With College Football Playoff expansion on the horizon and the sport as a whole undergoing radical change, another round of conference realignment may be on the horizon. Texas and Oklahoma have reportedly “reached out” to the SEC about joining the league should the two Big 12 powerhouses choose to leave their home conference, according to Brent Zwerneman of the Houston Chronicle.
Citing “a high-ranking college official with knowledge of the situation,” the Chronicle reports that the SEC could announce the additions of the Longhorns and Sooners “within a couple of weeks.”
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey would not address the report while in attendance at 2021 SEC Media Days on Wednesday.
“No comment on that speculation,” he told CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd. Sankey later added: “We are only worried about the 2021 season. Somebody dropped a report from unnamed people.”
Texas and Oklahoma released similar statements refusing the acknowledge the report.
“Speculation swirls around collegiate athletics. We will not address rumors or speculation,” said the Longhorns.
“The college athletics landscape is shifting constantly. We don’t address every anonymous rumor,” said the Sooners.
Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork made it clear to gathered media Wednesday that he wants the Aggies to be the only team from the Lone Star State in the conference. Texas A&M and Missouri were the two teams that left the Big 12 for the SEC in the last round of conference realignment nearly a decade ago.
“I haven’t read the article, but if you’re asking me to kind of comment on college athletics, it’s changing,” Bjork told Dodd. “So what does that look like? I don’t know. … We want to be the only SEC program in the state of Texas. There’s a reason Texas A&M left the Big 12: to stand alone to have our own identity.”
There was talk at that time about Texas and Oklahoma potentially leaving the Big 12 for either the Pac-12 or SEC but nothing came of those discussions as both ultimately remained with the league they have been members of since 1996. Oklahoma was already part of the Big Eight when it transitioned into the Big 12 in 1996 by adding Texas as one of four programs from the defunct Southwest Conference.
Should the Longhorns and Sooners ultimately leave the Big 12, their additions would make the SEC the first 16-team superconference, a development that has been a long-discussed possibility should there be another round of conference realignment.
However, Oklahoma and Texas will face resistance from within the Big 12 and beyond. Oklahoma State officials made it clear they do not support their potential departure for another conference.
“We have heard unconfirmed reports that OU and UT approached Southeastern Conference officials about joining the SEC,” read the OSU statement. “We are gathering information and will monitor closely. If true, we would be gravely disappointed. While we place a premium on history, loyalty and trust, be assured, we will aggressively defend and advance what is best for Oklahoma State and our strong athletic program, which continues to excel in the Big 12 and nationally.”
Current SEC teams — in addition to Texas A&M — may also be reluctant to accept additional league members for myriad reasons. Among those who could stand in opposition include Mizzou, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Florida, South Carolina and potentially others. As the Aggies would not want another Texas team in the conference, the Gators and Gamecocks would have a vested interest in keeping in-rivals like Florida State, Miami and Clemson out of the conference should the idea of further expansion be raised in the future.