Thursday night’s news that Oklahoma and Texas will leave the Big 12 for the SEC in time for the 2024 season has obvious impacts on Florida college football. The Gators are less than 17 months away from being in the same league as two more marquee brands. UCF, meanwhile, will not get a visit from the Sooners or Longhorns as their Big 12 colleagues.
But the ripple effects of this update (and other recent conference realignment rumblings) are much more interesting and important. Here are three thoughts on the latest realignment news:
1. Did Texas and Oklahoma create an exit map for FSU, Miami?
Of the 14 teams that have won a national title since 1992, 11 are current/future members of either the SEC or Big Ten. The three exceptions: Florida State, Miami and Clemson.
As the top of the Power Five consolidates into the Power Two, the Seminoles and Hurricanes are on the outside looking in. ACC schools are bound together through a grant of rights. Legally, it means that schools grant the TV rights to their home games to the conference, which then distributes TV revenue back to the teams. Practically, it means schools would forfeit so much money by leaving that they’re stuck. For FSU and Miami, that means remaining in the ACC (with its weak TV payouts) until the deal expires in 2036 — which is forever in this landscape.
But Texas and Oklahoma just negotiated their way out of the Big 12′s agreement a year early. The cost is a combined $100 million “in foregone distributable revenues, which OU and UT will be able to partially offset with future revenues.”
That sounds like a lot. But giving up a (partially offset) $50 million each in future revenue is better than the $90 million or so they could have been on the hook for, according to The Athletic.
Though the ACC’s grant of rights isn’t public, it’s fair to assume that breaking it would cost significantly more than that. But Texas and Oklahoma show it’s possible to find and pay for an escape. And eventually, the cost for FSU and Miami to pursue their own exit strategy will be a better financial decision than remaining outside the Power Two.
2. Will USF get another shot at the Big 12?
Sports Illustrated reported the Big 12 is expected to “aggressively pursue” expansion now that the exits of Texas and Oklahoma have been finalized. So who?
USF was discussed as an option in the last wave but missed the cut. Instead, UCF, Houston, BYU and Cincinnati will move up this summer. Since that decision was made, the Bulls have opened their long-awaited indoor practice facility and made meaningful progress toward building an on-campus stadium.
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But don’t get your hopes up yet, USF fans. The Bulls’ struggles in football (and, to a lesser extent, men’s basketball) are still a problem that will be hard, if not impossible, for a major conference to get past. USF also wouldn’t add a new time zone for the Big 12, which is a goal for its commissioner.
Instead, the much more likely scenario has the Big 12 trying to poach from the Pac-12 — probably the so-called Four Corners schools of Utah, Arizona, Arizona State and Colorado.
3. USF fans: Keep an eye on SMU
Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff made what was supposed to be a secret visit to SMU on Wednesday that was, in fact, not secret. That’s a sign that the Mustangs have joined San Diego State as a viable expansion candidate for the Pac-12.
SMU is 32-16 over the past four football seasons, and its last two head coaches parlayed improvement into Power Five jobs (Chad Morris to Arkansas, Sonny Dykes to TCU). Academically, it’s ranked No. 72 by U.S. News & World Report and is trying to become a tier-1 research university. The Mustangs opened their new on-campus football stadium in 2000, renovated their basketball arena a decade ago and broke ground in December on a $100 million end zone complex.
If the Mustangs leave — far from a certainty — the American Athletic Conference would be without four of the top five teams in last year’s standings. USF would lose one of the top remaining brands in its conference but would also have an easier path to a conference title. If nothing else, SMU’s future is worth keeping an eye on as USF aspires to make its own jump to a bigger league.
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