Texas, Oklahoma joining SEC: Longhorns, Sooners kick-start conference realignment with move from Big 12

The college football news cycle evolved rapidly over the summer between talks of College Football Playoff expansion and newly-implemented name, image and likeness rules. Nothing truly gets college football fans riled up like college football and conference realignment chaos, however, and that's exactly what's been dropped in our laps. The SEC's presidents and chancellors voted 14-0 on Thursday to invite Texas and Oklahoma to join the league, starting in 2025, and the final step of the process took place on Friday when the two schools formally accepted the invitations in unanimous votes. 

"Today's action by the Board of Regents is in the best interests of UT student athletes, the UT Austin athletics program overall, and the university," said Board of Regents chair Kevin Eltife. "This move ensures a strong future for an outstanding athletics program, providing the opportunity for our student athletes to compete at the highest levels." 

That news capped a whirlwind nine-day span in college athletics that was started when news broke that the Longhorns and Sooners were considering moving from the Big 12 to the SEC. The Big 12 has been put on the defensive by the move, leading commissioner Bob Bowlsby to send a cease and desist letter to ESPN alleging the network has helped instigate this newest wave of conference realignment. The letter came amid reports the AAC is attempting to attract the remaining eight members of the Big 12.

With Texas and Oklahoma officially transitioning to the SEC now, that newest wave of conference realignment is in full swing. 

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Texas and Oklahoma officially accept invitations

The Board of Regents at both schools unanimously voted to accept invitations to the SEC on Friday. As of now, the two schools will join the conference in July 2025. That, of course, is up-in-the-air based on events that have transpired this week that suggest that it could happen sooner.

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Big 12 issues rebuttal

Just after the SEC announced it is extending invitations to Texas and Oklahoma on Thursday, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby released another statement. This, of course, follows him going on the record to CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd on Wednesday with some rather serious allegations about how all this went down. But for now, here's Bowlsby's Thursday statement. Check out the last line about "the remaining four years of their participation and competition in the Big 12 Conference" ? 

"Today's SEC announcement reaffirms that these plans have been in the works with ongoing discussions between the parties and television partner for some time. We are disappointed these discussions went as far as they did without notice to, or inclusion of, other Big 12 members.  Despite our concerns for the process and for the overall health of college athletics, we will do everything possible to make sure that the student-athletes at both universities enjoy an excellent experience throughout the remaining four years of their participation and competition in the Big 12 Conference."

July 30, 2021, 1:32 AM
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SEC officially invites Texas and Oklahoma

The next step of the process took place on Thursday when the SEC officially invited Oklahoma and Texas to become members of the conference in a unanimous vote among school presidents.

"Today's unanimous vote is both a testament to the SEC's longstanding spirit of unity and mutual cooperation, as well as a recognition of the outstanding legacies of academic and athletic excellence established by the Universities of Oklahoma and Texas," said SEC commissioner Greg Sankey. "I greatly appreciate the collective efforts of our Presidents and Chancellors in considering and acting upon each school's membership interest."

The next step in the process will take place Friday, when Texas and Oklahoma decision-makers will vote to accept the formal invitation.

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ESPN responds to Big 12

CBS Sports writer Dennis Dodd reported Wednesday that ESPN has been working with several schools, including the American Athletic Conference, to lure some of the remaining eight members of the Big 12 out of the conference. ESPN responded to the accusation Thursday.

"The accusations you have made are entirely without merit," said Burke Magnus, ESPN president of programming and original content. "Apart from a single vague allegation that ESPN has been 'actively engaged in discussions with at least one other' unnamed conference, which ESPN disputes, your letter consists entirely of unsubstantiated speculation and legal conclusions. To be clear, ESPN has engaged in no wrongful conduct and, thus, there is nothing to 'cease and desist. We trust this will put the matter to rest."

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Texas A&M supports expansion

The Texas A&M Board of Regents met on Wednesday where they decided to vote "yes" on SEC expansion, one day before the league presidents are scheduled to meet and potentially vote on the additions of Texas and Oklahoma. A&M was strongly against the additions of their former Big 12 rivals -- especially the in-state Longhorns -- but have since slowly come around to accepting the changes. 

"Although the Board had concerns about the communication process relating to this matter, today the Board received the information it needed to properly consider the long-term ramifications of a possible expansion," the statement read. "President Banks and Athletic Director Bjork briefed board members after they participated in meetings yesterday and today with the SEC Commissioner's Office.

"The board concluded that this expansion would enhance the long-term value of the SEC to student athletes and all of the institutions they represent — including Texas A&M."

July 29, 2021, 12:00 AM
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Big 12 alleges collusion

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby confirmed to CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd on Wednesday that the Big 12 sent a "cease and desist" letter to ESPN, imploring the network to stop tampering with its schools on the heels of Texas and Oklahoma departing the conference for the SEC. The exact wording demands that the network stop "all actions that may harm the conference and its members and that it not communicate with the Big 12 Conference's existing Members or any NCAA Conference regarding the Big 12 Conference's Members, possible conference realignment or potential financial incentive or outcomes related to possible conference realignment."

In addition, Bowlsby alleges that ESPN has conspired the American Athletic Conference to lure "3-5" of the remaining Big 12 schools away from the conference. 

July 28, 2021, 10:11 PM
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CFP expansion hits roadblock?

New Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff voiced concerns about the timing of the new 12-team playoff to The Athletic following Oklahoma and Texas' announcement that they will not renew their Big 12 grant of rights and are requesting admission into the SEC. Frankly, Kliavkoff has every right to be concerned if no one else was operating with the same information SEC commish Greg Sankey was.

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Bob Stoops comments

Legendary Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops has chimed in on his former school's move to the SEC in an op-ed in The Oklahoman

"Let's set the record straight: OU's move to the SEC is what's best for Oklahoma. The reality is that conferences are now more important than ever and, with limited spots, the strongest conferences would not accept OU if we were to require OSU to join as well. By joining the SEC, we ensure the state's flagship university will be represented nationally while protecting our rich football history for many years to come. To move forward in any other manner would be to the detriment of OU and the state of Oklahoma.

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Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby has released a statement following Oklahoma and Texas' joint statement announcing their intentions to join the SEC. Of note: Bowlsby implies that this has been in the works for some time. The SEC's statement from commish Greg Sankey says the conference wasn't proactive in seeking new members. Lawyers, y'all.

From Bowlsby:

"The Big 12 Conference has learned that the University of Oklahoma and the University of Texas have submitted formal requests to the SEC to be considered for membership beginning with the 2025-26 athletic year. The events of recent days have verified that the two schools have been contemplating and planning for the transition for months and this formal application is the culmination of those processes. We are unwavering in the belief that the Big 12 provides an outstanding platform for its members' athletic and academic success. We will face the challenges head-on, and we have confidence that the Big 12 will continue to be a vibrant and successful entity in the near term and into the foreseeable future."

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SEC commissioner Greg Sankey has broken his silence on Texas and Oklahoma requesting membership to the SEC. Still, his statement is pretty buttoned up, noting that the conference has not "proactively sought new members." Sankey also mentions the conference's bylaws, stating that 11 of the 14 members must approve expansion for an invitation to be sent. SEC presidents and chancellors are scheduled to meet Thursday to discuss this.

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Texas and Oklahoma officially filed a joint statement on Tuesday morning requesting admission to the SEC. The statement seeks an invitation for membership starting on July 1, 2025. Keep in mind that when the two schools announced on Monday they would not be renewing their Big 12 grant of rights, they said they planned to honor the agreement through its expiration in 2025. This request for invitation reflects that. Whether OU and UT actually wait that long to join the SEC remains to be seen, but it would be a bad legal move to imply a breach of contract.

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A lot of things are being set into motion this week. The board of regents at Texas and Oklahoma have called special meetings for Friday. Texas' board will discuss "possible appropriate action regarding athletic contracts and athletic conference membership matters" along with contracts for men's basketball while OU's board will strictly discuss athletics conference membership. 

SEC presidents and chancellors could vote on Thursday to approve adding Oklahoma and Texas, and the two schools are likely to formally request membership on Tuesday or Wednesday. 

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Oklahoma State president releases a statement

It's safe to say that Oklahoma State isn't pleased with the way Oklahoma went about its exit from the Big 12. School president Kayse Shrum issued a scathing statement on Monday regarding the behind-the-scenes conversations that apparently took place between Oklahoma and the SEC.

"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," she wrote. "This action was strategic, deliberate and is the result of months of planning with the SEC. 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."

You can read the entire tweet thread here.

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SEC presidents call a meeting

Ross Dellenger of Sports Illustrated reports that SEC presidents have called a meeting for Thursday regarding potential expansion. The conference has to receive formal applications from both schools before calling a presidential vote, but as of Monday, those applications have not been filed. The fact that a meeting has been scheduled for Thursday suggests that the conference expects them sooner rather than later, however.

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Bob Bowlsby comments

On the heels of Texas and Oklahoma announcing their impending departure from the Big 12 on Monday, conference commissioner Bob Bowlsby issued the following statement: 

"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," Bowlsby said. "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."

July 26, 2021, 6:02 PM
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Texas and Oklahoma announce their departure from the Big 12

As expected, Texas and Oklahoma announced their intentions to leave the Big 12 on Monday morning. In a statement, the programs said they would not renew their grant of rights agreement, which expires in 2025. That marks the first step for UT and OU to make their way to the SEC, though the exact timetable for that transition remains unknown. 

The full statement can be read below: 

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.

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Texas, Oklahoma expected to begin exit

Official word is expected to come down at some point Monday that Texas and Oklahoma will inform the Big 12 of their decision not to renew their grant of rights agreement with the league, which expires after the 2024-25 academic year. That will serve as the first step for the two Big 12 powers to leave the league with an expected landing spot in the SEC.

There will no doubt be plenty of acrimony and perhaps even litigation throughout this process, but we're likely facing a scenario where Texas and Oklahoma are either playing for the final season in the Big 12 as far out as 2024 or as soon as 2021.

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Big 12 meets with OU, Texas

As we seemingly inch closer toward Oklahoma and Texas making their eventual exit from the Big 12 Conference official, the league's board of directors met with Oklahoma president Joe Harroz and Texas president Jay Hartzell on Sunday. Commissioner Bob Bowlsby released the following statement recapping the call: 

"The meeting was cordial, and the Executive Committee expressed a willingness to discuss proposals that would strengthen the Conference and would be mutually beneficial to OU and UT, as well as other member institutions of the Conference," Bowlsby said. "I expect that we will continue our conversations in the days ahead and we look forward to discussing thoughts, ideas and concepts that may be of shared interest and impact."

July 25, 2021, 11:31 PM
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Big 12 making last-ditch efforts

No one can say that the Big 12 is going down without a fight as its two most powerful programs get set for greener pastures. In one of the last-ditch efforts by the Big 12 to keep Texas and Oklahoma in the fold, league officials have discussed potential structures which would see the Longhorns and Sooners receive extra revenue should they ultimately decide to stay in the conference, according to CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd

July 24, 2021, 10:26 PM
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A&M brass issue statements

Saturday afternoon, Texas A&M president Katherine Banks released a statement on the possibility of the SEC expanding. 

"The last few days have been challenging in many ways, and I recognize that change in college athletics is often unsettling for those who love their institutions," Banks said. "Rest assured, the chancellor, our athletic director, and I, and everyone involved in this matter are focused solely on what is best for Texas A&M University. Since 2011, we have been a proud member of the best intercollegiate athletic sports conference in history and we look forward to continued success in our SEC partnership for many years to come." 

Additionally, Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork issued the following statement to CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd. 

"The culture of any conference, but especially for A&M, that's the priority in this whole conversation," Bjork said. "I've been in the league 10 years. When I first sat down and met Mike Slive, it was about culture and collaboration, excellence on and off the field. That's what makes us the best conference. We've got to protect that.

"Look at A&M, We're stronger than ever. … Look at the landscape of college athletics. Who wouldn't want to join the SEC? Here in Texas, we've been able to pave the way. … Whoever joins, whenever they join, we're ready. We embrace it at the highest level. That's how we look at this.

"There is emotion, we get it. We're in a great state; we're in the best conference."

July 24, 2021, 9:39 PM
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AAC looking to poach Big 12 leftovers

While one reading of what's next for the Big 12 after the departure of Texas and Oklahoma has included picking up new members from the American Athletic Conference, it's possible the hunters will become the hunted and the AAC is going to make a move to add the remaining teams to its existing lineup. The Athletic is reporting that the AAC is expected to "act as an aggressor" and attempt to pick up remaining Big 12 teams, "perhaps as a group."

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A&M staying put

Considering the verbiage within the announcement that revealed the Texas A&M Board of Regents would be holding a meeting on Monday, some have wildly speculated the Aggies may consider leaving the conference as Texas and Oklahoma enter. That doesn't seem to be the case, however, as Brent Zwerneman, who originally broke the news regarding the Longhorns and Sooners flirting with the SEC, was told on Saturday that there's "zero chance" Texas A&M will attempt to find a home elsewhere. 

July 24, 2021, 2:51 PM
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Texas A&M meeting

The plot thickens as it pertains to the Aggies' opposition to their old Big 12 rivals joining the SEC. According to a release from the school on Friday night, the Texas A&M Board of Regents will conduct a meeting on Monday at 5 p.m. CT to discuss "possible action on contractual and governance issues relating to Texas A&M University and the Southeastern Conference." 

Translation: If you have yet to grab the popcorn, do so over the weekend. 

July 24, 2021, 2:17 AM
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Oklahoma State's president chimes in

It's safe to say that the decision-makers at Oklahoma State are not fans of Oklahoma's reported move to the SEC. President Kayse Shrum released a scathing statement on Friday afternoon addressing the potential move.

"We are disappointed by the lack of engagement and transparency from our colleagues at OU over the past months on a matter with serious ramifications for our state," she wrote. "We have historically worked together to advance our state and address issues based on a partnership built on trust. To that end, we will continue to work with purpose to the advancement of our state and the betterment of our fellow Oklahomans. In the ever-changing college athletic landscape, we will honor our values and ethics as we consider the next steps. Our commitment to our student-athletes is top of mind, and their best interests will be represented prominently. We enjoy a proud athletic heritage with more National Championships than any other Big 12 university, and we will aggressively pursue the opportunities ahead. Additionally, our university enjoys a great brand known for education, research, and service, and we will move forward with strength."

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Legislation is being introduced

Members of the Texas House of Representatives have filed a bill that, if passed, will require legislative approval for any state school to move conferences. House chairmen Dustin Burrows, Greg Bonnen, Charlie Green and Jeff Leach filed House bill 298, which they urge to be addressed immediately. Will it matter? Reports say that Texas and Oklahoma will officially deliver their letters announcing their intent to leave the Big 12 as early as next week. If that's the case, lawmakers better be working through the weekend if they intend to put a halt to this ever-evolving saga.

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Baylor releases a statement

Baylor's athletic future is uncertain, but it knows that it has to do something in order to maintain its current status. The school released a statement from president Linda A. Livingstone and athletic director Mack Rhoades that addresses concerns that have been flooding in from Bears fans and boosters.

"Rest assured, we, along with the Board of Regents, members of the Baylor delegation in the Texas Legislature and other Baylor leaders, are actively engaged in conversations with our Big 12 colleagues and others to ensure our University is in the strongest position possible now and into the future," part of the statement read.

You can read the open letter in its entirety here.

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Old rivalries renewed

CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd reported Friday that, if Oklahoma and Texas do join the SEC, two rivalries will be renewed. Texas A&M would rekindle its intra-state rivalry with Texas and will play former Big 12/SWC rival Oklahoma every year. What does that mean for the current SEC divisions? That remains to be seen. But if the conference is set on getting those rivalries back, you can bet on rivalries among current members to be preserved.

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Vote update

As has been noted throughout the saga, both Texas and Oklahoma will need a majority vote from the current members of the SEC in order to join the league. According to Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman, that vote by the SEC members is expected to take place sometime next week with the outcome expected to be "13-1." Many can, of course, take an educated guess as to who the "1" vote will be...

July 23, 2021, 5:57 PM
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Texas, OU could wait until grant of rights expires

CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd reports that OU and Texas are expected to declare their intentions to leave the Big 12 in as soon as "24-48 hours," citing a prominent Big 12 source. Horns247's Chip Brown reports that the Longhorns and Sooners are set to inform the Big 12 on Monday that they will not be renewing their grant of rights agreement with the conference. 

However, a timeline of when the two powerhouse schools might leave the league remains unclear. Sports Illustrated's Ross Dellenger reports that both OU and Texas are "prepared to wait until their grant of rights expires in 2025 to join the SEC," which would allow them to avoid paying the $80 million exit fee. That timeline could shift if their Big 12 exits lead to the league dissolving, which would likely expedite their jump to the SEC, Dellenger adds.

"I still think there is a clarity in terms of timing. If it's [finalized] in a week or two, and it's for next year, both of those institutions are going to owe the Big 12 a lot of money," the source told CBS Sports. "The lack of clarity and timing of this [is key]. When? How?"

July 23, 2021, 4:24 PM
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More confirmation Texas, OU are out

Chip Brown of Horns247 reported Friday that the two Big 12 power are indeed leaving the conference. Citing a source, Brown says that the Longhorns and Sooners will not renew their grant of rights deal with the Big 12 when that agreement expires in 2025. Grant of rights is the agreement between each school and the conference that allows the league to determine television contracts.

"In this changing landscape of college athletics, this is what's best (for Texas and Oklahoma)," the source told Brown.

As you can tell from the updates below, things are moving quickly in this process. Texas and Oklahoma are expected to officially inform the conference of their plans in the near future.

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