Ground-shaking news hit last week that has put the future of the Big 12 in serious doubt, and is likely to initiate the next big wave of realignment in college football. On Wednesday, Brent Zwerneman of the Houston Chronicle released a story that detailed overtures made by Texas and Oklahoma about a move to the Southeastern Conference. The two Big 12 schools have reportedly been in talks with the SEC for anywhere from six months up to a year now, and by all accounts, these changes would appear to be imminent.
The Big 12 reportedly considered multiple options that might enable them to lure the Longhorns and Sooners back to the league, and stave off a round of realignment that makes the Big 12’s future uncertain. On Sunday, members from the conference’s executive committee were on a conference call with University of Texas president Jay Hartzell, and University of Oklahoma president Joseph Harroz to discuss the alleged move.
That meeting appears to have not changed anything. As has just been reported by Brian Davis of the Austin-American Statesman, Texas has this morning sent a letter to the Big 12 reflecting their intent to leave the conference that they’ve been a part of for 25 years now. The two schools have also released a joint statement regarding their intent to leave the conference.
This decision by Oklahoma and Texas has come as a shock to practically the entire college football world. Without the Longhorns and the Sooners, who are technically tied to the conference until the Grant of Rights expires in 2025, a league made up of only the eight remaining teams may not be financially feasible. It is thought that such a move will result in other Big 12 members looking for a new home outside the conference. There are also questions, however, about how the Big 12 will respond in terms of opposing this move, and if the conference will indeed stay intact for the next four years.
Questions remain about the exact fate of the conference and the other eight teams beside Oklahoma and Texas. Kansas, whose basketball program make them a valued property in a realignment scenario, has allegedly reached out to the Big Ten about joining that conference. Joining another Power Five conference – like the Pac-12, Big Ten or ACC – is a possibility for the other members. It isn’t a certainty, however, that all of the schools would get a Power Five invite – Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas State, and TCU might have a particularly tough road ahead in that regard.
It is also possible that the Big 12 might remain in some form if it were to merge with members of a Group of Five league like the American Athletic Conference. That would make geographic sense, but there has been no reporting to suggest that’s an actual possibility.
Whatever happens, none of this is likely to impact the upcoming 2021 season.