As Oklahoma president Joseph Harroz rattled off the big-picture reasons why he wanted to move to the SEC, he eventually got to the nitty-gritty factor that influences almost every decision in college sports — one that will end up affecting not only the Sooners and Longhorns but the Gators and Seminoles, too.
“This will allow us to continue to attract the top student-athletes across the country well into the future,” Harroz told the university’s board of regents last month.
Oklahoma and Texas are counting on a recruiting bump when they move from the Big 12 to the SEC on or before the 2025 season. Other coaches expect it, too.
“I think it’ll help both schools,” said Florida State deputy head coach Chris Thomsen, a Texas native and former assistant at Texas Tech and TCU. “I think you’ve seen that with (Texas) A&M.”
When A&M moved from the Big 12 to the SEC in 2012, the Aggies could have pitched themselves as the lone SEC school in a talent-rich state: If you want to stay close to home and play in the nation’s premier conference, sign with us.
It worked. In the nine recruiting cycles before the move, A&M’s average class ranking was 20.9. In the nine since the move, its average ranking is 10.1.
Neither the Sooners nor Longhorns (average class ranking over the last four years: 8.3) have as much room to rise. But they can still benefit.
In his decade covering Sooners recruiting, Bob Przybylo said he has heard many top recruits ding the Big 12 for its lackluster reputation in producing NFL players. When Oklahoma and Texas move to the SEC, that argument disappears.
“(If) you add one or two per class that you weren’t going to get before, that will add up,” said Przybylo, who writes for Oklahoma’s Rivals site, SoonerScoop.
Florida and the SEC’s other current members also could benefit by association. Adding two big-name programs with championship pedigrees makes the SEC brand even more powerful.
“I just think the recruiting impact is strengthening the league…” Gators coach Dan Mullen said. “Now it’s going to be even a stronger footprint of teams.”
The footprint won’t only be stronger. It will be bigger — another benefit to current and future members.
Oklahoma will go from a league that’s in five states to one that’s in 12. The expanded reach, Harroz told the regents, will help the school recruit more students (not just athletes) and faculty.
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Recent realignment history suggests it will show up on the field, too. In 2011, Missouri and Texas A&M had two Floridians each. This year, the Aggies have six Florida natives on their roster, while the Tigers are up to seven, including Chamberlain High product Johnny Walker.
The Longhorns and Sooners only recruit Florida in waves — Oklahoma landed a 2023 commitment Sunday from Fort Lauderdale five-star receiver Brandon Inniss — but will gain more local exposure after switching. The trade-off: The Gators and other SEC programs will stretch west more.
“I think that it’ll certainly help us in the state of Texas and Oklahoma,” said UF tight ends coach Tim Brewster, a former Longhorns and Aggies assistant.
Recent realignment backs him up. In the nine recruiting classes before Missouri’s switch, the state had only seven SEC signees across four schools. In the nine since, 13 have signed across six SEC schools (excluding Mizzou).
In 2011, SEC schools added only three blue-chip recruits from Texas. In this past class, they signed 14 (excluding the Aggies). The Gators have expanded their roster from one Texan in 2011 to four this year, including starting offensive tackle Jean Delance.
“Obviously, Texas A&M’s inclusion opened the door to Texas for SEC schools,” Przybylo said. “This move should just bust it down.”
If programs like Florida and LSU raid Texas even more, their Lone Star success will come at the expense of other teams. The Big 12′s power likely will slip, and Florida State could be affected, too.
Second-year coach Mike Norvell, a Texas native, has a pair of 2022 commits from the Dallas suburb of Duncanville. He credited his home-state relationships for helping him sign an overlooked linebacker, Jordan Eubanks, in December.
“It’s a new day in college athletics,” Norvell said. “There’s a lot of movement. There’s always going to be different things that you have to adapt and adjust with.”
Like recruiting, the realignment ripples never stop.
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