Marquee Big 12 Conference members Texas and Oklahoma have ended days of speculation and rumor with a joint statement announcing their intent to join the Southeastern Conference.
As reported by CBS Sports, 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 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," writes Ben Kercheval of CBS.
The schools' joint statement reads, "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, according to Kercheval.
CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd that in an effort to keep Texas and Oklahoma in the fold, the Big 12 discussed pitching the two schools on 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 Big 12 members would have seen their payouts decrease accordingly.
The league's board of directors met with Oklahoma president Joe Harroz and Texas president Jay Hartzell on Sunday. In a statement, Big 12 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," Kercheval reported.
The SEC's bylaws state that 11 of 14 institutions must vote in the affirmative to invite new members, but that appears to be a hurdle easily cleared. The SEC is now poised to become the nation's first 16-team collegiate conference.