Conference realignment rumors last go-round left us with lots of smoke and few fires. This time around feels like there’s forest fires imminent.
After the explosive report Wednesday from the Houston Chronicle that cited sources saying OU and Texas have reached out to the SEC about joining the league, things seem to have escalated quickly. What was at first pitched as a this might happen story turned over the last 24 hours into a oh wow, yeah, this is totally happening story.
Take this from CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd as an example. In a story posted early Thursday morning, Dodd wrote a story with the headline: “Texas and Oklahoma’s inevitable Big 12 departure will linger, even if SEC move isn’t swift.” The sub-hed on the story was even more ominous: There’s likely no turning back for the Big 12’s most dominant programs.
Dodd reported that Texas has indeed reached out to the SEC about membership, but he can’t confirm if OU did — or if Texas in its inquiry was speaking for OU. Here’s Dodd on the ramifications. (TL;DR: The Big 12 doesn’t exist if this goes down, and mega-conferences might be the new blueprint to survival.)
The SEC has to give this inquiry serious consideration. It could conceivably become the first superconference of the modern era — 16 teams from Florida to Texas. Such a realignment would basically scuttle the Big 12 and force the ACC and Big Ten to expand just to keep up with the SEC.
At worst, even if SEC expansion is not immediate, Wednesday’s developments will be lingering over both conferences until the Big 12 contract expires in 2025.
Consider this, too, from The Athletic’s Max Olson.
But for those within the Big 12, all of this still feels so speculative and baffling. There’s no question, though, as to whether it’s serious.
“For it to even come out right now,” one source said, “is not good.”
All of this feels like a blindside, but this has been bubbling for months, it seems. Maybe longer. The TV contract for the Big 12 running through 2025 is keeping this ship afloat, but the hull has a hole in it and it’s taking water in quickly. Suddenly the Big 12, in a strong position with Texas and OU at the fore, would be at such a disadvantage competitively without them it’s hard to imagine it exists. Or, at the very least, it’d be a miserable existence with significant questions about the league’s long-term health looming. If that feels dire, it’s because it is! The Big 12 might cease to exist, at least as we know it, if the SEC scoops up Texas and OU.
All of this of course is held together by a pretty big if, but it’s certainly a smaller one today than it seemed yesterday. And tomorrow it might be an even smaller if. And so on. If the banner programs of the Big 12 aren’t truly serious about leaving the league behind in its wake, as we’ve learned over the last day, they have a funny way of expressing their loyalties.