The SEC has formally voted to admit Texas and Oklahoma as members, expanding college football’s dominant conference into this era’s first 16-team super league, giving the Gators two more blue-blood conference colleagues and officially kicking off the latest, potentially craziest, round of realignment.
The SEC schools’ presidents and chancellors unanimously approved the future additions Thursday, adding two of the top 10 winningest programs in college football history to a league that has won 11 of the last 15 national championships.
“Today’s unanimous vote is both a testament to the SEC’s longstanding spirit of unity and mutual cooperation, as well as a recognition of the outstanding legacies of academic and athletic excellence established by the Universities of Oklahoma and Texas,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement. “I greatly appreciate the collective efforts of our Presidents and Chancellors in considering and acting upon each school’s membership interest.”
The vote capped off an eight-day stretch that was frantic, even by the wild standards of conference realignment. The first rumblings became public last Wednesday during SEC media days with a blockbuster report from the Houston Chronicle. Substance-free statements from both schools did nothing to douse the rumors.
By Monday, Texas and Oklahoma formally told the Big 12 they weren’t sticking around past the 2024-25 athletic year, when that conference’s media rights expire. A day later, their destination became clear; they asked to join the SEC.
What remains unclear is how soon the Longhorns and Sooners will finally make that move. Thursday’s announcement said they’ll join the SEC on July 1, 2025 after their Big 12 deals expire. But the belief around the sport is that the switch won’t take that long. Though Texas and Oklahoma won’t be playing at Amalie Arena in March for the SEC men’s basketball tournament, they could be facing Florida in football as soon as the 2022 season, depending on how negotiations go with what’s left of the Big 12.
Whenever the move takes place, the SEC will claim an even tighter grip atop college football. Half of its soon-to-be 16 members have won at least one national title since 1980: Alabama, LSU, Auburn, Florida, Texas, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Georgia. They’ve combined to claim 12 College Football Playoff appearances over its seven seasons and will be in line for even more, if (when) the field expands from four to 12.
The move will ripple far beyond the Southeast and Great Plains. A decade ago, Oklahoma and Texas were on the verge of westward exodus that would have turned the Pac-10 into the Pac-16, obliterated the Big 12 and potentially ushered in an era of four 16-team mega conferences. It never happened.
But with the Big 12′s power couple finally headed out, there’s a chance — maybe a strong one —that this round of realignment is seismic.
“The Oklahoma, Texas thing, in my opinion, is the tip of the iceberg,” outgoing Florida State president John Thrasher told the Tallahassee Democrat on Thursday. “It’s there, but it’s certainly going to be much broader than that when it’s said and done.”
CBSSports and others report that the AAC has reached out to some of the remaining Big 12 members about joining a conference that includes USF and UCF. The ACC would be a logical, dream destination for West Virginia, which would set up future league games against FSU and Miami.
Beyond that, the SEC’s first strike could spark countermeasures from the other power leagues as the Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 try to keep up financially and competitively. Think: non-conference scheduling alliances, if not mergers that create must-see matchups from coast to coast.
All of that will play out in the coming days, weeks and months, as will the remaining questions about a 16-team SEC. Will the conference still have an East and West division? If so, who goes where? What about four smaller divisions, or pods, of four teams each?
Thursday, however, gave us at least one definitive answer: After an eight-day frenzy, two of college football’s biggest brands have turned the sport’s best conference into its biggest, too.
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