There are truly million$$$ of reasons why Oklahoma and Texas may end up bolting the Big 12 for the SEC.
It’s a money grab. It’s a power move. It’s a greed grub.
It also may end up being shortsighted on their parts.
When the news broke on Wednesday that the Longhorns and Sooners have reached out to the SEC as a potential landing spot, I viewed it as big, but not altogether surprising, news. If you’ve followed college athletics for more than a day, you recognize that (a) college football drives the bus, and (b) that the bus is hauling a flatbed trailer full of cash.
Clearly, there is a financial incentive to joining the SEC. The Sooners and Longhorns believe they can’t ignore the allure of all of that money, hence the reason they’re making goo-goo eyes at college football’s most powerful of Power 5 Conferences.
When greed motivates one’s decision making, it leads to allowances and sacrifices and headaches in other areas. The late, great 20th century poet Biggie Smalls understood this. In “Mo Money, Mo Problems,” he rhymed, “Now what you gonna do with a crew that got money much longer than yours, and a team much stronger than yours? … I don’t know what they want from me, it’s like the more money we come across, the more problems we see.”
Long term, would fleeing the Big 12 really benefit Oklahoma and Texas, other than stuffing their financial coffers? In some ways, yes. In other ways, no. Seriously, this whole story has more moving parts than a Rube Goldberg machine.
The Sooners and Longhorns would find more stability in the SEC, that much is true. The Big 12 breaks up more than Taylor Swift. It’s a conference that has been pulling apart ever since it came together.
There is the notion that a shift to the SEC would help Oklahoma and Texas in recruiting. But that’s not exactly an area where either school has been lacking. Both programs coax enough four and five-star pledges every Signing Day, even if the Longhorns don’t always seem to know what to do with them.
Here’s a question (or four) worth asking: Was bolting the Big 12 the right move for Texas A&M? Was it good for Missouri? How has the Big Ten worked out for Nebraska? Is Colorado better off in the Pac-12? Many of their fans would say yes. Still I wonder.
The Aggies are still hunting for their first conference title since joining the SEC nine years ago. Of course, they weren’t exactly beating down the door to the conference trophy case in the Big 12, either. That’s not meant to be an insult to A&M, just a fact, and Jimbo Fisher’s team appears poised to contend for a championship in 2021, at least on paper.
Lord knows the Aggies don’t want the Longhorns invading their personal space. No matter what anyone says, Texas envy — or maybe Texas fatigue — propelled A&M’s Big 12 exit. The Aggies must feel like Texas is the unwanted ex who continues to stalk them even after the breakup. A&M does have the option of a temporary restraining order — that is, voting against adding UT to the league — but it’s going to need to convince three other SEC schools to join them in their snobbish snubbery. (SEC bylaws say that three-fourths of the schools in the league must agree before any school can be added. Thus, four votes against will block a UT-OU merger.)
You can’t convince me that either Oklahoma or Texas will gain any kind of competitive edge on the national landscape in the SEC. Some pundits have raised the prospect that such a move would allow for the Longhorns or Sooners to lose two or three games in the regular season, and still have a shot to make a 12-team College Football Playoff. You know, because those losses would come against the mightiest of mighties (that’s sarcasm), their SEC opponents.
But two or three losses would be an upgrade for Texas. How is a move to the game’s toughest conference (that’s not sarcasm) going to help UT’s middling, underachieving program win more? As for Oklahoma, the Sooners would be a lock to make a future 12-team CFP in the Big 12. From a football standpoint, they own this league. They made the four-team CFP four times in seven years. In an expanded version, if they kept beating up on their Big 12 brethren you could just Sharpie Lincoln Riley’s program onto the bracket before the season ever started.
Speaking of, what happens to Baylor and the rest of the leftovers if OU and UT flee? It’s a complicated, pressing question. Answers won’t come overnight, but we’ll keep asking. Here in Waco, it’s a centipede story, with legs for days. Baylor athletic director Mack Rhoades deferred comment to the Big 12 office when I reached out to him. (The Big 12 has yet to make a statement.) But the league’s ADs have been in a scramble drill ever since the news broke, and had a 5 p.m. meeting Thursday to discuss matters. A meeting for which the Longhorns and Sooners were reportedly no-shows, which only lends more credence to their desire for a divorce.
Baylor has ridden this ride before, and it’s a bumpy one. Remember, the Big 12 teetered against the ropes during the four-team exodus of the early 2010s. At one time, it appeared as though Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech may jump to the Pac-10, which is now called the Pac-12. The league managed to stick together, add TCU and West Virginia to the mix, and it’s been a profitable marriage in a lot of ways.
If the Sooners and Longhorns left, it might feel like a kill shot for the Big 12. No matter what their records may be, they’re the flagship programs in this league. They carry the most national sway, even if they don’t always live up to expectation. (We’re looking at you, Longhorn football.) Trust me — anytime you attend Big 12 Media Days, you see the Oklahoma-Texas allure writ large, with two to three times as many reporters descending on the Sooner and Longhorn talking sessions as any of the other teams.
A Big 12 (Big 8?) minus OU and UT would still have more national appeal than plenty of the so-called Group of Five leagues. The league could likely get SMU and Houston to join in a flash. But it’s just as likely that the Sooners and Longhorns would initiate a full-on domino effect, with other Big 12 schools shopping the real-estate ads for their own next home. Kansas to the ACC? Texas Tech and Oklahoma State to the Pac-12? Iowa State to the Big Ten? Nothing seems too outlandish at this stage, where speculation outweighs on-the-record fact by a thousand pounds.
Again, where does that leave Baylor? I have no idea. Given the school’s current status as arguably the best basketball school in the land, the Bears would seemingly fit in nicely in the ACC or the Big East, except for the fact that the latter doesn’t play football anymore. But does the ACC need Baylor? Probably not.
Boy, what a mess Texas and Oklahoma have wrought. Just by kicking the SEC’s tires, they’ve likely reshaped the entire college sports landscape.
And for what? With apologies to Clint Eastwood and Sergio Leone, for a few dollars more.
Greed may make your richer, but loyalty is priceless.