With the Big 12’s TV contract running through 2025, reports this week of OU and Texas’ interest in leaving the league for the SEC left a theoretical timeline of years, not days or months. And even that timeline came with the capital c Caveat of if either of the schools were to leave.
My my, the times, they’re changing, and quickly.
In the days since those initial reports of OU and Texas’ SEC interest, it no longer looks like an if, but rather, a when. The Austin American-Statesman‘s Kirk Bohls on Friday reported OU and Texas joining the SEC “is almost done.” Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel reported “OU and Texas were still expected to start the process of joining the SEC next week.”
It’s time to acknowledge reality: the Big 12 is losing OU and Texas, and likely to the SEC.
Another reality we must acknowledge: this marks the beginning of the end for the league, perhaps as we know it, or, perhaps, forever.
The TV deal is the tell here. Pat Forde of Sports Illustrated said on a podcast this week that the Big 12 tried to engage in talks to renegotiate its deal with its TV partners, which were rebuffed. On that same podcast, Thamel added that the estimated numbers coming in for the Big 12 — even with OU and Texas — were surprisingly low.
A renegotiated deal with OU and Texas at the helm could have provided financial security for the league, for the members and — probably — for OU and Texas, too. But more money is elsewhere for at least OU and Texas in the SEC.
If the estimated TV figures for a TV deal with OU and Texas in the fold were low, you can put your thinking cap on and come to the same conclusion everyone else can: It’s going to be bad without them. Maybe unsurvivably bad.
Sticking around to see what a Big 12 with eight teams might look like seems possible, of course. But if OU and Texas have been backchanneling for months on end to try and get a deal done to join the SEC, I can assure you OSU and other member schools are exploring their options, too. Maybe the Pac-12, or the Big Ten, or ACC. All at this point seem like best-case scenario landing spots given the trajectory of where the Big 12 is going. In no world can the Big 12 with eight teams and no OU or Texas thrive; and in no world can I see a Big 12 with eight teams, no OU or Texas survive. Maybe it’s months or weeks or years before it happens, but this is no doubt the beginning of the end of the league as we know it.