Texas, Oklahoma make SEC move official

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Texas and Oklahoma made the rumored move official and unanimously accepted invitations to the SEC on Friday. The board of regents at both universities held meetings at 9 a.m. on Friday to make the decision. 

The move was simply a formality at this point after the SEC unanimously voted to offer Texas and Oklahoma a spot in the conference on Thursday. Even Texas A&M, which previously spoke out about enjoying its spot as the only SEC school in Texas, joined the other institutions in voting to expand. 

The expansion unifies nearly all of the biggest brands in college athletics under one umbrella. Seven of the top 10 earning programs in college football now play in the SEC, and 12 of the top 20. Texas and Texas A&M ranked No. 1 and No. 2 on USA Today’s most recent list, which encompassed the 2018-19 school year. 

Perhaps as importantly, the expansion pulls some of the most successful programs in college football all under one ESPN umbrella. The SEC received more than $45 million in disbursements per school following the 2019-20 school year. Some early estimates have said with a new ESPN contract and these new blue blood additions, the SEC could push as high as $70 to $80 million per school, potentially doubling up even some of the power conferences. 

At this point, there is no timeline for Texas and Oklahoma to join the SEC. The pair are locked into the Big 12’s grant of rights until the end of the 2024-25 school year. However, there is little reason to believe the brands will wait for four years. 

247Sports reported on Tuesday that ESPN could use some of its remaining $160 million owed for the Longhorn Network to help offset the Big 12 buyouts. After joining the SEC, LHN would likely be folded into the SEC Network. Big 12 bylaws could ask Texas and Oklahoma to pay potentially $80 million each as a penalty for leaving early. 

At this point, the remaining eight Big 12 schools – including Baylor, TCU and Texas Tech – have no firm plans for the future. The league could try to expand and still exist as a likely borderline power conference. However, several schools have reportedly made calls to the Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC about trying to join as full power conference members. None have received firm answers.

On Thursday, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby alleged that ESPN has contacted some of the remaining eight schools about joining the ESPN-aligned American Athletic Conference to expedite the breakup for financial gain. The Big 12 dissolving could allow Texas and Oklahoma to avoid paying a buyout to leave early.

If that happens, there's a chance that the state of Texas could go from five power conference institutions to just two overnight, which could cost the state hundreds of millions long term. The Big 12 distributed more than $34.5 million to its institutions in 2020-21; The American, for example, distributed barely $7 million. 

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