12 through the expiration of the grant of rights agreement could be more legal posturing than it is a definitive departure date, especially if the remainder of the conference crumbles with knowledge that it's top two teams are leaving.
The University of Texas at Austin and The University of Oklahoma notified the Big 12 Athletic Conference today that they will not be renewing their grants of media rights following expiration in 2025. Providing notice to the Big 12 at this point is important in advance of the expiration of the conference's current media rights agreement. The universities intend to honor their existing grant of rights agreements. 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.
If Texas and Oklahoma were to leave the Big 12 early and perhaps make their SEC debut in 2022, each could owe up to $80 million to the Big 12 as a penalty for leaving before the TV rights contract expires. That total equals the combined revenue distribution per school over a two-year period.
Efforts made by the Big 12 to keep its blue-blood programs have failed. CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd reported that the league discussed pitching Texas and Oklahoma a scenario that would have awarded them an additional half-share of media rights revenue annually (1.5 shares each), bumping their payouts to approximately $56 million per year. The other eight schools would have decreased their payouts accordingly.
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The league's board of directors met with Oklahoma president Joe Harroz and Texas president Jay Hartzell on Sunday. In a statement, commissioner Bob Bowlsby called the meeting "cordial" with discussions "that would strengthen the conference" while being "mutually beneficial to OU and UT, as well as other member institutions." Bowlsby expected that the conference would "continue our conversations in the days ahead."
But with Oklahoma and Texas making their intentions official, the Big 12 will be forced to move forward into uncertainty. A statement Monday indicated the conference will continue to evaluate its options within the college athletics landscape.
"Although our eight members are disappointed with the decisions of these two institutions, we recognize that intercollegiate athletics is experiencing rapid change and will most likely look much different in 2025 than it does currently," said Bowlsby. "The Big 12 Conference will continue to support our member institutions' efforts to graduate student-athletes, and compete for Big 12 and NCAA championships. Like many others, we will use the next four years to fully assess what the landscape will look like in 2025 and beyond. The remaining eight institutions will work together in a collaborative manner to thoughtfully and strategically position the Big 12 Conference for continued success, both athletically and academically, long into the future."
The additions of the Longhorns and Sooners to the SEC would create the first 16-team superconference. The SEC's by-laws state that 11 of 14 institutions must vote in the affirmative to invite new members. There may be some current SEC teams -- in addition to Texas A&M -- that are reluctant to accept additional league members for myriad reasons, including concerns about future expansion into their states. However, Yahoo Sports' Pete Thamel reports that "getting 11 of the 14 votes doesn't appear to be an issue."
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey would not address expansion reports while in attendance at 2021 SEC Media Days.