Texas and Oklahoma ended any uncertainty Tuesday when they formally asked to join the SEC, a day after they announced their intentions of leaving the Big 12.
The next moves will come quickly. The SEC’s presidents and chancellors are expected to meet Thursday and can invite the Sooners and Longhorns with a vote of three-fourths of the 14 schools. Texas and Oklahoma have both scheduled board of regents meetings for Friday to discuss conference membership.
As we await those next formal steps, here are four unanswered questions about this seismic round of conference realignment:
When will the Sooners and Longhorns join the Florida Gators in the SEC?
Officially, Texas and Oklahoma asked to join on July 1, 2025, after their Big 12 agreements expire. Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said his conference will use “the next four years to fully assess what the landscape will look like in 2025 and beyond.” That sounds more like legalese to start buyout negotiations than it does an actual exit strategy.
History gives us a little perspective on how quickly teams change conferences:
Arkansas: Accepted into SEC on Aug. 1, 1990. Began playing SEC football in 1992.
South Carolina: Accepted into SEC on Sept. 25, 1990. Began playing SEC football in 1992.
Nebraska: Accepted into Big Ten on June 11, 2010. Began playing Big Ten football in 2011.
Texas A&M: Accepted into SEC on Sept. 25, 2011. Began playing SEC football in 2012.
Missouri: Accepted into SEC on Nov. 6, 2011. Began playing SEC football in 2012.
Rutgers and Maryland: Accepted into Big Ten in November 2012. Began playing Big Ten football in 2014.
Translation: Expect Oklahoma and Texas to begin playing in the SEC sooner than 2025.
What will conference realignment mean for College Football Playoff expansion?
This one is trickier to answer. Last month, the College Football Playoff’s working group unveiled a plan to expand the bracket from four teams to 12 and guarantee a berth to the top six conference champions.
Six automatic bids make sense in the current system; it ensures every deserving Power Five champion is included and opens a spot for a top Group of Five team, like UCF or Boise State. It makes less sense if one of those Power Five leagues is a Big 12 without Texas or Oklahoma. And it makes no sense if the Big 12 implodes and the Power Five becomes the Power Four (or Power Three or Power Two).
The school presidents who oversee the playoff are expected to continue discussing expansion at their September meeting. If nothing else, conference realignment will shift the tone of those conversations.
Are we headed toward four 16-team superconferences?
That was the thought a decade ago, when Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas Tech and Colorado were on the verge of bolting the Big 12 to create the Pac-16. Only Colorado ended up leaving, and the Pac-12 stopped at 12 teams.
Even if the SEC expands to 16, it’s too soon to know whether other leagues will follow. Maybe the Big Ten and ACC feel compelled to add teams in a rush to play offense now instead of defense later. Our guess is that they’re more likely to make calculated decisions that add value (eyeballs and TV money) instead of merely increasing TV inventory. Having 16 teams doesn’t make you a superconference if the last two additions weigh down the other 14.
What would this mean for SEC scheduling?
Coaches and administrators have been talking about a new format for years; Gators coach Dan Mullen brought it up last week at media days, before the Oklahoma/Texas news became public.
At 16 teams, something must change. One option is to keep the East and West divisions. The West gets Texas and Oklahoma and adds Missouri from the East, while Alabama and Auburn move from the West to the East. The schedule could stay at eight conference games or expand to nine or — gasp! — 10.
Another, more innovative option, is to switch to four pods of four teams each. Every team plays the other three teams in its pod annually and rotates through the other pods every few years.
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